Electron Charge Density: A Clue from Quantum Chemistry for Quantum Foundations
Published 2021-05-23Version 1
Within quantum chemistry, the electron clouds that surround nuclei in atoms and molecules are sometimes treated as clouds of probability and sometimes as clouds of charge. These two roles, tracing back to Schr\"odinger and Born, are in tension with one another but are not incompatible. Schr\"odinger's idea that the nucleus of an atom is surrounded by a spread-out electron charge density is supported by a variety of evidence from quantum chemistry, including two methods that are used to determine atomic and molecular structure: the Hartree-Fock method and density functional theory. Taking this evidence as a clue to the foundations of quantum physics, Schr\"odinger's electron charge density can be incorporated into many different interpretations of quantum mechanics (and extensions of such interpretations to quantum field theory).