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This set of activities explores completeness relations in quantum mechanics and how they eventually support understanding of wavefunctions and what it means to be in the position or momentum representatations.


  1. Given the polar basis kets written as a superposition of Cartesian kets \begin{eqnarray*} \left|{\hat{s}}\right\rangle &=& \cos\phi \left|{\hat{x}}\right\rangle + \sin\phi \left|{\hat{y}}\right\rangle \\ \left|{\hat{\phi}}\right\rangle &=& -\sin\phi \left|{\hat{x}}\right\rangle + \cos\phi \left|{\hat{y}}\right\rangle \end{eqnarray*}

    Find the following quantities: \[\left\langle {\hat{x}}\middle|{\hat{s}}\right\rangle ,\quad \left\langle {\hat{y}}\middle|{{\hat{s}}}\right\rangle ,\quad \left\langle {\hat{x}}\middle|{\hat{\phi}}\right\rangle ,\quad \left\langle {\hat{y}}\middle|{\hat{\phi}}\right\rangle \]

  2. Given a vector written in the polar basis \[\left|{\vec{v}}\right\rangle = a\left|{\hat{s}}\right\rangle + b\left|{\hat{\phi}}\right\rangle \] where \(a\) and \(b\) are known. Find coefficients \(c\) and \(d\) such that \[\left|{\vec{v}}\right\rangle = c\left|{\hat{x}}\right\rangle + d\left|{\hat{y}}\right\rangle \] Do this by using the completeness relation: \[\left|{\hat{x}}\right\rangle \left\langle {\hat{x}}\right| + \left|{\hat{y}}\right\rangle \left\langle {\hat{y}}\right| = 1\]
  3. Using a completeness relation, change the basis of the spin-1/2 state \[\left|{\Psi}\right\rangle = g\left|{+}\right\rangle + h\left|{-}\right\rangle \] into the \(S_y\) basis. In otherwords, find \(j\) and \(k\) such that \[\left|{\Psi}\right\rangle = j\left|{+}\right\rangle _y + k\left|{-}\right\rangle _y\]
Students work in small groups to use completeness relations to change the basis of quantum states.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

\(|\pm\rangle\) Forms an Orthonormal Basis
Student explore the properties of an orthonormal basis using the Cartesian and \(S_z\) bases as examples.
In this lecture, the instructor guides a discussion about translating between bra-ket notation and wavefunction notation for quantum systems.
  1. \(\left\langle {\Psi}\middle|{\Psi}\right\rangle =1\) Identify and discuss the dimensions of \(\left|{\Psi}\right\rangle \).
  2. For a spin \(\frac{1}{2}\) system, \(\left\langle {\Psi}\middle|{+}\right\rangle \left\langle {+}\middle|{\Psi}\right\rangle + \left\langle {\Psi}\middle|{-}\right\rangle \left\langle {-}\middle|{\Psi}\right\rangle =1\). Identify and discuss the dimensions of \(\left|{+}\right\rangle \) and \(\left|{-}\right\rangle \).
  3. In the position basis \(\int \left\langle {\Psi}\middle|{x}\right\rangle \left\langle {x}\middle|{\Psi}\right\rangle dx = 1\). Identify and discuss the dimesions of \(\left|{x}\right\rangle \).

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 need 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 is 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 rewrites 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 to demonstrate the calculation.)

  • Found in: Quantum Fundamentals course(s) Found in: Completeness Relations sequence(s)
The Gibbs free energy, \(G\), is given by \begin{align*} G = U + pV - TS. \end{align*}
  1. Find the total differential of \(G\). As always, show your work.
  2. Interpret the coefficients of the total differential \(dG\) in order to find a derivative expression for the entropy \(S\).
  3. From the total differential \(dG\), obtain a different thermodynamic derivative that is equal to \[ \left(\frac{\partial {S}}{\partial {p}}\right)_{T} \]

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Outer Product of a Vector on Itself
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).


10 min.

Curvilinear Basis Vectors
Students use their arms to depict (sequentially) the different cylindrical and spherical basis vectors at the location of their shoulder (seen in relation to a specified origin of coordinates: either a set of axes hung from the ceiling of the room or perhaps a piece of furniture or a particular corner of the room).

Small White Board Question

30 min.

Magnetic Moment & Stern-Gerlach Experiments
Students consider the relation (1) between the angular momentum and magnetic moment for a current loop and (2) the force on a magnetic moment in an inhomogeneous magnetic field. Students make a (classical) prediction of the outcome of a Stern-Gerlach experiment.


120 min.

Phase transformations
These lecture notes from the ninth week of https://paradigms.oregonstate.edu/courses/ph441 cover phase transformations, the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, mean field theory and more. They include a number of small group activities.