Estimating preselected and postselected ensembles

Serge Massar, Sandu Popescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


In analogy with the usual quantum state-estimation problem, we introduce the problem of state estimation for a pre- and postselected ensemble. The problem has fundamental physical significance since, as argued by Y. Aharonov and collaborators, pre- and postselected ensembles are the most basic quantum ensembles. Two new features are shown to appear: (1) information is flowing to the measuring device both from the past and from the future; (2) because of the postselection, certain measurement outcomes can be forced never to occur. Due to these features, state estimation in such ensembles is dramatically different from the case of ordinary, preselected-only ensembles. We develop a general theoretical framework for studying this problem and illustrate it through several examples. We also prove general theorems establishing that information flowing from the future is closely related to, and in some cases equivalent to, the complex conjugate information flowing from the past. Finally, we illustrate our approach on examples involving covariant measurements on spin-1/2 particles. We emphasize that all state-estimation problems can be extended to the pre- and postselected situation. The present work thus lays the foundations of a much more general theory of quantum state estimation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number052106
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical Review A: Atomic, Molecular and Optical Physics
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2011


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