Applies also to pre-Hilbert spaces, rigged Hilbert spaces, and spaces with negative norm or zero-norm states.

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Physical interpretation of different selfadjoint extensions

Given a symmetric (densely defined) operator in a Hilbert space, there might be quite a lot of selfadjoint extensions to it. This might be the case for a Schrödinger operator with a "bad" potential. ...
31
votes
3answers
2k views

A “Hermitian” operator with imaginary eigenvalues

Let $${\bf H}=\hat{x}^3\hat{p}+\hat{p}\hat{x}^3$$ where $\hat{p}=-id/dx$. Clearly ${\bf H}^{\dagger}={\bf H}$, because ${\bf H}={\bf T} + {\bf T}^{\dagger}$, where ${\bf T}=\hat{x}^3\hat{p}$. In this ...
26
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do we need infinite-dimensional Hilbert spaces in physics?

I am looking for a simple way to understand why do we need infinite-dimensional Hilbert spaces in physics, and when exactly do they become neccessary: in classical, quantum, or relativistic quantum ...
26
votes
3answers
2k views

Hilbert space of harmonic oscillator: Countable vs uncountable?

Hm, this just occurred to me while answering another question: If I write the Hamiltonian for a harmonic oscillator as $$H = \frac{p^2}{2m} + \frac{1}{2} m \omega^2 x^2$$ then wouldn't one set of ...
24
votes
7answers
9k views

How is quantum superposition different from mixed state?

According to Wikipedia, if a system has $50\%$ chance to be in state $\left|\psi_1\right>$ and $50\%$ to be in state $\left|\psi_2\right>$, then this is a mixed state. Now consider state ...
23
votes
5answers
2k views

What is a state in physics?

What is a state in physics? While reading physics, I have heard many a times a "___" system is in "____" state but the definition of a state was never provided (and googling brings me totally ...
23
votes
4answers
2k views

Density matrix formalism

The density matrix $\hat{\rho}$ is often introduced in textbooks as a mathematical convenience that allows us to describe quantum systems in which there is some level of missing information. ...
23
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3answers
1k views

Why does non-commutativity in quantum mechanics require us to use Hilbert spaces?

I am reading Why we do quantum mechanics on Hilbert spaces by Armin Scrinzi. He says on page 13: What is new in quantum mechanics is non-commutativity. For handling this, the Hilbert space ...
20
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6answers
2k views

Why are Only Real Things Measurable?

Why can't we measure imaginary numbers? I mean, we can take the projection of a complex wave to be the "viewable" part, so why are imaginary numbers given this immeasurable descriptor? Namely with ...
19
votes
4answers
822 views

Separability axiom really necessary?

I know other people asked the same question time before, but I read a few posts and I didn't find a satisfactory answer to the question, probably because it is a foundational problem of quantum ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

Applications of the Spectral Theorem to Quantum Mechanics

I'm currently learning some basic functional analysis. Yesterday I arrived at the spectral theorem of self-adjoint operators. I've heard that this theorem has lots of applications in Quantum ...
18
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2answers
2k views

Intuitive meaning of Hilbert Space formalism

I am totally confused about the Hilbert Space formalism of Quantum Mechanics. Can somebody please elaborate on the following points: The observables are given by self-adjoint operators on the ...
18
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5answers
2k views

Linearity of quantum mechanics and nonlinearity of macroscopic physics

We live in a world where almost all macroscopic physical phenomena are non-linear, while the description of microscopic phenomena is based on quantum mechanics which is linear by definition. What are ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

What is the physical meaning of a “complete” Hilbert space in QM?

What does the word "complete" means from the physical point of view? I do not understand what it physically means to say that a Hilbert space is a complete vector space.
17
votes
2answers
187 views

What Shannon channel capacity bound is associated to two coupled spins?

The question asked is: What is the Shannon channel capacity $C$ that is naturally associated to the two-spin quantum Hamiltonian $H = \boldsymbol{L\cdot S}$? This question arises with a view ...
17
votes
4answers
4k views

How to tackle 'dot' product for spin matrices

I read a textbook today on quantum mechanics regarding the Pauli spin matrices for two particles, it gives the Hamiltonian as $$ H = \alpha[\sigma_z^1 + \sigma_z^2] + ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

What is a wave function in simple language?

In my textbook it is given that 'The wave function describes the position and state of the electron and its square gives the probability density of electrons.' Can someone give me a very ...
17
votes
2answers
856 views

Hilbert Space of (quantum) Gauge theory

Since quantum Gauge theory is a quantum mechanical theory, whether someone could explain how to construct and write down the Hilbert Space of quantum Gauge theory with spin-S. (Are there something ...
17
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4answers
1k views

Why do electrons in an atom occupy only the stationary states?

When we talk about the elementary problems in quantum mechanics like particle in a box, we first calculate the energy eigen-function. Then we say that the most general state is the linear combination ...
16
votes
2answers
968 views

What Hermitian operators can be observables?

We can construct a Hermitian operator $O$ in the following general way: find a complete set of projectors $P_\lambda$ which commute, assign to each projector a unique real number $\lambda\in\mathbb ...
16
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1answer
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Is the existence of a sole particle in an hypothetical infinite empty space explicitly forbidden by QM?

Suppose the universe is completely empty with one sole particle trapped in it. To simplify, I will only be looking at the one dimensional case. However, all arguments are applicable for three ...
15
votes
1answer
2k views

Rigged Hilbert space and QM

Are there any comprehensive texts that discuss QM using the notion of rigged Hilbert spaces? It would be nice if there were a text that went through the standard QM examples using this structure.
15
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3answers
2k views

What is a dual / cotangent space?

Dual spaces are home to bras in quantum mechanics; cotangent spaces are home to linear maps in the tensor formalism of general relativity. After taking courses in these two subjects, I've still never ...
14
votes
3answers
9k views

Don't understand the integral over the square of the Dirac delta function

In Griffiths' Intro to QM [1] he gives the eigenfunctions of the Hermitian operator $\hat{x}=x$ as being $$g_{\lambda}\left(x\right)~=~B_{\lambda}\delta\left(x-\lambda\right)$$ (cf. last formula on ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Meaning of inner product $\langle \vec{r} | \psi(t)\rangle $

I have come across the equation which comes out of the nothing in Zettili's book Quantum mechanics concepts and applications p. 167: $$\psi(\vec{r},t) ~=~ \langle \vec{r} \,|\, \psi(t) \rangle.$$ ...
14
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5answers
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Hilbert space vs. Projective Hilbert space

Hilbert space and rays: In a very general sense, we say that quantum states of a quantum mechanical system correspond to rays in the Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$, such that for any $c∈ℂ$ the state ...
14
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1answer
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Self-adjoint and unbounded operators in QM

An operator $A$ is said to be self-adjoint if $(\chi,A\psi)=(A\chi,\psi)$ for $\psi, \chi \in D_A$ and $D_A=D_{A^\dagger}$. But for the free particle momentum operator $\hat{p}$ these inner products ...
14
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1answer
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What really are superselection sectors and what are they used for?

When reading the term superselection sector, I always wrongly thought this must have something to do with supersymmetry ... DON'T laugh at me ... ;-) But now I have read in this answer, that for ...
14
votes
4answers
687 views

What is the meaning of a state in QFT?

I guess this may be more of a mathematical than a physics question, but it comes down to physical interpretations, so I'm posting it here. In classical Quantum Mechanics, we can define a state ...
13
votes
4answers
990 views

Applying an operator to a function vs. a (ket) vector

I have a question regarding the effect of quantum mechanical operators. The definition that I'm familiar with says that an operator $A$ acts on a vector from a Hilbert space, $|\psi\rangle$, and the ...
12
votes
4answers
2k views

Schrödinger's cat; why was it necessary?

Could someone please explain to me the idea that Schrödinger was trying to illustrate by the cat in his box? I understand that he was trying to introduce the notion of the cat being both alive and ...
12
votes
3answers
5k views

Why do we use Hermitian operators in QM?

Position, momentum, energy and other observables yield real-valued measurements. The Hilbert-space formalism accounts for this physical fact by associating observables with Hermitian ('self-adjoint') ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

How does one determine ladder operators systematically?

In textbooks, the ladder operators are always defined," and shown to 'raise' the state of a system, but they are never actually derived. Does one find them simply by trial and error? Or is there a ...
12
votes
5answers
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How does the hydrogen atom know which frequencies it can emit photons at?

At university, I was shown the Schrodinger Equation, and how to solve it, including in the $1/r$ potential, modelling the hydrogen atom. And it was then asserted that the differences between the ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Use of 'complete' as in 'complete set of states' or 'complete basis'

Question. In the context of QM, I hear the phrases 'complete set of states' and 'complete basis' (among other similar expressions) thrown around rather a lot. What exactly is meant by 'complete'? ...
12
votes
1answer
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When we define the S-matrix, what are “in” and “out” states?

I have seen the scattering matrix defined using initial ("in") and final ("out") eigenstates of the free hamiltonian, with $$\left| \vec{p}_1 \cdots \vec{p}_n \; \text{out} \right\rangle = S^{-1} ...
12
votes
2answers
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Proof that the One-Dimensional Simple Harmonic Oscillator is Non-Degenerate?

The standard treatment of the one-dimensional quantum simple harmonic oscillator (SHO) using the raising and lowering operators arrives at the countable basis of eigenstates $\{\vert n \rangle\}_{n = ...
12
votes
1answer
108 views

Stabilizer formalism for symmetric spin-states?

This question developed out of conversation between myself and Joe Fitzsimons. Is there a succinct stabilizer representation for symmetric states, on systems of n spin-1/2 or (more generally) n higher ...
12
votes
3answers
773 views

Entangled or unentangled?

I got a little puzzled when thinking about two entangled fermions. Say that we have a Hilbert space in which we have two fermionic orbitals $a$ and $b$. Then the Hilbert space $H$'s dimension is just ...
11
votes
3answers
586 views

What is the difference between $|0\rangle $ and $0$?

What is the difference between $|0\rangle $ and $0$ in the context of $$a_- |0\rangle =0~?$$
11
votes
2answers
533 views

Tensor product in quantum mechanics?

I often see many-body systems in QM represented in terms of a tensor products of the individual wave functions. Like, given two wave functions with basis vectors $|A\rangle$ and $|B\rangle$, belonging ...
11
votes
2answers
3k views

Differences between symmetric, Hermitian, self-adjoint, and essentially self-adjoint operators

I am a physicist. I always heard physicists used the terminology "symmetric", "Hermitian", "self-adjoint", and "essentially self-adjoint" operators interchangeably. Actually what is the difference ...
11
votes
2answers
756 views

In what sense is the path integral an independent formulation of Quantum Mechanics/Field Theory?

We are all familiar with the version of Quantum Mechanics based on state space, operators, Schrodinger equation etc. This allows us to successfully compute relevant physical quantities such as ...
11
votes
1answer
358 views

Conceptual difficulty in understanding Continuous Vector Space

I have an extremely ridiculous doubt that has been bothering me, since I started learning quantum mechanics. If we consider the finite dimensional vector space for the spin$\frac{1}{2}$ particles, ...
11
votes
3answers
2k views

Quantum Joke (not a real joke, not a riddle)

Supposing I want to make a quantum joke, like writing this on a coffee machine: $$| \text{Status}\rangle = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}\ \big( | \text{Working}\rangle \color{red}{\pm} | \text{Down}\rangle ...
11
votes
5answers
266 views

How is the ground state chosen in a spontaneous symmetry breaking process?

This question is about how the ground state is chosen in a spontaneous symmetry breaking process. Say we have a Mexican Hat potential (e.g. the one for the Higgs field) and are sitting at the unstable ...
11
votes
2answers
424 views

How to describe time evolution in relativistic QFT?

I must confess that I'm still confused about the question of time evolution in relativistic quantum field theory (RQFT). From symmetry arguments, from the representation of the Poincare group through ...
11
votes
1answer
319 views

Shape of the state space under different tensor products

I am currently studying generalized probabilistic theories. Let me roughly recall how such a theory looks like (you can skip this and go to "My question" if you are familiar with this). Recall: In a ...
10
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1answer
890 views

Boosts are non-unitary!

The boost transformations are not unitary unlike rotations, the boost generators are not Hermitian. When this induces transformations in the Hilbert space, will those transformation be unitary? I ...
10
votes
5answers
1k views

Does an electron move from one excitation state to another, or jump?

I'm wondering, when an electron changes state, does it move from one state to another over some (very small) time period? Or does it change from one state to another in no time? If the former, what ...