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Questions tagged [commutator]

A mathematical construct quantifying the difference in effect of applying two operators in two alternate successions. It is the defining product of a Lie algebra, the efficient underlying description of Lie groups, of use in several areas of physics, most notably quantum field theory.

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78
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6answers
20k views

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 ...
74
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5answers
11k views

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 ...
45
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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\} ~:=~ \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 g}{\...
39
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7answers
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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 (...
32
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4answers
9k views

How does non-commutativity lead to uncertainty?

I read that the non-commutativity of the quantum operators leads to the uncertainty principle. What I don't understand is how both things hang together. Is it that when you measure one thing first ...
32
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1answer
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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 $$\phi(x)\phi^\dagger(y)\ne0.$$ ...
31
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1answer
5k 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 ...
30
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7answers
4k views

Is there something behind non-commuting observables?

Consider a quantum system described by the Hilbert space $\mathcal{H}$ and consider $A,B\in \mathcal{L}(\mathcal{H},\mathcal{H})$ to be observables. If those observables do not commute there's no ...
21
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2answers
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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 ...
18
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2answers
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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 ...
14
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2answers
614 views

Why is the uncertainty principle not $\sigma_A^2 \sigma_B^2\geq(\langle A B\rangle +\langle B A\rangle -2 \langle A\rangle\langle B\rangle)^2/4$?

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 B]...
12
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3answers
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Do fields describing different particles always commute?

Is it true that field operators describing different particles (for example a scalar field operator $\phi (x) $ and a spinor field operator $\psi (x) $) always commute (i.e. $ [\phi (x), \psi (y) ]=0, ...
12
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2answers
295 views

Why does $\hbar$ appear twice in the axioms of QM?

Physical theories have dimensionful constants. Each constant can be found via measurement, by fitting some equation to data. Mathematically, you would expect each constant to be "defined" in this way ...
12
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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 $-i\...
12
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2answers
584 views

What is the mistake in calculating such a commutator? [duplicate]

$B$ is an Hermitian operator in Hilbert space, and $|b\rangle$ is the eigenstate of $B$. We can have $[A, B] = 1$ where A is arbitary operator. Then we can calculate as below: \begin{align} &\...
12
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5answers
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Quantizing a complex Klein-Gordon Field: Why are there two types of excitations?

In most references I've seen (see, for example, Peskin and Schroeder problem 2.2, or section 2.5 here), one constructs the field operator $\hat{\phi}$ for the complex Klein-Gordon field as follows: ...
12
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2answers
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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 $$\partial_{[\lambda}\partial_{[\mu}A_{\nu]]}=0.$$ ...
11
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1answer
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Validity of Bogoliubov transformation

In condensed matter physics, one often encounter a Hamiltonian of the form $$\mathcal{H}=\sum_{\bf{k}} \begin{pmatrix}a_{\bf{k}}^\dagger & a_{-\bf{k}}\end{pmatrix} \begin{pmatrix}A_{\bf{k}} &...
11
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3answers
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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)\\ \left[\partial_x{O}(...
10
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3answers
3k 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 ...
10
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4answers
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How to construct the radial component of the momentum operator?

I'm having trouble doing it. I know so far that if we have two Hermitian operators $A$ and $B$ that do not commute, and suppose we wish to find the quantum mechanical Hermitian operator for the ...
10
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3answers
4k views

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 ...
10
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2answers
2k views

Commutator not transitive

I noticed the following: $$[L_{+},L^2]=0,\qquad [L_{+},L_3]\neq 0,\qquad [L^2,L_3]=0.$$ This would suggest, that $L^2,L_+$ have a common system of eigenfunctions, and so do $L^2,L_3$, but $L_+,L_3$ ...
10
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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 ...
10
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3answers
684 views

Dequantizing Dirac's quantization rule

In this blog post, Lubos Motl claims that any commutator may be shown to reduce to the classical Poisson brackets: $$ \lim \limits_{\hbar \to 0} \frac{1}{i\hbar} \left[ \hat{F}, \hat{G} \right] =...
10
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2answers
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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) ]...
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2answers
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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?
10
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2answers
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Mutual or same set of eigenfunctions if two operators commute

If two operators commute, do they have "a mutual set of eigenfunctions", or "the same set of eigenfunctions"? My quantum chemistry book uses these as if they are interchangeable, but they do not seem ...
10
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5answers
250 views

Does an Operator that neither commutes with $\hat{X}$ or $\hat{P}$, nor can be expressed as a “function” of $\hat{X}$ and $\hat{P}$ make sense?

When you come from classical hamiltonian mechanics (which is based on the phase space), observables are introduced as functions $f$ on the phase space $(q, p)$. There can't be a classical observable ...
9
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2answers
9k views

Commutator with exponential $[A, \exp(B)]$

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 ...
9
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2answers
1k views

Symmetry in quantum mechanics

My professor told us that in quantum mechanics a transformation is a symmetry transformation if $$ UH(\psi) = HU(\psi) $$ Can you give me an easy explanation for this definition?
9
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2answers
14k views

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 ...
9
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2answers
450 views

Quantum mechanics with multiple values of $\hbar$

The quantity $\hbar$ appears in quantum mechanics by the canonical commutation relation $$[x, p] = i \hbar.$$ Would it be sensible to quantize different conjugate variable pairs with different values ...
9
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2answers
338 views

Renormalization and canonical commutation relations

My question is whether canonical commutation relations hold for renormalized quantum fields. Below I show reasoning which caused by doubts. Consider a relativistic scalar QFT. We have spectral ...
8
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5answers
7k views

Commutator algebra in exponents

Considering $X$ and $Y$ such that $[X,Y]=\lambda$, which is complex, and $\mu$ is another complex number, prove: $$e^{\mu(X+Y)}=e^{\mu X} e^{\mu Y} e^{-\mu^2\lambda/2}$$ My attempt (so far) is: ...
8
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2answers
4k 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 ...
8
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4answers
13k views

Commutator of Dirac gamma matrices

Quick question...For some reason I'm having trouble finding an identity or discussion for the commutator of the gamma matrices at the moment...i.e $$\gamma^u\gamma^v-\gamma^v \gamma^u$$ but I am not ...
8
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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 ...
8
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4answers
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Binomial expansion of non-commutative operators

I would like to determine the general expansion of $$(\hat{A}+\hat{B})^n,$$ where $[\hat{A},\hat{B}]\neq 0$, i.e. $\hat{A}$ and $\hat{B}$ are two generally non-commutative operators. How could I ...
8
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2answers
860 views

Derive canonical commutation relations from Schwingers principle

The book of Dyson "Quantum-Field-Theory" states in section 4.4 that one can derive canonical commutation relations from Schwingers quantum action principle. However, doesn't give a calculation for the ...
8
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1answer
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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 ...
8
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2answers
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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\ b_n\ ...
8
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2answers
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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 $[D,P_{...
8
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4answers
2k views

Fermions, different species and (anti-)commutation rules

My question is straightforward: Do fermionic operators associated to different species commute or anticommute? Even if these operators have different quantum numbers? How can one prove this fact in a ...
8
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1answer
568 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 ...
8
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1answer
528 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 $V_I(...
8
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2answers
499 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 $B$: ...
8
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2answers
883 views

How to know if a set of commuting observables is complete?

We define a complete set of commuting observables as a set of observables $\{A_1,\ldots, A_n\}$ such that: $\left[A_i, A_j\right]=0$, for every $1\leq i,~j \leq n$; If $a_1,\ldots, a_n$ are ...
7
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3answers
3k views

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 ...
7
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3answers
1k 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} + \sqrt{...