Quantum state

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A quantum state is any possible state in which a quantum mechanical system can be. A fully specified quantum state can be described by a state vector, a wavefunction, or a complete set of quantum numbers for a specific system. A partially known quantum state, such as an ensemble with some quantum numbers fixed, can be described by a density operator.

Bra-ket notation

Paul Dirac invented a powerful and intuitive mathematical notation to describe quantum states, known as bra-ket notation. For instance, one can refer to an |excited atom> or 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 |\!\!\uparrow\rangle} for a spin-up particle, hiding the underlying complexity of the mathematical description, which is revealed when the state is projected onto a coordinate basis. For instance, the simple notation |1s> describes the first hydrogen atom bound state, but becomes a complicated function in terms of Laguerre polynomials and spherical harmonics when projected onto the basis of position vectors |r>. The resulting expression Ψ(r)=<r|1s>, which is known as the wavefunction, is a special representation of the quantum state, namely, its projection into position space. Other representations, like the projection into momentum space, are possible. The various representations are simply different expressions of a single physical quantum state.

Basis states

Any quantum state 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} can be expressed in terms of a sum of basis states (also called basis 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 |k_i\rangle}

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 = \sum_i c_i | k_i \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 c_i} are the coefficients representing the probability amplitude, such that the absolute square of the probability amplitude, 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 \left | c_i \right | ^2} is the probability of a measurement in terms of the basis states yielding the state 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 |k_i\rangle} . The normalization condition mandates that the total sum of probabilities is equal to one,

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 \sum_i \left | c_i \right | ^2 = 1} .

The simplest understanding of basis states is obtained by examining the quantum harmonic oscillator. In this system, each basis state 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 |n\rangle} has an energy 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 E_n = \hbar \omega \left(n + {\begin{matrix}\frac{1}{2}\end{matrix}}\right)} . The set of basis states can be extracted using a construction operator 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^{\dagger}} and a destruction operator 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} in what is called the ladder operator method.

Superposition of states

If a quantum mechanical state 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} can be reached by more than one path, then 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 said to be a linear superposition of states. In the case of two paths, if the states after passing through path 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 \alpha} and path 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 \beta} are

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 |\alpha\rangle = \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix} |0\rangle + \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix} |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 |\beta\rangle = \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix} |0\rangle - \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix} |1\rangle} ,

then 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 defined as the normalized linear sum of these two states. If the two paths are equally likely, this yields

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 = \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}|\alpha\rangle + \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}|\beta\rangle = \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}(\begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}|0\rangle + \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}|1\rangle) + \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}(\begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}|0\rangle - \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}|1\rangle) = |0\rangle} .

Note that in the states 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 |\alpha\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 |\beta\rangle} , the two states 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 |0\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 |1\rangle} each have a probability of 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 \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{2}\end{matrix}} , as obtained by the absolute square of the probability amplitudes, which are 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 \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}} 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 \begin{matrix}\pm\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\end{matrix}} . In a superposition, it is the probability amplitudes which add, and not the probabilities themselves. The pattern which results from a superposition is often called an interference pattern. In the above case, 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 |0\rangle} is said to constructively interfere, 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 |1\rangle} is said to destructively interfere.

For more about superposition of states, see the double-slit experiment.

Pure and mixed states

A pure quantum state is a state which can be described by a single ket vector, or as a sum of basis states. A mixed quantum state is a statistical distribution of pure states.

The expectation value 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 a \rangle} of a measurement 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} on a pure quantum state is given 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 a \rangle = \langle \psi | A | \psi \rangle = \sum_i a_i \langle \psi | \alpha_i \rangle \langle \alpha_i | \psi \rangle = \sum_i a_i | \langle \alpha_i | \psi \rangle |^2 = \sum_i a_i P(\alpha_i)}

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 |\alpha_i\rangle} are basis kets for the operator 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} , 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 P(\alpha_i)} is the probability of 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} being measured in state 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 |\alpha_i\rangle} .

In order to describe a statistical distribution of pure states, or mixed state, the density operator (or density matrix), 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} , is used. This extends quantum mechanics to quantum statistical mechanics. The density operator is defined 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 \rho = \sum_s p_s | \psi_s \rangle \langle \psi_s |}

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 p_s} is the fraction of each ensemble in pure state 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_s\rangle} . The ensemble average of a measurement 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} on a mixed state is given 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 \left [ A \right ] = \langle \overline{A} \rangle = \sum_s p_s \langle \psi_s | A | \psi_s \rangle = \sum_s \sum_i p_s a_i | \langle \alpha_i | \psi_s \rangle |^2 = tr(\rho A)}

where it is important to note that two types of averaging are occurring, one being a quantum average over the basis kets of the pure states, and the other being a statistical average over the ensemble of pure states.

See also

de:Zustand (Quantenmechanik) el:Κβαντική κατάσταση es:Estado cuántico fr:État quantique nl:Quantumtoestand ja:量子状態 pl:Stan kwantowy ru:Состояние (квантовая механика)