Mixed states

To me the claim that mixed states are states of knowledge while pure states are not is a little puzzling because of the fact that it is not possible to uniquely recover what aspects of the mixed state are subjective and what aspects are objective.

The simple case is this:

Let’s work with a spin-1/2 particle, so there are states:

|0 \rangle
|1 \rangle
|+ \rangle = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \left( |0 \rangle + |1 \rangle \right)
|- \rangle = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \left( |0 \rangle - |1 \rangle \right)

The mixed state corresponding to 50% |0> + 50% |1> is the SAME as the mixed state corresponding to 50% |+> + 50% |->.

— Daryl McCullough

— Comment #13 November 19th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

— The quantum state cannot be interpreted as something other than a quantum state

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\frac{1}{2}_c | + \rangle \langle + | + \frac{1}{2}_c | - \rangle \langle - |

=\frac{1}{2}_c \left( \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q | 0 \rangle + \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q | 1 \rangle \right) \left( \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \langle 0 | + \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \langle 1 | \right)+ \frac{1}{2}_c \left( \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q | 0 \rangle - \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q | 1 \rangle \right) \left( \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \langle 0 | - \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \langle 1 | \right)

=\frac{1}{2}_c \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \left( | 0 \rangle + | 1 \rangle \right) \left( \langle 0 | + \langle 1 | \right)+ \frac{1}{2}_c \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}_q \left( | 0 \rangle - | 1 \rangle \right) \left( \langle 0 | - \langle 1 | \right)

=\frac{1}{2}_c \frac{1}{2}_q \left( | 0 \rangle + | 1 \rangle \right) \left( \langle 0 | + \langle 1 | \right) + \frac{1}{2}_c \frac{1}{2}_q \left( | 0 \rangle - | 1 \rangle \right) \left( \langle 0 | - \langle 1 | \right)

=\frac{1}{2}_c \frac{1}{2}_q \left( | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + | 1 \rangle \langle 1 | + | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + | 1 \rangle \langle 1 | \right)

=\frac{1}{2}_c \frac{1}{2}_q \left( 2_c | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + 2_c | 1 \rangle \langle 1 | \right)

= \frac{1}{2}_q | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + \frac{1}{2}_q | 1 \rangle \langle 1 |

— Me@2018-03-11 03:14:57 PM

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How come the classical probabilities \frac{1}{2}_c of a density matrix in one representation can become quantum probabilities \frac{1}{2}_q in another?

\frac{1}{2}_c | + \rangle \langle + | + \frac{1}{2}_c | - \rangle \langle - | = \frac{1}{2}_q | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + \frac{1}{2}_q | 1 \rangle \langle 1 |

1. Physically, whether we label the coefficients as “classical probabilities” or “quantum probabilities” gives no real consequences. The conflict lies only in the interpretations.

2. The interpretation conflict might be resolved by realizing that probabilities, especially classical probabilities, is meaningful only when being with respect to an observer.

For example,

\frac{1}{2}_c | + \rangle \langle + | + \frac{1}{2}_c | - \rangle \langle - | = \frac{1}{2}_q | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + \frac{1}{2}_q | 1 \rangle \langle 1 |

represents the fact that the observer knows that the system is either in state |+\rangle \langle+| or |-\rangle \langle-|, but not |0 \rangle \langle 0| nor |1 \rangle \langle 1|.

However,

\frac{1}{2}_c | 0 \rangle \langle 0 | + \frac{1}{2}_c | 1 \rangle \langle 1 |

represents the fact that the observer knows that the system is either in state |0 \rangle \langle 0| or |1 \rangle \langle 1|, but not |+\rangle \langle+| nor |-\rangle \langle-|.

— Me@2018-03-13 08:10:46 PM

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2018.03.14 Wednesday (c) All rights reserved by ACHK