Student handout: Raising and Lowering Operators for Spin

Central Forces 2023 (2 years)
What students learn This activity is the same as problem 942.

For $\ell=1$, the operators that measure the three components of angular momentum in matrix notation are given by: \begin{align} L_x&=\frac{\hbar}{\sqrt{2}}\left( \begin{matrix} 0&1&0\\ 1&0&1\\ 0&1&0 \end{matrix} \right)\\ L_y&=\frac{\hbar}{\sqrt{2}}\left( \begin{matrix} 0&-i&0\\ i&0&-i\\ 0&i&0 \end{matrix} \right)\\ L_z&=\;\;\;\hbar\left( \begin{matrix} 1&0&0\\ 0&0&0\\ 0&0&-1 \end{matrix} \right) \end{align}

Show that:

1. Find the commutator of $L_x$ and $L_y$.
2. Find the matrix representation of $L^2=L_x^2+L_y^2+L_z^2$.
3. Find the matrix representations of the raising and lowering operators $L_{\pm}=L_x\pm iL_y$.
4. Show that $[L_z, L_{\pm}]=\lambda L_{\pm}$. Find $\lambda$. Interpret this expression as an eigenvalue equation. What is the operator?
5. Let $L_{+}$ act on the following three states given in matrix representation. $$\left|{1,1}\right\rangle =\left( \begin{matrix} 1\\0\\0 \end{matrix} \right)\qquad \left|{1,0}\right\rangle =\left( \begin{matrix} 0\\1\\0 \end{matrix} \right)\qquad \left|{1,-1}\right\rangle =\left( \begin{matrix} 0\\0\\1 \end{matrix} \right)$$ Why is $L_{+}$ called a “raising operator”?

• group Applying the equipartition theorem

group Small Group Activity

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Applying the equipartition theorem
Contemporary Challenges 2022 (4 years)

Students count the quadratic degrees of freedom of a few toy molecules to predict their internal energy at temperature $T$.
• face Quantum Reference Sheet

face Lecture

5 min.

Quantum Reference Sheet
Central Forces 2023 (6 years)
• keyboard Position operator

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Position operator
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

Students find matrix elements of the position operator $\hat x$ in a sinusoidal basis. This allows them to express this operator as a matrix, which they can then numerically diagonalize and visualize the eigenfunctions.
• assignment Matrix Elements and Completeness Relations

assignment Homework

Matrix Elements and Completeness Relations

Completeness Relations

Quantum Fundamentals 2022 (2 years)

Writing an operator in matrix notation in its own basis is easy: it is diagonal with the eigenvalues on the diagonal.

What if I want to calculate the matrix elements using a different basis??

The eigenvalue equation tells me what happens when an operator acts on its own eigenstate. For example: $\hat{S}_y\left|{\pm}\right\rangle _y=\pm\frac{\hbar}{2}\left|{\pm}\right\rangle _y$

In Dirac bra-ket notation, to know what an operator does to a ket, I needs to write the ket in the basis that is the eigenstates of the operator (in order to use the eigenvalue equation.)

One way to do this to stick completeness relationships into the braket: \begin{eqnarray*} \left\langle {+}\right|\hat{S_y}\left|{+}\right\rangle = \left\langle {+}\right|(I)\hat{S_y}(I)\left|{+}\right\rangle \end{eqnarray*}

where $I$ is the identity operator: $I=\color{blue}{\left|{+}\right\rangle _{yy}\left\langle {+}\right|}\;+\;\color{blue}{\left|{-}\right\rangle _{yy}\left\langle {-}\right|}$. This effectively rewrite the $\left|{+}\right\rangle$ in the $\left|{\pm}\right\rangle _y$ basis.

Find the top row matrix elements of the operator $\hat{S}_y$ in the $S_z$ basis by inserting completeness relations into the brakets. (The answer is already on the Spins Reference Sheet, but I want you do demonstrate the calculation.)

• keyboard Kinetic energy

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Kinetic energy
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

Students implement a finite-difference approximation for the kinetic energy operator as a matrix, and then use numpy to solve for eigenvalues and eigenstates, which they visualize.
• accessibility_new Spin 1/2 with Arms

accessibility_new Kinesthetic

10 min.

Spin 1/2 with Arms
Quantum Fundamentals 2022 (2 years)

Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States

Students, working in pairs, use their left arms to represent each component in a two-state quantum spin 1/2 system. Reinforces the idea that quantum states are complex valued vectors. Students make connections between Dirac, matrix, and Arms representation.
• assignment Frequency

assignment Homework

Frequency
Quantum Mechanics Time Evolution Spin Precession Expectation Value Bohr Frequency Quantum Fundamentals 2022 (2 years) Consider a two-state quantum system with a Hamiltonian $$\hat{H}\doteq \begin{pmatrix} E_1&0\\ 0&E_2 \end{pmatrix}$$ Another physical observable $M$ is described by the operator $$\hat{M}\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 0&c\\ c&0 \end{pmatrix}$$ where $c$ is real and positive. Let the initial state of the system be $\left|{\psi(0)}\right\rangle =\left|{m_1}\right\rangle$, where $\left|{m_1}\right\rangle$ is the eigenstate corresponding to the larger of the two possible eigenvalues of $\hat{M}$. What is the frequency of oscillation of the expectation value of $M$? This frequency is the Bohr frequency.
• assignment Phase

assignment Homework

Phase
Complex Numbers Rectangular Form Exponential Form Square of the Norm Overall Phase Quantum Fundamentals 2022 (2 years)
1. For each of the following complex numbers $z$, find $z^2$, $\vert z\vert^2$, and rewrite $z$ in exponential form, i.e. as a magnitude times a complex exponential phase:
• $z_1=i$,

• $z_2=2+2i$,
• $z_3=3-4i$.
2. In quantum mechanics, it turns out that the overall phase for a state does not have any physical significance. Therefore, you will need to become quick at rearranging the phase of various states. For each of the vectors listed below, rewrite the vector as an overall complex phase times a new vector whose first component is real and positive. $\left|D\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 7e^{i\frac{\pi}{6}}\\ 3e^{i\frac{\pi}{2}}\\ -1\\ \end{pmatrix}\\ \left|E\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} i\\ 4\\ \end{pmatrix}\\ \left|F\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 2+2i\\ 3-4i\\ \end{pmatrix}$
• group Wavefunctions on a Quantum Ring

group Small Group Activity

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Wavefunctions on a Quantum Ring
Central Forces 2023 (2 years)
• group Working with Representations on the Ring

group Small Group Activity

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Working with Representations on the Ring
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

Learning Outcomes