If I consider $a|00\rangle + b|01\rangle +c|10\rangle +d|11\rangle$ as a valid two-qubit system, what is the probability of measuring the first qubit in state $\frac{1}{\sqrt 2}(|0⟩+|1⟩)$?

I know that the probability of measuring the first qubit in state $|0\rangle$ is $|a|^2 + |b|^2$, but I couldn't figure out how it works here. Thanks in advance.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Hint: You need to perform a basis change from $\{|0\rangle, |1\rangle\}$ to $\{|+\rangle, |-\rangle\}$ where $|+\rangle$ is $\frac{1}{\sqrt 2}(|0\rangle + |1\rangle)$ and $|-\rangle$ is $\frac{1}{\sqrt 2}(|0\rangle - |1\rangle)$. If this terminology is unclear to you, it's advisable that you learn some linear algebra first. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2019 at 16:40

1 Answer 1


Given an arbitrary state $|\psi\rangle$, if it is expressed in the computational basis as $|\psi\rangle=\sum_k c_k |k\rangle$, then it will give the $k$-th result (when measuring in the computational basis) with probability $|c_k|^2$.

Note that here by "computational basis" I simply mean the measurement basis under consideration.

If you consider another type of measurement, corresponding to a different basis, say $\{|u_k\rangle\}_k$, then to figure out the outcome probabilities in this new basis you need to express $|\psi\rangle$ in terms of the $|u_k\rangle$. Say that doing this you get something of the form $$|\psi\rangle = \sum_k d_k |u_k\rangle.$$ That means that the outcome corresponding to $|u_k\rangle$ is obtained with probability $|d_k|^2$.

If you start with a description of the state in the $|k\rangle$ basis, and want to switch to a description in terms of the $|u_k\rangle$ one, you simply need to compute the inner products $\langle u_k|\psi\rangle=d_k$.

More generally, given a state $|\psi\rangle$, the probability of finding it in a state $|\phi\rangle$ is given by $|\langle\phi|\psi\rangle|^2$.

There is, however, a slightly more general way to do measurements, that doesn't (necessarily) involve a full collapse of the state. You can ask questions of the form "is the state in a given subspace?". For example, you can ask whether a state is in one of first $3$ (or any other subset of) computational basis states. You model this situation by using a projector $P$ that projects onto the required basis, and the associated measurement probability is then given by $\|P|\psi\rangle\|^2$.

Taking as an example your specific case, you have a bipartite state expressed in terms of the computational basis $\{|00\rangle,|01\rangle,|10\rangle,|11\rangle\}$ with coefficients $a,b,c,d$. Let's call this state $|\psi\rangle$. You are asking about the probability of the state being found in the subspace $\{|+,0\rangle, |+,1\rangle\}$. To compute this probability you therefore write down the projector $P$ defined as $$P = |+,0\rangle\!\langle +,0| + |+,1\rangle\!\langle +,1| \equiv |+\rangle\!\langle +| \otimes I_2,$$ and you compute $\|P|\psi\rangle\|^2$. Equivalently, you just rewrite $|\psi\rangle$ expressing the first qubit in the $|\pm\rangle$ basis, and then sum the probabilities of finding it in either $|+,u\rangle$ or $|+,v\rangle$, with $\{|u\rangle,|v\rangle\}$ the basis chosen for the second qubit (it doesn't matter which one is used).

  • $\begingroup$ A hyperlink seems to be missing in the first sentence... $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2019 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ @SanchayanDutta Fixed, thanks! $\endgroup$
    – Mithrandir24601
    Nov 22, 2019 at 14:21

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