Standard view of quantum measurement requires a complete basis of possibilities, however some of them might make no sense - can we just normalize probability without these possibilities? To better express this question, let me describe the situation where I got it.

In page 9 of this Preskill lecture we can find simple form of Bell inequalities for three binary variables: $$ P(A=B) + P(A=C) + P(B=C) \geq 1 $$ which is kind of obvious: "This is satisfied by any probability distribution for the three coins because no matter what the values of the coins, there will always be two that are the same." This lecture also contains example of state for which QM gives P(A=B) + P(A=C) + P(B=C) =3/4 violation.

For Bell violation by MERW, I wanted to construct an example of violation of this inequality using only real non-negative amplitudes, what lead me to this candidate ($|ABC\rangle$): $$\psi=(|001\rangle + |010\rangle +|100\rangle +|011\rangle +|101\rangle +|110\rangle)/\sqrt{6}$$ The question is: what is the probability distribution when measuring two out of three such variables?

The interesting basis for measuring first two variables (AB, taking trace over C), is: $$n_{00}=(|000\rangle+|001\rangle) /\sqrt{2}\qquad n_{01}=(|010\rangle+|011\rangle) / \sqrt{2}$$ $$n_{10}=(|100\rangle+|101\rangle ) / \sqrt{2}\qquad n_{11}=(|110\rangle+|111\rangle) / \sqrt{2}$$ getting $$|\langle n_{00}|\psi\rangle|^2=1/12\quad |\langle n_{01}|\psi\rangle|^2=4/12 \quad |\langle n_{10}|\psi\rangle|^2=4/12 \quad |\langle n_{11}|\psi\rangle|^2=1/12 $$ However, as this basis is not complete, instead of 1, these four possibilities sum up to 10/12.

The remaining (1+1)/12 are e.g. in $n'_{00}=(|000\rangle-|001\rangle) /\sqrt{2}$, which seems to make no sense (?) while measuring just first two variables. If it does, wheat would such state mean?

Can we normalize dividing by this 10/12?

Getting probability of 00 as 1/10, and finally violation to $P(A=B) + P(A=C) + P(B=C) = 6/10$?

  • $\begingroup$ The question is ill-posed. Do you want to measure the variables and then check whether they're the same, or do you want to coherently measure only whether they're the same, without finding out their values? The two are very different (e.g. the first is subject to the relevant classical Bell inequality, and the second one isn't) and it's crucial that you understand the difference. $\endgroup$ Aug 26, 2017 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ For the written prepared state psi, I am asking about probability distribution while measuring two out of three variables. The answer of OON below suggests that it is P(00)=2/12, P(01)=4/12, P(10)=4/12, P(11)=2/12 here. $\endgroup$
    – Jarek Duda
    Aug 26, 2017 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to have a misconception what a Bell inequality is: The above (from Preskill) is not a Bell inequality, but an inequality on three random variables. From this, plus a local hidden variable model, a Bell inequality can be derived. $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2017 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


Generally you can't just drop out certain states without sufficient justification (like in case of superselection sectors). And in you case "makes no sense" signifies more your misunderstanding, I'm afraid.

The eigenspace of the observables may have more than one dimension. I.e. there can actually be two (and more) linearly independent eigenvectors $|\lambda,n\rangle$ corresponding to the same eigenvalue $\lambda$. The probability then is given by, \begin{equation} P(\Lambda=\lambda)=\sum_n |\langle\lambda,n|\psi\rangle|^2=\langle\psi|\hat{P}_{\lambda}|\psi\rangle,\quad \hat{P}_{\lambda}=\sum_n |\lambda,n\rangle\langle\lambda,n| \end{equation} where $\hat{P}_{\lambda}$ is a projection operator on the corresponding eigenspace.

In case of the multipartite systems the observables relevant only to the one subsystems (like your case of three subsystems $A$,$B$ and $C$) can be written as, \begin{equation} \hat{O}=\hat{O}_A\otimes \hat{\mathbb{I}}_{BC} \end{equation} where $\hat{\mathbb{I}}$ is simply a unit operator. If $\hat{O}_A$ has eigenvectors $|\lambda_n\rangle$ than eigenvectors for the full $\hat{O}$ are, \begin{equation} |\lambda_n,e_m\rangle=|\lambda_n\rangle\otimes |e_m\rangle_{BC} \end{equation} where $|e_m\rangle_{BC}$ are vectors from the arbitrary full basis in $BC$. So the probability is given instead by, \begin{equation} P_{\lambda_n}=\sum_m |\langle \lambda_n,e_m|\psi\rangle|^2 \end{equation} The formula is connected to the properly done partial trace in the density matrix formalism (which converts entangled pure states into mixed reduced density matrices for subsystems)

So in your example both $n_{ab}$ and $n'_{ab}$ will be eigenvectors for any observable constructed from $\hat{A}$ and $\hat{B}$. They can't be distinguished by measuring only those two observables however that doesn't mean that any one of them can be omitted. The probability thus given by, \begin{equation} P(a,b)=|\langle n_{ab}|\psi\rangle|^2+|\langle n'_{ab}|\psi\rangle|^2 \end{equation}

And you could guess it from the start if instead considered, \begin{equation} \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}n_{ab}+\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}n'_{ab}=|ab0\rangle,\quad \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}n_{ab}-\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}n'_{ab}=|ab1\rangle \end{equation}

  • $\begingroup$ I would like to add that you may consider the situations where you may doubt that actual observable outcomes will not cover whole Hilbert space (like when you take into account that your measuring device can be destroyed or not measure the system in any meaningful sense), though I would say that using POVM and introducing enough labels you can describe any conceivable situation without loss of completeness. It's just that I don't see any relevance of your example to those questions $\endgroup$
    – OON
    Aug 26, 2017 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ So the final probability distribution for measurement of AB is P(00)=2/12, P(01)=4/12, P(10)=4/12, P(11)=2/12 here? Thank you, I will have to think about it. $\endgroup$
    – Jarek Duda
    Aug 26, 2017 at 14:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.