Quantum Mechanics Photon Spin and Schrödinger’s Cat


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Quantum Mechanics Photon Spin and Schrödinger’s Cat

Quantum Mechanics Photon Spin and Schrödinger’s Cat

Schrödinger’s cat cut to the heart of what was bizarre about Bohr’s interpretation of reality: the lack of a clear dividing line between the quantum and everyday realms. While most people think it provides an example in support of particles lacking clearly-defined properties until they are measured, Schrödinger’s original intention was the exact opposite—to show that such an idea was nonsensical. Yet, for many decades, physicists largely ignored this problem, moving on to other quandaries.

Spin is the fundamental property that distinguishes the two types of elementary particles: fermions with half-integer spins and bosons with integer spins. Photons, which are the quanta of light, have been long recognized as spin-1 gauge bosons. The polarization of the light is commonly accepted as its “intrinsic” spin degree of freedom. However, in free space, only two transverse polarizations are allowed. Thus, the photon spin is always only connected to the two circular polarizations. To construct the full quantum spin operator of light, longitudinal polarized photon modes have to be introduced.

We’ve established that the photon has quantum mechanics spin s=1. But what does this mean physically?


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