If your quantum physics instructor asks you to create symmetric and antisymmetric wave functions for a two-particle system, you can start with the single-particle wave functions:

By analogy, here’s the symmetric wave function, made up of two single-particle wave functions:

And here’s the antisymmetric wave function, made up of the two single-particle wave functions:

where *n*_{i} stands for all the quantum numbers of the *i*th particle.

Note in particular that

when *n*_{1} = *n*_{2}; in other words, the antisymmetric wave function vanishes when the two particles have the same set of quantum numbers — that is, when they’re in the same quantum state. That idea has important physical ramifications.

You can also write

like this, where P is the permutation operator, which takes the permutation of its argument:

And also note that you can write

like this:

where the term (–1)^{P} is 1 for even permutations (where you exchange both *r*_{1}*s*_{1} and *r*_{2}*s*_{2} and also *n*_{1} and *n*_{2}) and –1 for odd permutations (where you exchange *r*_{1}*s*_{1} and *r*_{2}*s*_{2} but not *n*_{1} and *n*_{2}; or you exchange *n*_{1} and *n*_{2} but not *r*_{1}*s*_{1} and *r*_{2}*s*_{2}).

In fact, people sometimes write

in determinant form like this:

Note that this determinant is zero if *n*_{1} = *n*_{2}.