A mathematical construct used to study the effect of applying two operators in succession.

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Trace of a commutator is zero - but what about the commutator of $x$ and $p$?

Operators can be cyclically interchanged inside a trace: $${\rm Tr} (AB)~=~{\rm Tr} (BA).$$ This means the trace of a commutator of any two operators is zero: $${\rm Tr} ([A,B])~=~0.$$ But what about ...
32
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5answers
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What is the physical meaning of commutators in quantum mechanics?

This is a question I've been asked several times by students and I tend to have a hard time phrasing it in terms they can understand. This is a natural question to ask and it is not usually well ...
17
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5answers
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What is the connection between Poisson brackets and commutators?

The Poisson bracket is defined as: $$\{f,g\}_{PB} ~:=~ \sum_{i=1}^{N} \left[ \frac{\partial f}{\partial q_{i}} \frac{\partial g}{\partial p_{i}} - \frac{\partial f}{\partial p_{i}} \frac{\partial ...
15
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2answers
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In QFT, why does a vanishing commutator ensure causality?

In relativistic quantum field theories (QFT), $$[\phi(x),\phi^\dagger(y)] = 0 \;\;\mathrm{if}\;\; (x-y)^2<0$$ On the other hand, even for space-like separation $$\phi(x)\phi^\dagger(y)\ne0.$$ ...
14
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5answers
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What is the Physical Meaning of Commutation of Two Operators?

I understand the mathematics of commutation relations and anti-commutation relations, but what does it physically mean for an observable (self-adjoint operator) to commute with another observable ...
11
votes
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456 views

Why uncertainty principle is not like this?

In Griffiths' QM, he uses two inequalities (here numbered as $(1)$ and $(2)$) to prove the following general uncertainty principle: $$\sigma_A^2 \sigma_B^2\geq\left(\frac{1}{2i}\langle [\hat A ,\hat ...
10
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1answer
512 views

Understanding Poisson brackets

In quantum mechanics, when two observables commute, it implies that the two can be measured simultaneously without perturbing each other's measurement results. Or in other words, the uncertainty in ...
9
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952 views

What does the Canonical Commutation Relation (CCR) tell me about the overlap between Position and Momentum bases?

I'm curious whether I can find the overlap $\langle q | p \rangle$ knowing only the following: $|q\rangle$ is an eigenvector of an operator $Q$ with eigenvalue $q$. $|p\rangle$ is an eigenvector of ...
8
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3answers
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Eigenstate of position+momentum?

I'm studying Quantum Mechanics on my own, so I'm bound to have alot of wrong ideas - please be forgiving! Recently, I was thinking about the quantum mechanical assertion (postulate?) that states with ...
8
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2answers
726 views

Does the commutator of anything with itself not vanish?

In a quantum mechanics exam one question was to write the commutator of a couple of operators. Everybody got points taken away since they did not write $[Q_i, Q_i] = 0$ for all the operators $Q_i$ in ...
7
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2answers
202 views

Dilation operator in CFT viewed as 'hamiltonian'?

From the commutation relations for the conformal Lie algebra, we may infer that the dilation operator plays the same role as the Hamiltonian in CFTs. The appropriate commutation relations are ...
7
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2answers
245 views

A question about causality and Quantum Field Theory from improper Lorentz transformation

Related post Causality and Quantum Field Theory In Peskin and Schroeder's QFT p28, the authors tried to show causality is preserved in scalar field theory. Consider commutator $$ [ \phi(x), \phi(y) ...
7
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1answer
358 views

Canonical quantization in supersymmetric quantum mechanics

Suppose you have a theory of maps $\phi: {\cal T} \to M$ with $M$ some Riemannian manifold, Lagrangian $$L~=~ \frac12 g_{ij}\dot\phi^i\dot\phi^j + \frac{i}{2}g_{ij}(\overline{\psi}^i ...
7
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1answer
395 views

Find $\hat{x}$ operator given $\hat{p}$ operator

This is problem $1.2$ of Molecular Quantum Mechanics by Atkins, 4th edition. I'm given the momentum operator $$p=\sqrt{\frac{\hbar}{2m}}(A+B)$$ with $$[A,B]=1$$ and I need to find $x$ in this ...
7
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1answer
294 views

Theories with non-vanishing commutators outside the lightcone

I'm reading Weinberg's new book on Quantum Mechanics, and in Chapter 8.7 "Time-Dependent Perturbation Theory" he derives the usual Dyson series for the $S$ matrix when the interaction Hamiltonian ...
7
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2answers
281 views

How to replace $T$-product with retarded commutator in LSZ formula?

I am reading Itzykson and Zuber's Quantum Field Theory book, and am unable to understand a step that is made on page 246: Here, they consider the elastic scattering of particle $A$ off particle $B$: ...
6
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3answers
654 views

Does it mean anything if the commutator of an operator with the Hamiltonian is equal to the Hamiltonian?

Question says it all, really. I have $[\hat{H},\hat{O}]=-2i\hbar\hat{H}$. Does this mean that the operator $\hat{O}$ (an observable) is special in some way?
6
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3answers
438 views

Commutator with a square root

How to find the commutator $[a, \sqrt{a^\dagger a}]$? Here $a$ is a usual bosonic annihilation operator, and $[a, a^\dagger] = 1$. The first thing I tried is $$ [x,A] = [x, \sqrt{A}]\sqrt{A} + ...
6
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4answers
541 views

Is uncertainty principle a technical difficulty in measurement?

Is the uncertainty principle a technical difficulty in measurement or is it an intrinsic concept in quantum mechanics irrelevant of any measurement? Everyone knows the thought experiment of measuring ...
6
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4answers
537 views

Does uncertainty imply noncommutativity?

We already know that non-commutativity of observables leads to uncertainty in quantum mechanics cf. e.g. this and this Phys.SE post. What about the opposite: Does uncertainty imply noncommutativity? ...
6
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2answers
362 views

How does the proof of operator commutativity work with non-continuous operators?

In some books, a proof that if two self-adjoint operators $A$ and $B$ share a common eigenbasis $\{\phi_n\}$, then they commute is given as follows : For any $\phi_n$, $$AB\ \phi_n = a_n\ ...
6
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3answers
824 views

What is the commutator of an operator and its derivative?

Is it possible to calculate in a general way the commutator of an operator $O$ which depends on some variable $x$ and the derivative of this $O$ with respect to $x$? $${O}={O}(x)\\ ...
6
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1answer
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Momentum as Generator of Translations

I understand from some studies in mathematics, that the generator of translations is given by the operator $\frac{d}{dx}$. Similarly, I know from quantum mechanics that the momentum operator is ...
6
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2answers
512 views

Causality and Quantum Field Theory

I have a problem with proof of causality in Peskin & Schroeder, An Introduction to QFT, page 28. To avoid confusion I use three vectors notation, rewriting the Eq. (2.53) for $y=0$ as follows: ...
5
votes
3answers
808 views

Does the canonical commutation relation fix the form of the momentum operator?

For one dimensional quantum mechanics $$[\hat{x},\hat{p}]=i\hbar $$ Does this fix univocally the form of the $\hat{p}$ operator? My bet is no because $\hat{p}$ actually depends if we are on ...
5
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3answers
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Why Don't the Ladder Operators Commute?

I have two problems with ladder operators. The first is that I feel they should somehow result in measurable things. The asymmetry of applying the plus operator versus the minus operator is very ...
5
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3answers
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Proof of Canonical Commutation Relation (CCR)

I am not sure how $QP-PQ =i\hbar$ where $P$ represent momentum and $Q$ represent position. $Q$ and $P$ are matrices. The question would be, how can $Q$ and $P$ be formulated as a matrix? Also, what is ...
5
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2answers
162 views

Motivating Complexification of Lie Algebras?

What is the motivation for complexifying a Lie algebra? In quantum mechanical angular momentum the commutation relations $$[J_x,J_y]=iJ_z, \quad [J_y,J_z] = iJ_x,\quad [J_z,J_x] = iJ_y$$ become, on ...
5
votes
3answers
322 views

Evaluating commutator of $[\operatorname{sign}(X),\, \operatorname{sign}(P)]$

I wish to evaluate the following commutator: $[\operatorname{sign}(X),\, \operatorname{sign}(P)]$. Is there a general method for evaluating $[\operatorname{f}(X), \operatorname{f}(P)]$? I thought of a ...
5
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450 views

Heisenberg picture of QM as a result of Hamilton formalism

Consider the formula for the total time-derivative of a physical value in Poisson's formalism: $$\tag{1} \frac{dA}{dt} = -\{H, A\}_{P.B.} + \frac{\partial A}{\partial t}, $$ where $\{A, B\}_{P.B.}$ is ...
5
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Why are anticommutators needed in quantization of Dirac fields?

Why is the anticommutator actually needed in the canonical quantization of free Dirac field?
5
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180 views

Do we need to expand the potential in a power series to show $[x, V(x)] = 0$?

Today in class (Intro to QM) we went over a couple of commutators. Among them was $[x, V]$, where $V=V(x)$ is a potential. What the teacher said to prove this is zero was: let's assume $V$ is analytic ...
5
votes
1answer
671 views

Commutator of Lorentz boost generators : visual interpretation

I have always struggled to visualize the correctness of the commutation relation for the generators of the boost in the Lorentz group. We have $$[K_i,K_j] = i \epsilon_{ijk} L_k$$ I fail to picture ...
5
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2answers
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Fundamental Commutation Relations in Quantum Mechanics

I am trying to compile a list of fundamental commutation relations involving position, linear momentum, total angular momentum, orbital angular momentum, and spin angular momentum. Here is what I have ...
5
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2answers
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Translator Operator

In Modern Quantum Mechanics by Sakurai, at page 46 while deriving commutator of translator operator with position operator, he uses $$\left| x+dx\right\rangle \simeq \left| x \right\rangle.$$ But for ...
5
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1answer
664 views

Finding the creation/annihilation operators

Using Minkowski signature $(+,-,-,-)$, for the Lagrangian density $${\cal L}=\partial_{\mu}\phi\partial^{\mu}\phi^{\dagger}-m^2\phi \phi^{\dagger}$$ of the complex scalar field, we have the field ...
5
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1answer
460 views

Do mutual eigenkets imply commutation of two operators?

I have been working on this question. I have solved it, and I would like to check whether my line of reasoning is right or wrong Question: Prove that if there exists a mutual complete set of ...
5
votes
2answers
474 views

Imposing anti-commutation relations on fermionic quasi-particles

In many theories of CMT, we assume the nature of quasi-particles (without giving proper justifications). For example, we assume nature of quasi-particles to be fermionic in case of a interacting ...
5
votes
1answer
138 views

Why don't we use Hamilton-Jacobi method in QM?

In classical mechanics, we usually try to find a set of coordinates by Hamilton-Jacobi method to transform the Hamiltonian to zero such that the coordinates are conservations. However, we never try ...
5
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1answer
170 views

Apparent spacetime dependence of creation and annihilation operators

I'm currently going through An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory by Hartmut Wittig I've stumbled upon. Having trouble with equation (2.29), I'm asking the question: Do creation and annihilation ...
5
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0answers
109 views

Commutator as a time-ordered product

I'm reading through Seiberg and Witten's paper "String Theory and Noncommutative Geometry," and one part in $\S$2.1 isn't quite clear to me. (Sorry, in advance, for the length.) My question is about ...
4
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2answers
851 views

Commutator with expontential [A, exp(B)]

How can I tell if $A$ and $\exp(B)$ commute? For $[A, B]$ it's simply $AB-BA$ and for $[\exp(A), \exp(B)]$ I think it'd be $\exp(A)\exp(B) - \exp(B)\exp(A) = \exp(A+B) - \exp(B+A) = 0$. Update: it's ...
4
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3answers
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Canonical Commutation Relations

Is it logically sound to accept the canonical commutation relation (CCR) $$[x,p]~=~i\hbar$$ as a postulate of quantum mechanics? Or is it more correct to derive it given some form for $p$ in the ...
4
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Deriving the Angular Momentum Commutator Relations by using $\epsilon_{ijk}$ Identities

I've been trying to derive the relation $$[\hat L_i,\hat L_j] = i\hbar\epsilon_{ijk} \hat L_k $$ without doing each permutation of ${x,y,z}$ individually, but I'm not really getting anywhere. ...
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3answers
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Index Manipulation and Angular Momentum Commutator Relations

I have been trying for hours and cannot figure it out. I am not asking anyone to do it for me, but to understand how to proceed. We have the relations $$[L_i,p_j] ~=~ i\hbar\; \epsilon_{ijk}p_k,$$ ...
4
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1answer
207 views

Does This Really “Prove” Spin-statistics Theorem?

In quantization of scalar field theory we impose commutation relation between the field operators by hand and similarly we impose anti-commutation relation between Dirac field operators by hand. As a ...
4
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1answer
601 views

What exactly is the connection between the Jacobi and Bianchi identities

While reviewing some basic field theory, I once again encountered the Bianchi identity (in the context of electromagnetism). It can be written as $$\partial_{[\lambda}\partial_{[\mu}A_{\nu]]}=0$$ ...
4
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2answers
554 views

Proof for commutator relation $[\hat{H},\hat{a}] = - \hbar \omega \hat{a}$

I know how to derive below equations found on wikipedia and have done it myselt too: \begin{align} \hat{H} &= \hbar \omega \left(\hat{a}^\dagger\hat{a} + \frac{1}{2}\right)\\ \hat{H} &= ...
4
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2answers
294 views

Why does $i ( LK-KL )$ represent a real quantity?

According to my textbook, it says that $i( LK-KL )$ represents a real quantity when $K$ and $L$ represent a real quantity. $K$ and $L$ are matrices. It says that this is because of basic rules. ...
4
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2answers
311 views

Commutation relations of the generators of the conformal group

My question is from P.98 of the book by Di Francesco on Conformal Field theory. He gives the six non-vanishing commutation relations between the elements $P_{\mu}, D, L_{\mu \nu}$ and $K_{\mu}$ ...