On the distribution of the wave function for systems in thermal equilibrium

Sheldon Goldstein, Joel L. Lebowitz, Roderich Tumulka, Nino Zanghì

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35 Scopus citations


For a quantum system, a density matrix ρ that is not pure can arise, via averaging, from a distribution μ of its wave function, a normalized vector belonging to its Hilbert space. While ρ itself does not determine a unique μ, additional facts, such as that the system has come to thermal equilibrium, might. It is thus not unreasonable to ask, which μ, if any, corresponds to a given thermodynamic ensemble? To answer this question we construct, for any given density matrix ρ, a natural measure on the unit sphere in, denoted GAP(ρ). We do this using a suitable projection of the Gaussian measure on with covariance ρ. We establish some nice properties of GAP(ρ) and show that this measure arises naturally when considering macroscopic systems. In particular, we argue that it is the most appropriate choice for systems in thermal equilibrium, described by the canonical ensemble density matrix ρβ = (1/Z) exp (-β H). GAP(ρ) may also be relevant to quantum chaos and to the stochastic evolution of open quantum systems, where distributions on are often used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1193-1221
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Statistical Physics
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Dec 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics


  • Canonical ensemble in quantum theory
  • Density matrices
  • Gaussian measures
  • Probability measures on Hilbert space


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