Numbers of the form $\{z= x+ i\,y:\;x,\, y\in\mathbb{R}\}$ where $i^2 = -1$. Useful especially as quantum mechanics, where system states take complex vector values.

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26
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10answers
6k views

About the complex nature of the wave function?

1. Why is the wave function complex? I've collected some layman explanations but they are incomplete and unsatisfactory. However in the book by Merzbacher in the initial few pages he provides an ...
18
votes
6answers
1k views

Can one do the maths of physics without using $\sqrt{-1}$?

The use of imaginary and complex values comes up in many physics and engineering derivations. I have a question about that: Is the use of complex numbers simply to make the process of derivation ...
15
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10answers
3k views

QM without complex numbers

I am trying to understand how complex numbers made their way into QM. Can we have a theory of the same physics without complex numbers? If so, is the theory using complex numbers easier?
15
votes
1answer
495 views

Why treat complex scalar field and its complex conjugate as two different fields?

I am new to QFT, so I may have some of the terminology incorrect. Many QFT books provide an example of deriving equations of motion for various free theories. One example is for a complex scalar ...
14
votes
6answers
1k views

Why are Only Real Things Measurable?

Why can't we measure imaginary numbers? I mean, we can take the projection of a complex wave to be the "viewable" part, so why are imaginary numbers given this immeasurable descriptor? Namely with ...
14
votes
5answers
650 views

What are functions of a complex variable used for in physics?

Whenever someone asks "Why are complex numbers important?" the answer, at least in the context of physics, usually includes things like quantum mechanics, oscillators and AC circuits. This is all very ...
9
votes
5answers
628 views

Minkowski Metric Signature

When I learned about the Minkowski Space and it's coordinates, it was explained such that the metric turns out to be $$ ds^{2} = -(cdx^{0})^{2} +(dx^{1})^{2} + (dx^{2})^{2} + (dx^{3})^{2} $$ where $ ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Variational Derivation of Schrodinger Equation

In reading Weinstock's Calculus of Variations, on pages 261 - 262 he explains how Schrodinger apparently first derived the Schrodinger equation from variational principles. Unfortunately I don't ...
8
votes
2answers
371 views

Is the step of analytic continuation unavoidable or can you model around it?

One sometimes considers the analytic continuation of certain quantities in physics and take them seriously. More so than the direct or actual values, actually. For example if you use the procedure ...
8
votes
6answers
584 views

What is Quantization?

In classical mechanics you construct an action (involving a Lagrangian in arbitrary generalized coordinates, a Hamiltonian in canonical coordinates [to make your EOM more "convenient & ...
8
votes
6answers
887 views

What does imaginary number maps to physically?

I am taking undergraduate quantum mechanics currently, and the concept of an imaginary number had always troubled me. I always feel that complex numbers are more of a mathematical convenience, but ...
7
votes
3answers
320 views

Applications of analytic continuation to physics

I posted this on math.SE, but didn't get much response. It might fit better on this site. Holomorphic functions have the property that they can be uniquely analytically continued to (almost) the ...
7
votes
3answers
638 views

Born's Rule, What is the Reason?

As far as I've read online, there isn't a good explanation for the Born Rule. Is this the case? Why does taking the square of the wave function give you the Probability? Naturally it removes negatives ...
6
votes
2answers
751 views

Amplitude of Probability amplitude. Which one is it?

QM begins with a Born's rule which states that probability $P$ is equal to a modulus square of probability amplitude $\psi$: $$P = \left|\psi\right|^2.$$ If I write down a wave function like this ...
6
votes
2answers
939 views

complex numbers in optics

I have recently studied optics. But I feel having missed something important: how can amplitudes of light waves be complex numbers? I suppose this is quite fundamental, but I do not find the answer ...
6
votes
2answers
154 views

Decoupling of Holomorphic and Anti-holomorphic parts in 2D CFT

This maybe a very naive question. I have just started studying CFT, and I am confused by why we have two separate parts of everything in CFT (operator algebras and hilbert space), the holomorphic ...
6
votes
2answers
305 views

Complex coordinates in CFT

The Setup: Let's say we want to study a Euclidean $\mathrm{CFT}_2$ on $\mathbb R^2$ with coordinates $\sigma^1$ and $\sigma^2$ and metric $ds^2 = (d\sigma^1)^2+(d\sigma^2)^2$. It seems to me that ...
6
votes
1answer
84 views

A question about a complex integration in Peskin's QFT textbook

In page 27 (2.52), the integration is $$\int_{-\infty}^{\infty}dp \frac{p e^{ipr}}{\sqrt{p^2+m^2}}$$ He says that there are two branch cuts starting from $\pm im$ But I learn in complex analysis ...
5
votes
2answers
335 views

What is imaginary time? [duplicate]

I am not professional physicist; but I am curious about Stephen Hawking's "imaginary time". It would be better to elaborate exactly what it is. I am not confused because of the word "imaginary" but I ...
5
votes
1answer
201 views

Are electrodynamics problems in the complex plane relevant to real life?

This is a question I asked in Maths SE, and it was suggested I ask it here. This is a direct copy of that question. I have been reading Tristan Needham's excellent Visual Complex Analysis. The end of ...
5
votes
2answers
507 views

What is a physical example of a Saddle-Node Bifurcation?

I am doing a presentation on bifurcations and would like physical examples to go along with each type of bifurcation but I am unable to find or think of any good example of a simple Saddle Node ...
5
votes
1answer
91 views

“Imaginary” Perfect Time

In the definition (in one spatial dimension) of $\Delta \tau$ there is the relation: $(\Delta \tau)^2 = (\Delta t)^2 - (\Delta x)^2$ which is invariant. If $(\Delta x)^2 > (\Delta t)^2$ then there ...
5
votes
2answers
106 views

Can we treat $\psi^{c}$ as a field independent from $\psi$?

When we derive the Dirac equation from the Lagrangian, $$ \mathcal{L}=\overline{\psi}i\gamma^{\mu}\partial_{\mu}\psi-m\overline{\psi}\psi, $$ we assume $\psi$ and ...
5
votes
2answers
222 views

Is there a physical motivation to study finite fields?

Clearly finite groups are of immense value in physics and these are also substructures of fields. However I never came across any computations involving finite fields at university and so I never ...
4
votes
6answers
1k views

Is there a direct physical interpretation for the complex wavefunction?

The Schrodinger equation in non-relativistic quantum mechanics yields the time-evolution of the so-called wavefunction corresponding to the system concerned under the action of the associated ...
4
votes
1answer
236 views

Imaginary masses

While watching this video, at around 5:00, the man mentions a certain type of particle having imaginary mass. He also says that these kind of particles can go faster then light. But how it is possible ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Confused over complex representation of the wave

My quantum mechanics textbook says that the following is a representation of a wave traveling in the +$x$ direction:$$\Psi(x,t)=Ae^{i\left(kx-\omega t\right)}\tag1$$ I'm having trouble visualizing ...
4
votes
1answer
192 views

From Minkowski to Euclidean Time in Path Integrals

I'm trying to prove the following equality: $$ <x_{f},\, it_{f}|x_{i},\, it_{i}>=\mathcal{N}\int_{\left\{ x\in\mathbb{R}^{\mathbb{R}}:\, x\left(t_{f}\right)=x_{f}\wedge ...
4
votes
2answers
283 views

Real Part of the Wave Function

In Quantum Mechanics the square of the wave function is compared to a probability density. Is there no similar relation to waves in the sense that something meaningful can be ascribed to the real part ...
4
votes
3answers
93 views

Special relativity and imaginary coefficient of the time coordinate

I read somewhere that part of Minkowski's inspiration for his formulation of Minkowski space was Poincare's observation that time could be understood as a fourth spatial dimension with an imaginary ...
4
votes
1answer
103 views

Using angular momentum in complex coordinates

So given the angular momentum operator: $$L_{z} = - ih\biggl(x \frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}y} - y \frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}x}\biggr)$$ I know how to write these in terms of polar coordinates ...
4
votes
2answers
242 views

Dimensional aspects of the imaginary unit $i$ in physics [duplicate]

From a real world perspective each dimension in the 3-D Cartesian System can be represented by an axis that is perpendicular to 2 other axes. I read somewhere else that the effect of ${\sqrt {-1}}$ is ...
4
votes
1answer
91 views

Complex variables in classical mechanics [duplicate]

In quantum mechanics complex numbers are absolutely essential because of the relation $$[\hat q_i,\hat p_j]=i\hbar\delta_{ij}.$$ But is complex number also essential anywhere in the formalism of ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

What does $\Psi^*$ mean in Schrodinger's formulation of Quantum Mechanics?

I am not a physics student. In one of my courses, some fundamental concepts of Quantum mechanics were needed, so I was going through them when I stumbled upon this. It says $$\text{probability} = ...
3
votes
2answers
142 views

“Complex Variables Method” in Diff. Eq. - Justification and physical meaning?

A common method of simplifying calculations that involve differential equations - particularly involving oscillation - is to replace $\cos(\theta)$ with $e^{i \omega t}$, evaluate, and then take the ...
3
votes
1answer
264 views

Why do we must initially assume that the wavefunction is complex?

The sound waves are real, and they can interfere, so corresponding apparat may be used in quantum mechanics. We also may use the time dependence in a form of orthogonal matrix multiplying the initial ...
3
votes
2answers
383 views

Global phase symmetry for complex scalar field theory

I have started to study QFT. And I have some difficulties in such classical situation. Suppose i want to calculate $\frac{\partial \mathcal{L}}{\partial (\partial_\mu \phi)}\phi$ for lagrangian ...
3
votes
1answer
98 views

Why do we use $\psi$ instead of a straightforward probability?

What is the advantage/purpose of using $\psi$ for wavefunctions and getting the probability with $|\psi|^2$ as opposed to just defining and using the probability function?
3
votes
1answer
339 views

Finding Stagnation Points from the complex potential

I am trying to find the stagnation point of a fluid flow from a complex potential. The complex potential is given by $$\Omega(z) = Uz + \cfrac{m}{2\pi}\ln z.$$ From this I found the streamfunction to ...
3
votes
1answer
116 views

Principal value of 1/x and few questions about complex analysis in Peskin's QFT textbook

When I learn QFT, I am bothered by many problems in complex analysis. 1) $$\frac{1}{x-x_0+i\epsilon}=P\frac{1}{x-x_0}-i\pi\delta(x-x_0)$$ I can't understand why $1/x$ can have a principal value ...
2
votes
3answers
376 views

What is the rationale behind representing a state function by a complex valued function in QM?

What is the rationale behind representing a state function of an electron with a complex valued function $\Psi$. If only the probabilistic argument was required then why not represent it with just a ...
2
votes
2answers
202 views

2D Gauss law vs residue theorem

I used to have a vague feeling that the residue theorem is a close analogy to 2D electrostatics in which the residues themselves play a role of point charges. However, the equations don't seem to add ...
2
votes
3answers
227 views

States and observables in quantum mechanics

I'm beginning learn quantum mechanics. As I understand, state is a map $\phi$ from $L^2(\mathbb R)$ such that $|\phi|^2$ describes probability density of a particle's position. By integrating ...
2
votes
2answers
287 views

In classical mechanics, are complex numbers unphysical? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Physics math without $\sqrt{-1}$ When I produce a complex final solution to a problem that began without complex coefficients at all, I have so far (with my limited ...
2
votes
1answer
198 views

Newton's law of gravitation in complex form

In an ebook about elementary complex analysis I came across Newton's law of universal gravitation with a complex valued function in place of $r(t)$. Can somebody please explain the intuition about how ...
2
votes
1answer
249 views

Usage of Schrödinger equation vs Madelung equations

It is well known that Madelung formulation is alternative to the Schrödinger Formulation, cf. this previous Madelung transformation Phys.SE post. I wanted to know what makes Schrödinger's formulation ...
2
votes
1answer
240 views

Complex Potentials, Potentials and Fields

Suppose an electric field $E=-\nabla \psi$ where $\psi=-Q\ln r$ where $Q$ is just some constant and I have found its harmonic conjugate to be $-Q\theta+c$ where $c$ is some constant. What does it say ...
2
votes
1answer
868 views

Deriving the Sommerfeld expansion by contour integration (Le Bellac p. 277)

In Le Bellac's statistical physics book he derives the Sommerfeld expansion by a contour integral. The idea is to expand integrals of the type $I(\beta)\equiv \int_{0}^{\infty}d\epsilon\, ...
2
votes
1answer
191 views

Why can you re-write the functional measure of a real-valued field $\phi(x)$ as $\mathcal{D}\phi=\prod_{k_n^0>0}dRe \phi(k_n) d Im \phi(k_n)$?

This happens in Peskin and Schroeder, An Introduction to QFT, on page 285. They set out to calculate correlation functions for the free real-valued Klein-Gordon field $\phi(x)\in \mathbb{R}$. They ...
2
votes
1answer
56 views

Is polarization of a wave just a description of its motion in three dimensions?

Since a polarization of the wave is described by complex numbers, we can try to give that mathematical formalism geometrical meaning. With having two different axes, one imaginary and other real, it ...