Bra-ket notation

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Bra-ket notation is the standard notation for describing quantum states in the theory of quantum mechanics. It can also be used to denote abstract vectors and linear functionals in pure mathematics. It is so called because the inner product of two states is denoted by a bracket, Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|\psi\rangle} , consisting of a left part, Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|} , called the bra, and a right part, Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} , called the ket. The notation was invented by Paul Dirac, and is also known as Dirac notation. It has recently become popular in quantum computing.

Bras and kets

In quantum mechanics, the state of a physical system is identified with a vector in a complex Hilbert space, H. Each vector is called a "ket", and written as

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle}

where ψ denotes the particular ket, read as "psi ket."

Every ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} has a dual bra, written as

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\psi|}

This is a continuous linear function from H to the complex numbers C, defined by:

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\psi|\rho\rangle = \bigg( |\psi\rangle \;,\; |\rho\rangle \bigg)} for all kets Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\rho\rangle}

where ( , ) denotes the inner product defined on the Hilbert space. The bra is simply the conjugate transpose (also called the Hermitian conjugate) of the ket and vice versa. The notation is justified by the Riesz representation theorem, which states that a Hilbert space and its dual space are isometrically isomorphic. Thus, each bra corresponds to exactly one ket, and vice versa. This is not always the case; on page 111 of Quantum Mechanics by Cohen-Tannoudji et al. it is clarified that there is such a relationship between bras and kets, so long as the defining functions used are square integrable. Consider a continuous basis and a Dirac delta function or a sine or cosine wave as a wave function. Such functions are not square integrable and therefore it arises that there are bras that exist with no corresponding ket. This does not hinder quantum mechanics because all physically realistic wave functions are square integrable.

Bra-ket notation can be used even if the vector space is not a Hilbert space. In any Banach space B, the vectors may be notated by kets and the continuous linear functionals by bras. Over any vector space without topology, we may also notate the vectors by kets and the linear functionals by bras. In these more general contexts, the bracket does not have the meaning of an inner product, because the Riesz representation theorem does not apply.

Applying the bra Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|} to the ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} results in a complex number, called a "bra-ket" or "bracket", which is written as

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|\psi\rangle} .

In quantum mechanics, this is the probability amplitude for the state ψ to collapse into the state φ.

Properties

Bras and kets can be manipulated in the following ways:

  • Given any bra Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|} , kets Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi_1\rangle} and Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi_2\rangle} , and complex numbers c1 and c2, then, since bras are linear functionals,
Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi| \; \bigg( c_1|\psi_1\rangle + c_2|\psi_2\rangle \bigg) = c_1\langle\phi|\psi_1\rangle + c_2\langle\phi|\psi_2\rangle. }
  • Given any ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} , bras Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi_1|} and Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi_2|} , and complex numbers c1 and c2, then, by the definition of addition and scalar multiplication of linear functionals,
Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \bigg(c_1 \langle\phi_1| + c_2 \langle\phi_2|\bigg) \; |\psi\rangle = c_1 \langle\phi_1|\psi\rangle + c_2\langle\phi_2|\psi\rangle. }
  • Given any kets Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi_1\rangle} and Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi_2\rangle} , and complex numbers c1 and c2, from the properties of the inner product (with c* denoting the complex conjugate of c),
Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle c_1|\psi_1\rangle + c_2|\psi_2\rangle} is dual to Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle c_1^* \langle\psi_1| + c_2^* \langle\psi_2|. }
  • Given any bra Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|} and ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} , an axiomatic property of the inner product gives
Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|\psi\rangle = \langle\psi|\phi\rangle^*} .

Linear operators

If A : HH is a linear operator, we can apply A to the ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} to obtain the ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle (A|\psi\rangle)} . Linear operators are ubiquitous in the theory of quantum mechanics. For example, hermitian operators are used to represent observable physical quantities, such as energy or momentum, whereas unitary linear operators represent transformative processes such as rotation or the progression of time.

Operators can also be viewed as acting on bras from the right hand side. Applying the operator A to the bra Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|} results in the bra Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle (\langle\phi|A)} , defined as a linear functional on H by the rule

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \bigg(\langle\phi|A\bigg) \; |\psi\rangle = \langle\phi| \; \bigg(A|\psi\rangle\bigg)} .

This expression is commonly written as

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|A|\psi\rangle.}

A convenient way to define linear operators on H is given by the outer product: if Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\phi|} is a bra and Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} is a ket, the outer product

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\phi\rang \lang \psi| }

denotes the rank one operator that maps the ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\rho\rangle} to the ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\phi\rangle\langle\psi|\rho\rangle} (where Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \langle\psi|\rho\rangle} is a scalar multiplying the vector Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\phi\rangle} ). One of the uses of the outer product is to construct projection operators. Given a ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} of norm 1, the orthogonal projection onto the subspace spanned by Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} is

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle\langle\psi|}

Composite bras and kets

Two Hilbert spaces V and W may form a third space Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle V \otimes W} by a tensor product. In quantum mechanics, this is used for describing composite systems. If a system is composed of two subsystems described by V and W respectively, then the Hilbert space of the entire system is the tensor product of the two spaces. (The exception to this is if the subsystems are actually identical particles. In that case, the situation is a little more complicated.)

If Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} is a ket in V and Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\phi\rangle} is a ket in W, the tensor product of the two kets is a ket in Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle V \otimes W} . This is written variously as

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle|\phi\rangle} or Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle \otimes |\phi\rangle} or Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi \phi\rangle} or Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi ,\phi\rangle} .

Representations in terms of bras and kets

In quantum mechanics, it is often convenient to work with the projections of state vectors onto a particular basis, rather than the vectors themselves. The reason is that the former are simply complex numbers, and can be formulated in terms of partial differential equations (see, for example, the derivation of the position-basis Schrödinger equation). This process is very similar to the use of coordinate vectors in linear algebra.

For instance, the Hilbert space of a zero-spin point particle is spanned by a position basis Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \lbrace|\mathbf{x}\rangle\rbrace} , where the label x extends over the set of position vectors. Starting from any ket Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle |\psi\rangle} in this Hilbert space, we can define a complex scalar function of x, known as a wavefunction:

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \psi(\mathbf{x}) \equiv \lang \mathbf{x}|\psi\rang} .

It is then customary to define linear operators acting on wavefunctions in terms of linear operators acting on kets, by

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle A \psi(\mathbf{x}) \equiv \lang \mathbf{x}|A|\psi\rang} .

Although the operator A on the left hand side of this equation is, by convention, labelled in the same way as the operator on the right hand side, it should be borne in mind that the two are conceptually different entities: the first acts on wavefunctions, and the second acts on kets. For instance, the momentum operator p has the following form:

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle \mathbf{p} \psi(\mathbf{x}) \equiv \lang \mathbf{x} |\mathbf{p}|\psi\rang = - i \hbar \nabla \psi(x) } .

One occasionally encounters an expression like

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle - i \hbar \nabla |\psi\rang} .

This is something of an abuse of notation, though a fairly common one. The differential operator must be understood to be an abstract operator, acting on kets, that has the effect of differentiating wavefunctions once the expression is projected into the position basis:

Failed to parse (MathML with SVG or PNG fallback (recommended for modern browsers and accessibility tools): Invalid response ("Math extension cannot connect to Restbase.") from server "https://wikimedia.org/api/rest_v1/":): {\displaystyle - i \hbar \nabla \lang\mathbf{x}|\psi\rang} .

For further details, see rigged Hilbert space.

References

  • Griffiths, David J. (2004). Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (2nd ed.), Prentice Hall. ISBN 013805326X.

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