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Wigner flow reveals non-classical features in quantum phase space


The behaviour of classical mechanical systems is characterised by their phase portraits, the collections of their trajectories. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle precludes the existence of sharply defined trajectories, which is why traditionally only the time evolution of wave functions is studied in quantum dynamics. These studies are quite insensitive to the underlying structure of quantum phase space dynamics. We identify the flow that is the quantum analog of classical particle flow along phase portrait lines. It reveals hidden features of quantum dynamics and extra complexity. Being constrained by conserved flow winding numbers, it also introduces topological order into quantum dynamics.