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3.1 Postulates

3.1 Postulates

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Published by Çağdaş Demirci

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Published by: Çağdaş Demirci on Oct 09, 2011
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Foundations of Quantum Mechanics*
The whole of quantum mechanics can be expressed in terms of a small set of postulates. Thischapter introduces the postulates and illustrates how they are used.
Postulates of Quantum Mechanics
Now we turn to an application of the preceding material, and move into the foundations of quantum mechanics.
Quantum mechanics is based on a series of postulates which lead to avery good description of the microphysical realm. Quantum mechanics is a very powerfultheory which has led to an accurate description of the micro-physical mechanisms. It is founded on a set of postulates from which the mainprocesses pertaining to its application domain are derived. A challenging issue in physics istherefore to exhibit the underlying principles from which these postulates might emerge.
The set of statements we find in the literature as ‘postulates’ or ‘principles’ can be split
intothree subsets: the main postulates which cannot be derived from more fundamental ones, thesecondar
y postulates which are often presented as ‘postulates’ but can actually be derived
from the main ones, and then statements often called ‘principles’ which are well known to be
 as mere consequences of the postulates.
 Main postulates
State or Wavefunction
Each physical system is described by a state function whichdetermines all can be known about the system. The coordinate realization of this statefunction, the wavefunction (uppercase psi) plays a central role in quantum mechanics.Two wavefunctions represent the same state if they differ only by a phase factor. Thewavefunction has to be finite and single valued throughout position space, and furthermore, itmust also be a continuous and continuously differentiable function. We shall see that thewavefunction of a system will be specified by a set of labels called quantum numbers, andmay then be written ca,b, . . . , where a, b, . . . are the quantum numbers. The values of thesequantum numbers specify the wavefunction and thus allow the values of various physicalobservables to be calculated.(2)
 Equation for the wave function ( 
 dinger equation)
The time evolution of thewavefunction of a non-relativistic physical system is given by the time-dependent
dinger equationwhere the Hamiltonian is a linear Hermitian operator, whoseexpression is constructed from the correspondence principle. The time independent form of the equation can be written as:We shall have a great deal
to say about the Schrödinger equation and its solutions in the rest
of the text.(3)
Correspondence principle
To every dynamical variable of classical mechanics therecorresponds in quantum mechanics a linear, Hermitian operator. When the operators act upon
the wavefunction associated with a definite value of that observable yields this value times thewavefunction. Mathematically we can write:Where O is operator, o is eigenvalue of the operator O and is eigenfunction. The equationis named eigenvalue equation. The requirement that the operators are hermitian ensures thatthe observableshave real values. Selection of the operators for all observables depends on the position andmomentum operator.The more common operators occurring in quantum mechanics for a single particle are listedbelow and are constructed using the position and momentum operators.Operator Abreviation Math representation1D 3D 1D 3DPosition
 x r x
MomentumKinetic Energy
K, T, KE K, T, KE 
Hamiltonian (time dependent)
 E, H E,
Hamiltonian (time independent)
 E,H E,H 
Angular momentum(4)
 Measurements ( 
Von Neumann’s postulate
If a measurement of the observable
yieldssome value , the wavefunction of the system just after the measurement is thecorresponding eigenstate .
The expectation value will simply be the eigenvalue .(5)
postulate: probabilistic interpretation of the wavefunction
The squared norm of the wavefunction is interpreted as the probability of the finding of the particle involume . More specifically, if is the wavefunction of a single particle,is the probability that the particle lies in the volume element located atat time
. Because of this interpretation and since the probability of finding a single particlesomewhere is 1, the wavefunction of this particle must fulfil the normalization condition
Secondary postulates
One can find in the some books
other statements which are often presented as ‘postulates’ but
are mere consequences of the above five ‘main’ postulates. We examine below some
them and show how we can derive them from these ‘main’ postulates.
Superposition principle
Quantum superposition is the application of the superpositionprinciple to quantum mechanics. It states that a linear combination of state functions of agiven physical system is a state function of this system. This principle follows from thelinearity of the
operator in the Schr
dinger equation, which is therefore a linear secondorder differential equation to which this principle applies.(2)
 Eigenvalues and eigenfunctions
Any measurement of an observable
will give as aresult one of the eigenvalues
of the associated operator
, which satisfy the equation
This is the consequences of corresponding principle.(3)
 Expectation value
For a system described by a normalized wavefunction
, theexpectation value of an observable
is given byThis statement follows from the probabilistic interpretation attached to
, i.e., from Born’s
 Expansion in eigenfunctions
The set of eigenfunctions of an operator
forms acomplete set of linearly independent functions. Therefore, an arbitrary state
can beexpanded in the complete set of eigenfunctions of 
, i.e., aswhere the sum may go to infinity. For the case where the eigenvalue spectrum is discrete andnon-degenerate and where the system is in the normalized state
, the probability of obtainingas a result of a measurement of 
the eigenvalue is . This statement can bestraightforwardly generalized to the degenerate and continuous spectrum cases. ThestatementsHermitian operators are known to exhibit the two following properties: (i) two eigenvectors of a Hermitian operator corresponding to two different eigenvalues are orthogonal, (ii) in anHilbert space with finite dimension
, a Hermitian operator always possesses
eigenvectorsthat are linearly independent. This implies that, in such a finite dimensional space, it is alwayspossible to construct a base with the eigenvectors of a Hermitian operator and to expand anywavefunction in this base.(5)
 Probability conservation
The probability conservation is a consequence of the Hermitian
 property of ˆ
. This property first implies that the norm of the state function is timeindependent and it also implies a local probability conservation which can be writtenWhere .(6)
 Reduction of the wave packet or projection hypothesis
This statement does not need tobe postulated since it can be deduced from other postulates. It is actually implicitly contained
in von Neumann’s postulate.
In quantum mechanics, wave function collapse (also called

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