Blog

A blog of Python-related topics and code.

Packing circles in a circle

The following code attempts to pack a predefined number of smaller circles (of random radii between two given limits) into a larger one.

The Morse oscillator

The Morse oscillator is a model for a vibrating diatomic molecule that improves on the simple harmonic oscillator model in that the vibrational levels converge with increasing energy and that at some finite energy the molecule dissociates. The potential energy varies with displacement of the internuclear separation from equilibrium, $x = r - r_\mathrm{e}$ as: $$ V(x) = D_\mathrm{e}\left[ 1-e^{-ax} \right]^2, $$ where $D_\mathrm{e}$ is the dissociation energy, $a = \sqrt{k_\mathrm{r}/2D_\mathrm{e}}$, and $k_\mathrm{e} = (\mathrm{d}^2V/\mathrm{d}x^2)_\mathrm{e}$ is the bond force constant at the bottom of the potential well.

The harmonic oscillator wavefunctions

The harmonic oscillator is often used as an approximate model for the behaviour of some quantum systems, for example the vibrations of a diatomic molecule. The Schrödinger equation for a particle of mass $m$ moving in one dimension in a potential $V(x) = \frac{1}{2}kx^2$ is $$ -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\frac{\mathrm{d}^2\psi}{\mathrm{d}x^2} + \frac{1}{2}kx^2\psi = E\psi. $$ With the change of variable, $q = (mk/\hbar^2)^{1/4}x$, this equation becomes $$ -\frac{1}{2}\frac{\mathrm{d}^2\psi}{\mathrm{d}q^2} + \frac{1}{2}q^2\psi = \frac{E}{\hbar\omega}\psi, $$ where $\omega = \sqrt{k/m}$. This differential equation has an exact solution in terms of a quantum number $v=0,1,2,\cdots$: $$ \psi(q) = N_vH_v(q)\exp(-q^2/2), $$ where $N_v = (\sqrt{\pi}2^vv! )^{-1/2}$ is a normalization constant and $H_v(q)$ is the Hermite polynomial of order $v$, defined by: $$ H_v(q) = (-1)^ve^{q^2}\frac{\mathrm{d}^v}{\mathrm{d}q^v}\left(e^{-q^2}\right). $$ The Hermite polynomials obey a useful recursion formula: $$ H_{n+1}(q) = 2qH_n(q) - 2nH_{n-1}(q), $$ so given the first two: $H_0 = 1$ and $H_1 = 2q$, we can calculate all the others.

Simulating two-dimensional polycrystals

The following code simulates (very approximately) the growth of a polycrystal from a number of seeds. Atoms are added to the crystal lattice of each of the resulting grains until no more will fit, creating realistic-looking boundaries where two grains meet.

Breeding tritium for a fusion reactor

The most feasible nuclear reaction for a "first-generation" fusion reaction is the one involving deuterium (D) and tritium (T): $$ \mathrm{D} + \mathrm{T} \rightarrow \alpha (3.5\;\mathrm{MeV}) + n (14.1\;\mathrm{MeV}) $$ Tritium is not a primary fuel and does not exist in significant quantities naturally since it decays with a half life of 12.3 years. It therefore has to be "bred" from a separate nuclear reaction. Most fusion reactor design concepts employ a lithium "blanket" surrounding the reaction vessel which absorbs the energetic fusion neutrons to produce tritium in such a reaction.