For any particular quantum system, the principle of quantum superposition states the existence of certain relations amongst states, respectively pure with respect to particular distinct quantum state analysers. It is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. Mathematically, it refers to a property of pure state solutions to the Schrödinger equation; since the Schrödinger equation is linear, any linear combination of pure state solutions to a particular equation will also be a pure state solution of it. Such solutions are often made to be orthogonal (i.e. the vectors are at right-angles to each other), such as the energy levels of an electron. In other words, the overlap of the states is nullified, and the expectation value of an operator is the expectation value of the operator in the individual states, multiplied by the fraction of the superposition state that is “in” that state (see also eigenstates). Such resolution into orthogonal components is the basis of what is known as “quantum measurement”, a concept that is characteristic of quantum physics, inexplicable in classical physics. Physically, it refers to the separation and reconstitution of different quantum states. For example, a physically observable manifestation of superposition is interference peaks from an electron wave in a double-slit experiment. Another example is a quantum logical qubit state, as used in quantum information processing, which is a linear superposition of the “basis states” and . Here is the Dirac notation for the quantum state that will always give the result 0 when converted to classical logic by a measurement. Likewise is the state that will always convert to 1.

Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He has written for Den of Geek, Fortean Times, IT PRO, PC Pro, ALPHR, and many other technology sites. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.

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