Ensembles of pure quantum states whose 2nd moments equal those of the unitarily uniform Haar ensemble—2-designs—are optimal solutions for several tasks in quantum information science, especially state and process tomography. We show that Gaussian states cannot form a 2-design for the continuous-variable (quantum optical) Hilbert space L2(ℝ). This is surprising because the affine symplectic group HWSp (the natural symmetry group of Gaussian states) is irreducible on the symmetric subspace of two copies. In finite dimensional Hilbert spaces, irreducibility guarantees that HWSp-covariant ensembles (such as mutually unbiased bases in prime dimensions) are always 2-designs. This property is violated by continuous variables for a subtle reason: the (well-defined) HWSp-invariant ensemble of Gaussian states does not have a density matrix because its defining integral does not converge. In fact, no Gaussian ensemble is even close (in a precise sense) to being a 2-design. This surprising difference between discrete and continuous quantum mechanics has important implications for optical state and process tomography.
Bibliographical note9 pages, no pretty figures (sorry!)