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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Nancy Cartwright

Cartwright, N. (1974). Correlations without joint distributions in quantum mechanics. Foundations of Physics 4(1): 127-136.

Author(s) from Durham


The use of joint distribution functions for noncommuting observables in quantum thermodynamics is investigated in the light of L. Cohen's proof that such distributions are not determined by the quantum state. Cohen's proof is irrelevant to uses of the functions that do not depend on interpreting them as distributions. An example of this, from quantum Onsager theory, is discussed. Other uses presuppose that correlations betweenp andq values depend at least on the state. But correlations may be fixed by the state even though the distribution varies from one ensemble to another represented by that state. Taking covariance as a measure of correlation, it is shown that the different commonly used joint distributions yield the same correlations for a given state. A general characterization is given for a family of distributions with this same covariance.