Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

First Advisor

Dana Browne


I compare the quantum and classical dynamics of a particle moving in a cosine potential while subject to a time-dependent force. I concentrate here on the behavior of an initially well-localized wave packet at times before the classically chaotic motion is fully developed. I find that the quantum and classical dynamics are indistinguishable well beyond the Ehrenfest time where the wave packet delocalizes. The quantum and classical descriptions first differ precisely when the classical probability density is folded in the vicinity of a hyperbolic fixed point. At this point, the wave function acquires a nodal structure which I show to be the result of a simple beating phenomenon between paths in the semiclassical propagator. When the interaction of the classical manifold with the hyperbolic fixed point leads to escape from the remnant separatrix, representing the onset of classical chaos, the interference associated with the tendril leads to a long-lived accumulation of quantum amplitude on top of the cosine barrier. This effect also has a semiclassical interpretation, meaning that it arises from the interference between classical paths, but one must expand to second order in Planck's constant to describe the behavior correctly. Both the nodal structure and this pinning of amplitude on the barrier are dynamic mechanisms for the quantum inhibition of mixing. I then couple the system to a bath of harmonic oscillators in order to study the effect of the environment on these mechanisms. Although an oscillator bath environment brings dissipation as well as noise to the problem, the noise effect dominates for the high temperature, weak coupling regime I study. When there is sufficient noise to render the interfering classical paths indistinguishable, I find that the quantum interference gets erased. This dephasing occurs at very early times, long before there is appreciable dissipation of energy to the environment. Consequently, one can argue that the presence of an environment, even if its effect would be negligible in a nonchaotic setting, allows for the possibility of quantum mixing.