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Published: Kem. Ind. 67 (9-10) (2018) 421–426
Paper reference number: KUI-35/2018
Paper type: Professional paper / Chemistry in Teaching
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What is an Atomic Orbital?

M. Grba


The concept of an atomic or molecular orbital is a fundamental concept of chemistry, which acquires its full meaning only within the quantum theory. Atomic orbital is actually a concept derived from the concept of a wave function or a state vector, which are, therefore, first explained by applying Born’s rule as a first step in interpreting quantum mechanics, which means relating the mathematical formalism with the so-called elements of reality. When students properly understand the concept of a wave function, the basics of its collapse and the statistical character of the atomic and subatomic reality, they can, without much effort, understand and successfully apply the notions of atomic and molecular orbital and all the related concepts. However, all the aforementioned requires a slightly more flexible approach to the high school curricula of chemistry, physics or mathematics.

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atomic (molecular) orbital, wave function, Born's rule, statistical character of quantum theory