Activities
Problem
- Find the eigenvalues and normalized eigenvectors of the Pauli matrices \(\sigma_x\), \(\sigma_y\), and \(\sigma_z\) (see the Spins Reference Sheet posted on the course website).
The Pauli spin matrices \(\sigma_x\), \(\sigma_y\), and \(\sigma_z\) are defined by: \[\sigma_x= \begin{pmatrix} 0&1\\ 1&0\\ \end{pmatrix} \hspace{2em} \sigma_y= \begin{pmatrix} 0&-i\\ i&0\\ \end{pmatrix} \hspace{2em} \sigma_z= \begin{pmatrix} 1&0\\ 0&-1\\ \end{pmatrix} \] These matrices are related to angular momentum in quantum mechanics.
- By drawing pictures, convince yourself that the arbitrary unit vector \(\hat n\) can be written as: \[\hat n=\sin\theta\cos\phi\, \hat x +\sin\theta\sin\phi\,\hat y+\cos\theta\,\hat z\] where \(\theta\) and \(\phi\) are the parameters used to describe spherical coordinates.
- Find the entries of the matrix \(\hat n\cdot\vec \sigma\) where the “matrix-valued-vector” \(\vec \sigma\) is given in terms of the Pauli spin matrices by \[\vec\sigma=\sigma_x\, \hat x + \sigma_y\, \hat y+\sigma_z\, \hat z\] and \(\hat n\) is given in part (a) above.
Problem
Consider the arbitrary Pauli matrix \(\sigma_n=\hat n\cdot\vec \sigma\) where \(\hat n\) is the unit vector pointing in an arbitrary direction.
- Find the eigenvalues and normalized eigenvectors for \(\sigma_n\). The answer is: \[ \begin{pmatrix} \cos\frac{\theta}{2}e^{-i\phi/2}\\{} \sin\frac{\theta}{2}e^{i\phi/2}\\ \end{pmatrix} \begin{pmatrix} -\sin\frac{\theta}{2}e^{-i\phi/2}\\{} \cos\frac{\theta}{2}e^{i\phi/2}\\ \end{pmatrix} \] It is not sufficient to show that this answer is correct by plugging into the eigenvalue equation. Rather, you should do all the steps of finding the eigenvalues and eigenvectors as if you don't know the answer. Hint: \(\sin\theta=\sqrt{1-\cos^2\theta}\).
- Show that the eigenvectors from part (a) above are orthogonal.
- Simplify your results from part (a) above by considering the three separate special cases: \(\hat n=\hat\imath\), \(\hat n=\hat\jmath\), \(\hat n=\hat k\). In this way, find the eigenvectors and eigenvalues of \(\sigma_x\), \(\sigma_y\), and \(\sigma_z\).
Students compute the outer product of a vector on itself to product a projection operator. Students discover that projection operators are idempotent (square to themselves) and that a complete set of outer products of an orthonormal basis is the identity (a completeness relation).
Problem
- Let \[|\alpha\rangle \doteq \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \begin{pmatrix} 1\\ 1 \end{pmatrix} \qquad \rm{and} \qquad |\beta\rangle \doteq \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \begin{pmatrix} 1\\ -1 \end{pmatrix}\] Show that \(\left|{\alpha}\right\rangle \) and \(\left|{\beta}\right\rangle \) are orthonormal. (If a pair of vectors is orthonormal, that suggests that they might make a good basis.)
- Consider the matrix \[C\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 3 & 1 \\ 1 & 3 \end{pmatrix} \] Show that the vectors \(|\alpha\rangle\) and \(|\beta\rangle\) are eigenvectors of C and find the eigenvalues. (Note that showing something is an eigenvector of an operator is far easier than finding the eigenvectors if you don't know them!)
- A operator is always represented by a diagonal matrix if it is written in terms of the basis of its own eigenvectors. What does this mean? Find the matrix elements for a new matrix \(E\) that corresponds to \(C\) expanded in the basis of its eigenvectors, i.e. calculate \(\langle\alpha|C|\alpha\rangle\), \(\langle\alpha|C|\beta\rangle\), \(\langle\beta|C|\alpha\rangle\) and \(\langle\beta|C|\beta\rangle\) and arrange them into a sensible matrix \(E\). Explain why you arranged the matrix elements in the order that you did.
- Find the determinants of \(C\) and \(E\). How do these determinants compare to the eigenvalues of these matrices?
Students explore what linear transformation matrices do to vectors. The whole class discussion compares & contrasts several different types of transformations (rotation, flip, projections, “scrinch”, scale) and how the properties of the matrices (the determinant, symmetries, which vectors are unchanged) are related to these transformations.
Students are asked to find eigenvalues, probabilities, and expectation values for \(H\), \(L^2\), and \(L_z\) for a superposition of \(\vert n \ell m \rangle\) states. This can be done on small whiteboards or with the students working in groups on large whiteboards.
Students then work together in small groups to find the matrices that correspond to \(H\), \(L^2\), and \(L_z\) and to redo \(\langle E\rangle\) in matrix notation.
Students are asked to review:in preparation for an in-class quiz.
- Addition of matrices
- Multiplication of a matrix by a scalar
- Matrix multiplication
- Finding the determinant of a matrix