In physics, an operator is almost always either a square matrix or a linear mapping from one space of functions (often on $\mathbb{R}^N$ or $\mathbb{C}^N$) to the same or other like space of functions. Operators serve as *observables* and as *time evolution operators* in Quantum Mechanics. This tag ...

learn more… | top users | synonyms

34
votes
2answers
453 views

Physical interpretation of different selfadjoint extensions

Given a symmetric (densely defined) operator in a Hilbert space, there might be quite a lot of selfadjoint extensions to it. This might be the case for a Schrödinger operator with a "bad" potential. ...
26
votes
3answers
756 views

A “Hermitian” operator with imaginary eigenvalues

Let $${\bf H}=\hat{x}^3\hat{p}+\hat{p}\hat{x}^3$$ where $\hat{p}=-id/dx$. Clearly ${\bf H}^{\dagger}={\bf H}$, because ${\bf H}={\bf T} + {\bf T}^{\dagger}$, where ${\bf T}=\hat{x}^3\hat{p}$. In this ...
15
votes
1answer
675 views

Intuitive meaning of Hilbert Space formalism

I am totally confused about the Hilbert Space formalism of Quantum Mechanics. Can somebody please elaborate on the following points: The observables are given by self-adjoint operators on the ...
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
4answers
472 views

Density matrix formalism

The density matrix $\hat{\rho}$ is often introduced in textbooks as a mathematical convenience that allows us to describe quantum systems in which there is some level of missing information. ...
14
votes
1answer
850 views

Is the Uncertainty Principle valid for information about the past?

My layman understanding of the Uncertainty Principle is that you can't determine the both the position and momentum of a particle at the same point in time, because measuring one variable changes the ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Time as a Hermitian operator in QM?

In non-relativistic QM, on one hand we have the following relations: $$\langle x | P | \psi \rangle ~=~ -i \hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial x} \psi(x),$$ $$\langle p | X | \psi \rangle ~=~ i \hbar ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Applications of the Spectral Theorem to Quantum Mechanics

I'm currently learning some basic functional analysis. Yesterday I arrived at the spectral theorem of self-adjoint operators. I've heard that this theorem has lots of applications in Quantum ...
14
votes
1answer
528 views

Discreteness of set of energy eigenvalues

Given some potential $V$, we have the eigenvalue problem $$ -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\Delta \psi + V\psi = E\psi $$ with the boundary condition $$ \lim_{|x|\rightarrow \infty} \psi(x) = 0 $$ If we ...
12
votes
4answers
888 views

Energy is actually the momentum in the direction of time?

By comparatively examining the operators a student concludes that `Energy is actually the momentum in the direction of time.' Is this student right? Could he be wrong?
11
votes
3answers
1k views

How to tackle 'dot' product for spin matrices

I read a textbook today on quantum mechanics regarding the Pauli spin matrices for two particles, it gives the Hamiltonian as $$ H = \alpha[\sigma_z^1 + \sigma_z^2] + ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

Meaning of the anti-commutator term in the uncertainty principle

What is the meaning, mathematical or physical, of the anti-commutator term? $\langle ( \Delta A )^{2} \rangle \langle ( \Delta B )^{2} \rangle \geq \dfrac{1}{4} \vert \langle [ A,B ] \rangle \vert^{2} ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Why do we use operators in quantum mechanics?

In classical mechanics, physical quantities, such as, e.g. the coordinates of position, velocity, momentum, energy, etc, are real numbers, but in quantum mechanics they become operators. Why is this ...
11
votes
1answer
104 views

Metric interpretation of self-adjoint extensions?

I am wondering if beyond physical interpretation, the one dimensional contact interactions (self-adjoint extensions of the the free Hamiltonian when defined everywhere except at the origin) have a ...
10
votes
4answers
351 views

Applying an operator to a function vs. a (ket) vector

I have a question regarding the effect of quantum mechanical operators. The definition that I'm familiar with says that an operator $A$ acts on a vector from a Hilbert space, $|\psi\rangle$, and the ...
10
votes
5answers
864 views

What exactly is $\hat{\psi}^\dagger(x)$? An operator or a function?

I've recently read Cohen-Tannoudji on quantum mechanics to try to better understand Dirac notation. A homework problem is giving me some trouble though. I'm unsure if I've learned enough yet to ...
10
votes
2answers
218 views

The formal solution of the Schrodinger equation

Let's have Schrodinger equation (or some equation in Schrodinger form) $$ \tag 1 i \partial_{0} \Psi ~=~ \hat{H} \Psi . $$ One likes to write that it has formal solution $$ \tag 2 \Psi (t) ~=~ ...
10
votes
2answers
566 views

Does every hermitian operator represent a measurable quantity?

In Quantum mechanics, observables are represented by hermitian operator. But does every hermitian operator represent a observable? If not , how do we know that whether a hermitian operator represent ...
9
votes
5answers
10k views

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 ...
9
votes
1answer
479 views

How are anyons possible?

If $|ψ\rangle$ is the state of a system of two indistinguishable particles, then we have an exchange operator P which switches the states of the two particles. Since the two particles are ...
9
votes
2answers
194 views

Deriving the expectation of $[\hat X,\hat H]$

For a free particle of mass $m$, with Hamiltonian $$\hat{H} = \frac {\hat{P}^2} {2m},$$ where $$\hat{P} = -i \hbar \frac{\partial} {\partial x}.$$ The commutative relation is given by $$[\hat{X}, ...
9
votes
4answers
449 views

Why are the inner products of the eigenfunctions of an operator with a discrete eigenvalue spectrum guaranteed to exist?

I was reading through a textbook, and the statement was made that the inner products are guaranteed to exist if the eigenvalue spectrum of the operator is discrete. I have come across no support for ...
9
votes
0answers
124 views

Mathematical motivation of OPE?

In Peskin & Schroeder (and also Cheng which I have skimmed through) they motivate the Operator Product Expansion with a lot of words. Is there any way to motivate it mathematically, e.g. Taylor ...
8
votes
5answers
529 views

How to get the position operator in the momentum representation from knowing the momentum operator in the position representation?

I know that $$\tag{1}\hat{p}~=~-i\hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial x}~.$$ How can I get $$\tag{2}\hat{x}~=~i\hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial p}~?$$ I think this simple and I'm just over thinking it, ...
8
votes
1answer
239 views

Self-adjoint and unbounded operators in QM

An operator $A$ is said to be self-adjoint if $(\chi,A\psi)=(A\chi,\psi)$ for $\psi, \chi \in D_A$ and $D_A=D_{A^\dagger}$. But for the free particle momentum operator $\hat{p}$ these inner products ...
8
votes
1answer
698 views

“An operator is hermitian”. Implications?

Alastair Rae states that there are 4 postulates of Quantum Mechanics in his text on the subject matter. The first part of his second postulate can be stated as: Every dynamical variable may be ...
8
votes
2answers
554 views

Regularisation of infinite-dimensional determinants

Can a regularisation of the determinant be used to find the eigenvalues of the Hamiltonian in the normal infinite dimensional setting of QM? Edit: I failed to make myself clear. In finite ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Difficulties with bra-ket notation

I have started to study quantum mechanics. I know linear algebra,functional analysis, calculus, and so on, but at this moment I have a problem in Dirac bra-ket formalism. Namely, I have problem with ...
7
votes
2answers
573 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 ...
7
votes
4answers
219 views

Does Heisenberg equation of motion imply the Schrodinger equation for evolution operator?

Let us choose to postulate (e.g. considering the analogy of the Hamiltonian being a generator of time evolution in classical mechanics) $$ i\hbar \frac{d\hat{U}}{dt}=\hat{H}\hat{U}\tag{1} $$ where ...
7
votes
1answer
465 views

Can one define an acceleration operator in quantum mechanics?

It seems most books about QM only talk about position and momentum operators. But isn't it also possible to define a acceleration operator? I thought about doing it in the following way, starting ...
7
votes
1answer
349 views

Operator Ordering Ambiguities

I have been told that $$[\hat x^2,\hat p^2]=2i\hbar (\hat x\hat p+\hat p\hat x)$$ illustrates operator ordering ambiguity. What does that mean? I tried googling but to no avail.
7
votes
1answer
397 views

What is the value of a quantum field?

As far as I'm aware (please correct me if I'm wrong) quantum fields are simply operators, constructed from a linear combination of creation and annihilation operators, which are defined at every point ...
7
votes
2answers
76 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
votes
1answer
231 views

String theory - OPE and primary operators

First, a disclaimer: I am new to Physics SE, and I am primarily a mathematician, not a physicist. I apologise in advance for the possibly poor quality of the question, any and thank you for your ...
7
votes
1answer
139 views

Representation on Hilbert space of the product of two symmetry transformations

We know by Wigner's theorem that the representation of a symmetry transformation on the Hilbert space is either unitary and linear, or anti-unitary and anti-linear. Let $T$ and $S$ be two symmetry ...
7
votes
4answers
823 views

Bounded and Unbounded (Scattering) States in Quantum Mechanics

I understand that bounded states in quantum mechanics imply that the total energy of the state, $E$, is less than the potential $V_0$ at + or - spatial infinity. Similarly, the scattering state ...
7
votes
2answers
183 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 $B$: ...
7
votes
0answers
95 views

Role of physics in the zeta function $\zeta$ and the Riemann hypothesis

Hilbert and Polya suggested a physical way to verify the Riemann hypotesis about $\zeta(x)$. If the Riemann hypotesis is true, we can state all eigenvalues of physical problems are real. What is the ...
6
votes
2answers
215 views

What is the operator form of $1/P_x$?

I know that the operator form of $1/P_x$ ($P_x$ is the $x$-component of momentum operator $\mathbf{P}$) should have an integral form like: $$\frac{i}{\hbar}\int\,dx,$$ but I'm not sure about the ...
6
votes
3answers
441 views

How does one determine ladder operators systematically?

In textbooks, the ladder operators are always defined," and shown to 'raise' the state of a system, but they are never actually derived. Does one find them simply by trial and error? Or is there a ...
6
votes
2answers
336 views

In what sense is the path integral an independent formulation of Quantum Mechanics/Field Theory?

We are all familiar with the version of Quantum Mechanics based on state space, operators, Schrodinger equation etc. This allows us to successfully compute relevant physical quantities such as ...
6
votes
2answers
102 views

Precise meaning of composition of ket and bra, e.g. $|\psi\rangle\langle\psi|$

I'm currently studying density matrices, and have been frequently coming across the construction $$|\psi\rangle\langle\psi| \,.$$ What is the formal meaning of this composition? I understand ...
6
votes
3answers
306 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
votes
2answers
543 views

Eigenvalues of a quantum field?

Fields in classical mechanics are observables. For example, I can measure the value of the electric field at some (x,t). In quantum field theory, the classical field is promoted to an operator-valued ...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

Evolution operator for time-dependent Hamiltonian

When i studyed QM I'm only working with non time-dependent Hamiltonians. In this case unitary evolution operator has the form $$\hat{U}=e^{-\frac{i}{\hbar}Ht}$$ that follows from this equation $$ ...
6
votes
2answers
244 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
votes
2answers
983 views

Weyl Ordering Rule

While studying Path Integrals in Quantum Mechanics I have found that [Srednicki: Eqn. no. 6.6] the quantum Hamiltonian $\hat{H}(\hat{P},\hat{Q})$ can be given in terms of the classical Hamiltonian ...
6
votes
3answers
765 views

Implications of unbounded operators in quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanical observables of a system are represented by self - adjoint operators in a separable complex Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$. Now I understand a lot of operators ...
6
votes
3answers
190 views

Can eigenstates of a Hilbert space be thought of as delta functions?

Say we have an observable that describes a Hilbert space and that observable acts on state kets. Lets take the position observable for example. Then $\langle y|x\rangle = \delta(y - x)$. But can the ...