Quantum Physics For Dummies, Revised Edition
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In quantum physics, when you work with spin eigenstates and operators for particles of spin 1/2 in terms of matrices, you may see the operators Sx, Sy, and Sz written in terms of Pauli matrices,


Given that the eigenvalues of the S2 operator are


and the eigenvalues of the Sz operator are


you can represent these two equations graphically as shown in the following figure, where the two spin states have different projections along the z axis.

Spin magnitude and <i>z</i> projection.
Spin magnitude and z projection.

Here’s what the Pauli matrices look like for the operators Sx, Sy, and Sz:


Now you can write Sx, Sy, and Sz in terms of the Pauli matrices like this:


About This Article

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About the book author:

Steven Holzner is an award-winning author of technical and science books (like Physics For Dummies and Differential Equations For Dummies). He graduated from MIT and did his PhD in physics at Cornell University, where he was on the teaching faculty for 10 years. He’s also been on the faculty of MIT. Steve also teaches corporate groups around the country.

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