nLab Gleason's theorem




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The classical Gleason theorem says that a state on the C*-algebra ()\mathcal{B}(\mathcal{H}) of all bounded operators on a Hilbert space is uniquely described by the values it takes on the orthogonal projections 𝒫\mathcal{P}, if the dimension of the Hilbert space \mathcal{H} is not 2.

In other words: every quasi-state is already a state if dim(H)>2dim(H) \gt 2.

It is possible to extend the theorem to certain types of von Neumann algebras (e.g. obviously factors of type I 2I_2 have to be excluded).

Gleason’s theorem is also valid for real and quaternionic Hilbert spaces as proved by Varadarajan in 1968. A gap of that proof has been fixed in 2018 by V.Moretti and M.Oppio.

Implications for Quantum Logic

Roughly, Gleason’s theorem says that “a quantum state is completely determined by only knowing the answers to all of the possible yes/no questions”.



Let ρ:𝒫[0,1]\rho: \mathcal{P} \to [0, 1] such that for every finite family {P 1,...,P n:P i𝒫}\{ P_1, ..., P_n: P_i \in \mathcal{P} \} of pairwise orthogonal projections we have ρ( i=1 nP i)= i=1 nρ(P i)\rho(\sum_{i=1}^n P_i) = \sum_{i=1}^n \rho(P_i) , then ρ\rho is a finitely additive measure on 𝒫\mathcal{P}.

If the family is not finite, but countable, then ρ\rho is a sigma-finite measure.

The Theorem

Classical Gleason’s Theorem


If dim()2dim(\mathcal{H}) \neq 2 then each finitely additive measure on 𝒫\mathcal{P} can be uniquely extended to a state on ()\mathcal{B}(\mathcal{H}). Conversly the restriction of every state to 𝒫\mathcal{P} is a finitley additive measure on 𝒫\mathcal{P}.

The same holds for sigma-finite measures and normal states: Every sigma-finite measure can be extended to a normal state and every normal state restricts to a sigma-finite measure.

Extension to Certain Types of von Neumann Algebras

Gleason's Theorem for POVMs

In quantum information theory, one often considers positive operator-valued measures (POVMs) instead of Hermitian operators as observables. While a Hermitian operator is given by a family of projection operators P iP_i such that iP i=1\sum_i P_i = 1, a POVM is given more generally by any family of positive-semidefinite operators E iE_i such that iE i=1\sum_i E_i = 1.

In the analog of Gleason’s Theorem for POVMs, therefore, we start with ρ:[0,1]\rho\colon \mathcal{E} \to [0,1], where \mathcal{E} is the space of all positive-semidefinite operators. Then if iρ(E i)=1\sum_i \rho(E_i) = 1 whenever ρ( iE i)=1\rho(\sum_i E_i) = 1, the theorem states that ρ\rho has a unique extension to a mixed quantum state.

As a theorem, Gleason's Theorem for POVMs is much weaker than the classical Gleason's Theorem, since we must begin with ρ\rho defined on a much larger space of operators. However, some content does remain, since we have not assumed any continuity properties of ρ\rho. Also, Gleason's Theorem for POVMs has a much simpler proof, which works regardless of the dimension.


Counterexample For Dimension Two

See example 8.1 in the book by Parthasarathy (see references). Our Hilbert space is 2\mathbb{R}^2. Projections PP on it are either identical zero, the identity, or projections on a one dimensional subspace, so that these PP can be written in the bra-ket notation as

P=|uu| P = {|u \rangle} {\langle u|}

with a unit vector uu, i.e. u 2,u=1u \in \mathbb{R}^2, {\|u\|} = 1. In this finite dimensional case sigma-finite and finite are equivalent, and a finite probability measure is equivalent to a (complex valued) function such that

f(cu)=f(u) f(c u) = f(u)
if(u i)=1 \sum_i f(u_i) = 1

for every scalar cc of modulus one, every unit vector uu and every orthonormal basis {u 1,u 2}\{u_1, u_2\}. If there is a state that extends such a measure and therefore restricts to such a measure on projections, there would be a linear operator TT such that

f(u)=u|Tu f(u) = {\langle u | T u \rangle}

for all unit vectors uu.

It turns out however that the conditions imposed on ff are not enough in two dimensions to enforce this kind of linearity of ff. Heuristically, in three dimensions there are more rotations than in two, therefore the “rotational invariance” of (the conditions imposed on) ff is more restrictive in three dimensions than it is in two dimensions.

In two dimensions, choose a function gg on [0,π2)[0, \frac{\pi}{2}) such that 0g(θ)10 \le g(\theta) \le 1 everywhere. There are no further restrictions, that is gg need not be continuous, for example. Now we can define a probability measure on the projections by

f(u)={g(θ)for0θ<π2 1g(θπ2)forπ2θ<π f(u)as defined in the first two items, else f(u) = \begin{cases} g(\theta) \; \; \text{for} \; \; 0 \le \theta \lt \frac{\pi}{2} \\ 1 - g(\theta - \frac{\pi}{2}) \; \; \text{for} \; \; \frac{\pi}{2} \le \theta \lt \pi \\ f(-u) \; \; \text{as defined in the first two items, else} \end{cases}

This probability measure will in general not extend to a state.

Other theorems about the foundations and interpretation of quantum mechanics include:


Gleason’s original paper outlining the theorem:

  • Andrew Gleason, Measures on the closed subspaces of a Hilbert space, Journal of Mathematics and Mechanics, Indiana Univ. Math. J. 6 4 (1957), 885-893 [IUMJ:56050, pdf]

Textbook accounts:

A monograph stating and proving both the classical theorem and extensions to von Neumann algebras:

The classical theorem is proved also in this monograph:

  • K. R. Parthasarathy, An Introduction to Quantum Stochastic Calculus (ZMATH)

Gleason's Theorem for POVMs is proved here:

  • Paul Busch, Quantum states and generalized observables: a simple proof of Gleason’s theorem; (1999) (arXiv)

The failure of Gleason’s theorem for classical states (on Poisson algebras) is discussed in

  • Michael Entov, Leonid Polterovich, Symplectic quasi-states and semi-simplicity of quantum homology (arXiv).

Gleason's Theorem proved for real, complex and quaternionic Hilbert spaces using the notion of real trace.

  • Valter Moretti, Marco Oppio, The correct formulation of Gleason’s theorem in quaternionic Hilbert spaces, Ann. Henri Poincaré 19 (2018), 3321-3355 (arXiv:1803.06882)

See also

Last revised on April 8, 2023 at 07:23:14. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.