Visualizing spin degrees of freedom in atoms and molecules

In this work we show how constructing Wigner functions of heterogeneous quantum systems leads to new capability in the visualization of quantum states of atoms and molecules. This method allows us to display quantum correlations (entanglement) between spin and spatial degrees of freedom (spin-orbit coupling) and between spin degrees of freedom, as well as more complex combinations of spin and spatial entanglement. This is important as there is growing recognition that such properties affect the physical characteristics, and chemistry, of atoms and molecules. Our visualizations are sufficiently accessible that, with some preparation, those with a nontechnical background can gain an appreciation of subtle quantum properties of atomic and other systems. By providing insights and modeling capability, our phase-space representation will be of great utility in understanding aspects of atomic physics and chemistry not available with current techniques.