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Krzysztof Wódkiewicz
Center for Advanced Studies Department of Physics and Astronomy,
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131, USA
Instytut Fizyki Teoretycznej, Uniwersytet Warszawski,
Warszawa 00-681, Hoża 69, Poland∗
(February 1, 2008)

the discussion of the Malus’ Law for higher spins comes

The classical and the quantum Malus’ Laws for light and from the fact that systems involving higher-spin states or
spin are discussed. It is shown that for spin- 21 , the quan-
arXiv:quant-ph/9502028v1 28 Feb 1995

many particles exhibits very strong quantum correlations

tum Malus’ Law is equivalent in form to the classical Malus’
Law provided that the statistical average involves a quasi-
distribution function that can become negative. A generaliza-
tion of Malus’ Law for arbitrary spin-s is obtained in the form
of a Feynman path-integral representation for the Malus am-
plitude. The classical limit of the Malus amplitude for s → ∞
is discussed. In quantum mechanics a similar Malus’ Law holds for
spin- 21 particles detected by a Stern-Gerlach apparatus
PACS numbers: 03.65.Bz, 42.50. Dv oriented in the direction |~a′ i. An arbitrary pure state of
the spin- 21 can be written as a linear superposition of the
up |+i and down |−i spin states:
|Ωi = eiφ sin |+i + cos |−i (2)
2 2
The classical Malus’ Law predicts an attenuation of
a polarized light beam through a linear polarizer. This where the solid angle Ω characterizes the spin orientation
attenuation depends on the relative angle α between the on a unit sphere (the Bloch sphere).
polarization direction ~a of the incoming wave and the The quantum amplitude for the transmission of a such
orientation ~a′ of the polarizer. According to Malus’ Law a spin state through a Stern-Gerlach apparatus is: A =
the attenuation of the light intensity is just cos2 α. If hΩ|~a′ i, and the probability is just the quantum Malus’
the incoming beam consists of a statistical mixture of transmission function:
polarized light, the probability to go through a linear α
polarizer is: p = |A|2 = cos2 (3)
p = dΩPcl (Ω) cos2 α. (1)
cos α = cos θ cos θ′ + sin θ sin θ′ cos(φ − φ′ ) (4)
In this formula the integration is over all possible angles
of the random polarization direction ~a described by a is the relative angle between the spherical orientation Ω
solid angle Ω = (θ, φ) and where the classical distribution of the detected state (2) and the spherical direction Ω′
function Pcl (Ω) characterizes the statistical properties of of the Stern-Gerlach polarizer. Photons and spins differ
the incident light beam polarization. in this formulation by a factor 21 in the relative angle
It is the purpose of this paper to discuss the quantum involved in the Malus law.
Malus’ Law for spin systems. Entangled spin correla- Following the classical Malus’ Law for an unpolarized
tions provide examples of such systems. We show that in light beam (1), one can write the following probability for
general, the quantum Malus’ Law is equivalent in form an arbitrary mixed state of the spin- 21 system detected
to the classical Malus’ Law provided that the statistical by the Stern-Gerlach apparatus:
average involves a quasi-distribution function that can Z
become negative. A generalization of the Malus’ Law for p = dΩP (Ω) cos2 . (5)
an arbitrary spin-s system is obtained. Using a Feynman 2
path-integral representation for the Malus’ amplitude the
The function P (Ω) plays the role of a statistical distribu-
relation between Malus’ amplitude and the Malus’ Law
tion for an arbitrary beam of spin- 21 particles. In quan-
is obtained in the limit of s → ∞. The classical limit of
tum mechanics one deals with probability amplitudes
the Malus’ Law is discussed, and classical equations of
rather than probabilities and one should sum these ampli-
motion for spin systems are derived. The motivation for
tudes first, before squaring the result. Malus’ amplitudes

can be derived in such a way [3]. Nevertheless the formula the joint spin correlation: p(~a; ~b) = 12 (1−~a·~b). The distri-
(5) is valid in quantum mechanics if the quantum me- bution function (8) is not unique, because the same result
chanical distribution P (Ω) is a quasi-distribution. The is reproduced if one uses the following quasi-distribution
quantum quasi-distribution function is associated with function:
an arbitrary density matrix ρ̂ of the spin- 21 system in the
3 (2) ′ 2
following way: P (Ω′a ; Ω′b ) = δ (Ωa + Ω′b ) − . (10)
Z 4π (4π)2
ρ̂ = dΩP (Ω)|ΩihΩ|. (6) The formula (9) has the formal structure of a hidden
variable theory. In such a theory the joint probability
In this expression the diagonal weight function P (Ω) is function is calculated from the expression:
a quantum quasi-probability distribution, and accord- Z Z
ingly contains all the statistical information about the p(~a; ~b) = dλa dλb P (λa ; λb ) t(~a, λa ) t(~b, λb ) (11)
spin state. This formula is similar in its structure to
the diagonal Glauber P –representation for a harmonic
where P (λa ; λb ) describes the distribution of some hid-
oscillator if coherent states are used [4]. For spin- 21 the
den variables λa and λb , and the objective realities of
corresponding spin coherent states (SCS) are given by
the spin variables are given by the deterministic trans-
unit directions (2) on the Bloch sphere. From the proper-
ties of the SCS, one concludes that the quasi-distribution mission functions t(~a, λa ) and t(~b, λb ) through the Stern-
function is normalized dΩP (Ω) = 1, but in general it Gerlach apparatus. It is clear that the quantum mechan-
is not positive definite or unique [5]. For example, for ical formula (9) has the form of a hidden variable theory
the up and the down spin states |±i, the corresponding with the local spin realities given by cos2 α(Ωa , Ω′a ) and
quasi-distributions are P± (Ω) = 4π 1
(1 ∓ 3 cos θ). These cos2 α(Ωb , Ω′b ). In such a theory the hidden parameters
functions can take up negative values that indicate the are represented by ”hidden angles” on a Bloch sphere,
quantum character of these states. As another example, and are distributed according to Eq. (8) or Eq. (10).
the incoherent (mixed) state of the spin system described There the analogy ends because the quantum distribution
by the density matrix ρ̂ = 21 |+ih+| + 12 |−ih−|, leads to of these ”hidden directions” is given by a non-positive
a distribution that has a purely classical behavior corre- function that leads to the failure of the Bell’s inequali-
sponding to a uniform distribution of directions on the ties for such an entangled state.
Bloch sphere, i.e., P (Ω) = 4π1
[6]. The SCS and the quantum Malus’ Law (5) can be gen-
The quantum character of the negative quasi- eralized to an arbitrary spin-s. The spin-s coherent states
probability is seen best for correlations involving a den- are obtained by a rotation of the maximum ”down” spin
sity operator for an entangled Einstein, Podolsky, and state |s, −si [9]:
Rosen state [7]. For such a correlated system of two spin-
1 |Ωi = exp(τ Ŝ+ − τ ∗ Ŝ− )|s, −si, (12)
2 particles, labelled by indices a and b, the singlet wave
function is:
where τ = 21 θe−iφ and Ŝ± are the spin-s ladder operators.
1 The SCS form an over complete set of states on the Bloch
|ψi = √ (|+ia ⊗ |−ib − |−ia ⊗ |+ib ) . (7)
2 sphere:
2s + 1
The corresponding quasi-distribution function has the
dΩ|ΩihΩ| = I. (13)
following form [8] 4π
1 Using these formulas, it is easy to calculate the Malus’
P (Ωa ; Ωb ) = (1 + 9 cos θa cos θb + 9 sin θa sin θb cos(φa − φb ).
(4π)2 quantum amplitude and the probability for a transmis-
sion of such a state through a Stern-Gerlach apparatus.
(8) As a result one obtains:
The quantum Malus Law (5), if applied to the joint α
p = |hΩ|Ω′ i|2 = (cos )4s , (14)
correlations involving two Stern-Gerlach detectors (with 2
directions ~a and ~b), provides the following joint probabil- with a straightforward generalization involving an arbi-
ity for detection: trary quasi-distribution function P (Ω) for a density op-
Z Z erator of a system with arbitrary spin-s. This quantum
p(~a; ~b) = dΩ′a dΩ′b P (Ω′a ; Ω′b ) cos2 α(Ωa , Ω′a ) cos2 α(Ωb , Ω′bmechanical
). expression for the transmission function pro-
vides a generalization of the spin- 12 Malus’ Law (3) to
(9) the case of an arbitrary spin-s system.

This correlation function evaluated with the expression

(8) leads to the well know quantum mechanical result for

III. PATH-INTEGRAL FORM OF MALUS’ LAW S(q, p) = s pdq + Hdt. (20)

This quantum Malus Law for arbitrary spin, is well In this expression a classical Hamiltonian H has been
suited to study the relation between classical and quan- added in order to describe a possible dynamical time evo-
tum features of the transmission function. In quantum lution before the particle has reached the Stern-Gerlach
mechanics the primary object is the probability ampli- apparatus.
tude for the transmission of a SCS |Ωi through a Stern- In order to see the connection with the quantum Malus
Gerlach apparatus |~ai characterized by a solid angle Ω′ . Law (5) and the classical Malus Law (1) one can inves-
This probability amplitude is A = hΩ|Ω′ i, and can be tigate the properties of the Malus’ transmission function
cast into a path-integral form exhibiting various quan- in the classical limit corresponding to s → ∞. The tran-
tum paths contributing to the transition. Following the sition from quantum amplitudes to classical probabilities
basic idea of path integration [10], one can evaluate the can be carried out, if the four path-integrals can be sim-
Malus amplitude by dividing the spin trajectories on the plified. In configuration space the classical limit of the
Bloch sphere into infinitesimal subintervals |Ωi i where path-integral can be investigated using a suitable change
i = 1, . . . , N with Ω1 = Ω′ and ΩN = Ω. Using the de- of variables [11]. In the case of the path-integral for the
composition of unity for the SCS for each subinterval and Malus’ probability this change of variables is:
the infinitesimal form of the Malus amplitude hΩi |Ωi−1 i,
one obtains 1
q1,2 = q ± q̃,
2s + 1 2s + 1
A = dΩ1 dΩ2 ,... 1
4π 4π p1,2 = p ± p̃. (21)
! 2s

exp −is
(φi − φi−1 ) cos θi−1 . (15) In the limit of s → ∞, the path-integrals with respect
to Dq̃ and Dp̃ can be performed, leading to functional
Dirac’s functions, and the entire expression for the prob-
In the limit of N → ∞, this expression can be written in ability simplifies to:
the form of the spin Feynman path-integral:
1 ∂H 1 ∂H
lim |A|2 = Dq Dp δ(q̇ − ) δ(ṗ + ).
2s + 1 sh̄ ∂p sh̄ ∂q
A = DΩ exp(−is dφ cos θ) (16)
4π (22)
where DΩ is the functional path-integration measure over This expression shows that in the classical limit, the spin-
all spin trajectories connecting |Ω′ i with |Ωi on the Bloch s Malus transmission function reduces to a classical dy-
sphere. This path-integral representation of the quan- namics on the Bloch sphere with the following canonical
tum Malus Law can be cast in a more familiar form if equations of motion:
the spherical angles are identified with the canonical po-
sition and the canonical momentum in the following way: φ̇ = {φ, H} and θ̇ = {θ, H}. (23)
φ ⇔ q, cos θ ⇔ p, and dΩ = dφd cos θ ⇔ dqdp. Using
From the reduced path-integral formula (22) one obtains
these variables we can rewrite the path-integral (16) in
that the Poisson bracket of the classical dynamics is:
the form:
1 ∂A ∂B ∂A ∂B
2s + 1
{A, B} = ( − ). (24)
A = DqDp exp(−is pdq) (17) sh̄ sin θ ∂φ ∂θ ∂θ ∂φ

In these equations one recognizes the classical equations
which is the spin analog of the phase-space path integral of motion of a particle confined to a sphere. The Poisson
for the following quantum mechanical amplitude in the bracket in this case has a typical structure for a curved
configuration space: phase-space associated with the Bloch sphere [12].
DqDp i
Z If the Malus’ law is applied to an arbitrary spin-s sys-
hq|q ′ i = exp(− dqp). (18) tem described by a quasi-distribution function, in the
2πh̄ h̄
limit s → ∞ the expression (22) corresponds to a classical
The Malus probability for the spin-s transition of the statistical mechanics on a unite sphere. These classical
state |Ωi through such a Stern-Gerlach apparatus can be trajectories are distributed with a classical distribution
expressed as a product of four path integrals: function Pcl (Ω) emerging from P (Ω) in the limit s → ∞.

2s + 1 2s + 1
4π 4π
exp (iS(q1 , p1 ) − iS(q2 , p2 )) , (19)
The author thanks C. Caves and G. Herling for numer-
where the classical action is ous discussions and comments. This work was partially

supported by the Polish KBN Grant No. 20 426 91 01,
and the Center for Advanced Studies of the University of
New Mexico.

Permanent address
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