# Energy spectrum according to classical mechanics

## Abstract

The phase integral approximation for the Green's function is investigated so as to yield an approximate expression for the density of states per unit interval of energy. This quantity is shown for negative energies (bound states) to depend only on the periodic orbits, i.e., the smoothly closed trajectories, unlike the approximate wavefunctions which depend on all possible trajectories. A particle in a periodic box of one, two, and three dimensions is discussed first to demonstrate how the approximate density of states contains a continuous background besides the δ-function spikes of the discrete spectrum. Then we examine the situation in a spherically symmetric potential where special problems arise because the quasiclassical propagator has to be evaluated at a focal point of the classical trajectory. With the help of the Helmholtz-Kirchhoff formula of diffraction theory, the amplitude is shown to remain finite at the focus. The orbits which remain entirely in a region of Coulombic potential yield a spectrum of Balmer terms with appropriately reduced degeneracy. However, the orbits which penetrate the screening charge give discrete levels obeying the Bohr-Sommerfeld conditions with the correct degeneracy. The continuous background in the approximate density of states can be discussed on the basis of the formulas derived in this paper. This is necessary as an introduction to the problem of a particle in a potential where the motion is not multiply periodic. Copyright © 1970 by the American Institute of Physics.