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I've gotten used to the fact that a spin can be described by its total spin and its $z$-component. And I've learned that a particle (really, anything) with spin 1 forms a triplet with three possible states for the $z$-component: +1, 0, and -1.

Now my world is shattering since I keep hearing that a photon has indeed spin 1, but only two spin orientations: +1 and -1. This sounds like it clashes with what I have learned.

What am I missing?

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marked as duplicate by John Rennie, Brandon Enright, BebopButUnsteady, Qmechanic Mar 19 '14 at 20:31

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