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Making sense of quantum operators, eigenstates and quantum measurements Documents

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Making sense of quantum operators, eigenstates and quantum measurements 

written by Elizabeth Gire and Corinne A. Manogue

Operators play a central role in the formalism of quantum mechanics. In particular, operators corresponding to observables encode important information about the results of quantum measurements. We interviewed upper-level undergraduate physics majors about their understanding of the role of operators in quantum measurements. Previous studies have shown that many students think of measurements on quantum systems as being deterministic and that measurements mathematically correspond to operators acting on the initial quantum state. This study is consistent with and expands on those results. We report on how two students make sense of a quantum measurement problem involving sequential measurements and the role that the eigenvalue equation plays in this sense-making.

Published February 6, 2012
Last Modified April 24, 2012