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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40
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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 ...
33
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11answers
7k 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?
33
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
25
votes
7answers
2k 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 ...
20
votes
5answers
13k views

The meaning of imaginary time

What is imaginary (or complex) time? I was reading about Hawking's wave function of the universe and this topic came up. If imaginary mass and similar imaginary quantities do not make sense in ...
18
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6answers
2k 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 ...
16
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

Quaternions and 4-vectors

I recently realised that quaternions could be used to write intervals or norms of vectors in special relativity: $$(t,ix,jy,kz)^2 = t^2 + (ix)^2 + (jy)^2 + (kz)^2 = t^2 - x^2 - y^2 - z^2$$ Is it ...
12
votes
5answers
981 views

Complex integration by shifting the contour

In section 12.11 of Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics, he evaluates an integral involved in the Green function solution to the 4-potential wave equation. Here it is: $$\int_{-\infty}^\infty dk_0 ...
12
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1answer
3k 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 ...
11
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6answers
1k 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 & ...
10
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4answers
2k views

Minkowski spacetime: Is there a signature (+,+,+,+)?

In history there was an attempt to reach (+, +, +, +) by replacing "ct" with "ict", still employed today in form of the "Wick rotation". Wick rotation supposes that time is imaginary. I wonder if ...
10
votes
6answers
2k 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
2answers
498 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 ...
9
votes
3answers
2k 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?
9
votes
3answers
781 views

Is quantum tunneling related to imaginary time?

I was studying for my exam and looking at the chapter which talks about Potential-energy graphs. Let's take this as an example: My book states that: "If the object is in $B$ and has a total energy ...
8
votes
2answers
612 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
3k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
517 views

What is the kinematics of a particle with complex mass?

particles with real-mass have time-like kinematics ($ds^2 > 0$). particles with zero-mass have light-like kinematics ($ds^2 = 0$). particles with imaginary-mass have space-like kinematics ($ds^2 ...
8
votes
2answers
349 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
273 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
248 views

Why is the Fourier transform more useful than the Hartley transform in physics?

The Hartley transform is defined as $$ H(\omega) = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}\int_{-\infty}^\infty f(t) \, \mbox{cas}(\omega t) \mathrm{d}t, $$ with $\mbox{cas}(\omega t) = \cos(\omega t) + \sin(\omega ...
7
votes
3answers
1k 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
2answers
4k 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
406 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 ...
7
votes
2answers
233 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

Born's Rule, What is the Reason? [duplicate]

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
168 views

$su(1,1) \cong su(2)$?

The three generators of $su(2)$ satisfy the commutation relations $$ [J_0 , J_\pm] = J_\pm , \quad [J_+, J_- ] = +2J_0 .$$ The three generators of $su(1,1)$ satisfy the commutation relations $$ ...
6
votes
2answers
403 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
1k 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
3answers
418 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
595 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
126 views

Why complexify in order to construct Dirac representation?

Suppose we have a theory is covariant under the Spin group Spin(2n-1; 1). We consider the real vector space $V = R^{2n-1,1}$, which naturally comes with a Lorentzian inner product. On this vector ...
5
votes
2answers
357 views

QFT Hilbert spaces over other rings than the complex numbers $\mathbb{C}$

I would like some help evaluating a physics theory recently proposed by a physics professor at the College of Dupage. I think the theory is utterly wrong, for very simple reasons. If an amateur ...
5
votes
1answer
336 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
229 views

Unknown letter ℑ used in an equation

I need to write by hand the equation from the attached snapshot but I really don't know what letter is that seen in the front of square brackets [ . Can anyone help ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Does Hestenes Zitterbewegung Explain why complex numbers appear in QM?

This question may fit better in the discussion of "Why Complex variables are required by QM?", but it also relates to the extent to which arguments by Hestenes are accepted in mainstream physics and ...
5
votes
5answers
8k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
210 views

Faraday's law: sin and cos?

I am looking at this paper (Hanna S. A., Varhue W. J. and Titcomb S., IEEE Trans. on Instrumentaion and Measurement, Vol. 58, No. 1, 2009). They claim that the voltage generated in a loop of $N$ turns ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

What does the Schrodinger Equation really mean?

I understand that the Schrodinger equation is actually a principle that cannot be proven. But can someone give a plausible foundation for it and give it some physical meaning/interpretation. I guess ...
5
votes
1answer
309 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
1k 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
2answers
118 views

Is the Noether charge always a Hermitian operator?

Noether's theorem tells us that to every continuous symmetry of the Lagrangian there corresponds a conserved current $j^\mu$. From the time component of this current, we can then define the Noetherian ...
5
votes
2answers
133 views

Elementary question about endpoint singularities

In George Sterman's book "An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory", on pages 413-414, there is a description of the endpoint singularity. One begins with the function $$ I(w) ~=~ ...
5
votes
1answer
1k 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
114 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
352 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
2k 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
3answers
178 views

Root of $i$, which one to take?

The propagator of a free particle in 1d is $$ K(x_b, t_b; x_a, t_a ) = \sqrt{\frac{m}{2\pi i \hbar (t_b-t_a)}} \exp \left [ \frac{i m (x_b-x_a)^2}{2 \hbar (t_b-t_a)} \quad \right ] .$$ It looks ...
4
votes
2answers
607 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 ...