Variable quantity that mathematically describes the wave characteristics of a particle. It is related to the likelihood of the particle being at a given point in space at a given time, and may be thought of as an expression for the amplitude of the particle wave, though this is strictly not physically meaningful. The square of the wave function is the significant quantity, as it gives the probability for finding the particle at a given point in space and time. See also wave-particle duality.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on wave function, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up wave function? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.