No, really. The solutions of the Schrödinger Equation are harmonics, just like musical notes.

Quantum state of an electron orbiting a hydrogen atom where n=6, l=4, and m=1 (spin doesn’t matter):
|6,4,1> Orbital Animation

This is an equal superposition of the |3,2,1> and |3,1,-1> eigenstates:
|3,2,1>+|3,1,-1> Orbital Animation

This is an equal superposition of the |3,2,2> and |3,1,-1> eigenstates:
|3,2,2>+|3,1,-1> Orbital Animation

This is an equal superposition of the |4,3,3> and |4,1,0> eigenstates:
|4,1,0>+|4,3,3> Orbital Animation


What is an eigenstate? It’s a convenient state to use as a basis. We get to decide which quantum states are “pure” and which “mixed”. There’s an easy way and a hard way; the easy way is to use eigenstates as the pure states.

More mathematically: the Schrödinger equation tells us what’s going on in an atom. The answers to the Schrödinger equation are complex and hard to compare. But phrasing the answers as combinations of eigenfunctions makes them comparable. One atom is 30% state A, 15% state B, 22% state C … and another atom is different percentages of the same states.

Just like vectors in 3-D space, where you can orient the axes differently — you can pick different directions for x, y, and z to point in. But now the vectors are abstract, representing states. Still addable so still vectors. Convex or linear combinations of those “pure” states describe the “mixed” states.


Related:

SOURCE: Atom in a Box

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    And the realm of our existence never ceases to awe me with its beauty.
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  10. davidaedwards said: You might enjoy: Atomic Discourse in the Feynman Lectures on Physics published as: springerlink.com/content…
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    Saw this in the Frank Wilczech video from the MIT Nobel Laureates Lecture Series they had posted a few days ago. I...
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