Questions tagged [mathematical-physics]

DO NOT USE THIS TAG just because your question involves math! If your question is on simplification of a mathematical expression, please ask it at math.stackexchange.com. Mathematical physics is the mathematically rigorous study of the foundations of physics, and the application of advanced mathematical methods to problems in physics. Examples include partial differential equations (PDEs), variational calculus, functional analysis, and potential theory.

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103
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4answers
9k views

The Role of Rigor [closed]

The purpose of this question is to ask about the role of mathematical rigor in physics. In order to formulate a question that can be answered, and not just discussed, I divided this large issue into ...
102
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6answers
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What are the justifying foundations of statistical mechanics without appealing to the ergodic hypothesis?

This question was listed as one of the questions in the proposal (see here), and I didn't know the answer. I don't know the ethics on blatantly stealing such a question, so if it should be deleted or ...
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0answers
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Linear sigma models and integrable systems

I'm a mathematician who recently became very interested in questions related to mathematical physics but somehow, I faced difficulties in penetrating the literature... I'd highly appreciate any help ...
93
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13answers
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Best books for mathematical background?

What are the best textbooks to read for the mathematical background you need for modern physics, such as, string theory? Some subjects off the top of my head that probably need covering: ...
83
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4answers
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Intuitively, why are bundles so important in Physics?

I've seem the notion of bundles, fiber bundles, connections on bundles and so on being used in many different places on Physics. Now, in mathematics a bundle is introduced to generalize the ...
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Is there something similar to Noether's theorem for discrete symmetries?

Noether's theorem states that, for every continuous symmetry of an action, there exists a conserved quantity, e.g. energy conservation for time invariance, charge conservation for $U(1)$. Is there any ...
77
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11answers
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Quantum Field Theory from a mathematical point of view

I'm a student of mathematics with not much background in physics. I'm interested in learning Quantum field theory from a mathematical point of view. Are there any good books or other reference ...
75
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7answers
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Number theory in Physics [closed]

As a Graduate Mathematics student, my interest lies in Number theory. I am curious to know if Number theory has any connections or applications to physics. I have never even heard of any applications ...
74
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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 ...
66
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13answers
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Why can't $ i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}$ be considered the Hamiltonian operator?

In the time-dependent Schrodinger equation, $ H\Psi = i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\Psi,$ the Hamiltonian operator is given by $$\displaystyle H = -\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\nabla^2+V.$$ Why can't we ...
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Is the converse of Noether's first theorem true: Every conservation law has a symmetry?

Noether's (first) theorem states that any differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law. Is the converse true: Any conservation law of a physical ...
49
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Can we infer the existence of periodic solutions to the three-body problem from numerical evidence?

I recently found out about the discovery of 13 beautiful periodic solutions to the three-body problem, described in the paper Three Classes of Newtonian Three-Body Planar Periodic Orbits. Milovan ...
48
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Rigor in quantum field theory

Quantum field theory is a broad subject and has the reputation of using methods which are mathematically desiring. For example working with and subtracting infinities or the use of path integrals, ...
47
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Mathematically-oriented Treatment of General Relativity

Can someone suggest a textbook that treats general relativity from a rigorous mathematical perspective? Ideally, such a book would Prove all theorems used. Use modern "mathematical notation" as ...
47
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Haag's theorem and practical QFT computations

There exists this famous Haag's theorem which basically states that the interaction picture in QFT cannot exist. Yet, everyone uses it to calculate almost everything in QFT and it works beautifully. ...
46
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7answers
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In quantum mechanics, given certain energy spectrum can one generate the corresponding potential?

A typical problem in quantum mechanics is to calculate the spectrum that corresponds to a given potential. Is there a one to one correspondence between the potential and its spectrum? If the answer ...
44
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8answers
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Classical mechanics without coordinates book

I am a graduate student in mathematics who would like to learn some classical mechanics. However, there is one caveat: I am not interested in the standard coordinate approach. I can't help but think ...
42
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10answers
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Applications of Algebraic Topology to physics

I have always wondered about applications of Algebraic Topology to Physics, seeing as am I studying algebraic topology and physics is cool and pretty. My initial thoughts would be that since most ...
42
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1answer
871 views

What is the relationship between different types of quantum field theories?

As far as I know, all known quantum field theories have the same very broad structure: one gives some finite list of data in order to specify a particular QFT, then one uses some formalism to ...
41
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14answers
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Suggested reading for renormalization (not only in QFT)

What papers/books/reviews can you suggest to learn what Renormalization "really" is? Standard QFT textbooks are usually computation-heavy and provide little physical insight in this regard - after my ...
41
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8answers
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Negative probabilities in quantum physics

Negative probabilities are naturally found in the Wigner function (both the original and its discrete variants), the Klein paradox (where it is an artifact of using a one-particle theory) and the ...
41
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2answers
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Rigorous underpinnings of infinitesimals in physics

Just as background, I should say I am a mathematics grad student who is trying to learn some physics. I've been reading "The Theoretical Minimum" by Susskind and Hrabovsky and on page 134, they ...
41
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4answers
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How do we know that heat is a differential form?

In thermodynamics, the first law can be written in differential form as $$dU = \delta Q - \delta W$$ Here, $dU$ is the differential $1$-form of the internal energy but $\delta Q$ and $\delta W$ are ...
40
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Hilbert space of harmonic oscillator: Countable vs uncountable?

Hm, this just occurred to me while answering another question: If I write the Hamiltonian for a harmonic oscillator as $$H = \frac{p^2}{2m} + \frac{1}{2} m \omega^2 x^2$$ then wouldn't one set of ...
40
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Can Lee-Yang zeros theorem account for triple point phase transition?

Now the prominent Lee-Yang theorem (or Physical Review 87, 410, 1952) has almost become a standard ingredient of any comprehensive statistical mechanics textbook. If the volume tends to infinity, ...
38
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8answers
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Is there something similar to Gödel's incompleteness theorems in physics?

Gödel's incompleteness theorems basically sets the fact that there are limitations to certain areas of mathematics on how complete they can be. Are there similar theorems in physics that draw the ...
38
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6answers
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Motion described by $m \frac{\mathrm{d}^2 x}{\mathrm{d}t^2}=-k\frac{\mathrm{d}^{\frac12 }x}{\mathrm{d}t^{\frac12}}$

What kind of motion would a (preferably dimensionless for simplicity) body do if the force acted on it was proportional to the semi-derivative of displacement, i.e. $$m \frac{\mathrm{d}^2 x}{\mathrm{...
38
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11answers
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Examples of number theory showing up in physics [duplicate]

Are there any interesting examples of number theory showing up unexpectedly in physics? This probably sounds like rather strange question, or rather like one of the trivial to ask but often unhelpful ...
38
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3answers
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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 ...
38
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2answers
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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. ...
37
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5answers
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A pedestrian explanation of conformal blocks

I would be very happy if someone could take a stab at conveying what conformal blocks are and how they are used in conformal field theory (CFT). I'm finally getting the glimmerings of understanding ...
36
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6answers
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Formalizing Quantum Field Theory [duplicate]

I'm wondering about current efforts to provide mathematical foundations and more solid definition for quantum field theories. I am aware of such efforts in the context of the simpler topological or ...
36
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1answer
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What, to a physicist, are instantons and the Donaldson invariants?

I study gauge theory from a mathematical perspective. To me, one of the most fundamental ideas is the notion of an instanton on a 4-manifold. To be precise, I have a Riemannian 4-manifold and a ...
35
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10answers
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Readable books on advanced topics [closed]

I realise that there are already a few questions looking for general book recommendations, but the motivation and type of book I'm looking for here is a little different, so I hope you can indulge me. ...
31
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2answers
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Rigged Hilbert space and QM

Are there any comprehensive texts that discuss QM using the notion of rigged Hilbert spaces? It would be nice if there were a text that went through the standard QM examples using this structure.
31
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2answers
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What does it mean that there is no mathematical proof for confinement?

I see this all the time* that there still doesn't exist a mathematical proof for confinement. What does this really mean and how would a sketch of a proof look like? What I mean by that second ...
31
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3answers
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What is the issue with interactions in QFT?

I've started studying QFT this year and in trying to find a more rigorous approach to the subject I ended up find out lots of people saying that "there is no way known yet to make QFT rigorous when ...
30
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6answers
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Fourier transform of the Coulomb potential

When trying to find the Fourier transform of the Coulomb potential $$V(\mathbf{r})=-\frac{e^2}{r}$$ one is faced with the problem that the resulting integral is divergent. Usually, it is then argued ...
30
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5answers
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Reason for the discreteness arising in quantum mechanics?

What is the most essential reason that actually leads to the quantization. I am reading the book on quantum mechanics by Griffiths. The quanta in the infinite potential well for e.g. arise due to the ...
29
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4answers
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Book covering differential geometry and topology for physics

I'm interested in learning how to use geometry and topology in physics. Could anyone recommend a book that covers these topics, preferably with some proofs, physical applications, and emphasis on ...
29
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3answers
891 views

Not all self-adjoint operators are observables?

The WP article on the density matrix has this remark: It is now generally accepted that the description of quantum mechanics in which all self-adjoint operators represent observables is untenable.[...
29
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8answers
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Introduction to string theory

I am in the last year of MSc. and would like to read string theory. I have the Zwiebach Book, but along with it what other advanced book can be followed, which can be a complimentary to Zwiebach. I ...
28
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6answers
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Are there two theories that are mathematically identical but ontologically different?

I have no background in physics but there is a question that has been bothering me, so I'm asking you. Are there at least 2 physical theories that are : Mathematically identical, which means that ...
28
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7answers
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Reading list in topological QFT

I'm interested in learning about topological QFT including Chern Simons theory, Jones polynomial, Donaldson theory and Floer homology - basically the kind of things Witten worked on in the 80s. I'm ...
28
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2answers
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Motivation for the use of Tsallis entropy

Every now and again I hear something about Tsallis entropy, $$ S_q(\{p_i\}) = \frac{1}{q-1}\left( 1- \sum_i p_i^q \right), \tag{1} $$ and I decided to finally get around to investigating it. I haven't ...
27
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7answers
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Quantum mechanics on a manifold

In quantum mechanics the state of a free particle in three dimensional space is $L^2(\mathbb R^3)$, more accurately the projective space of that Hilbert space. Here I am ignoring internal degrees of ...
27
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3answers
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When is Lebesgue integration useful over Riemann integration in physics?

Riemann integration is fine for physics in general because the functions dealt with tend to be differentiable and well behaved. Despite this, it's possible that Lebesque integration can be more ...
26
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5answers
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“Velvet way” to Grassmann numbers

In my opinion, the Grassmann number "apparatus" is one of the least intuitive things in modern physics. I remember that it took a lot of effort when I was studying this. The problem was not in the ...
26
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4answers
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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 \...
25
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7answers
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Tensor Operators

Motivation. I was recently reviewing the section 3.10 in Sakurai's quantum mechanics in which he discusses tensor operators, and I was left desiring a more mathematically general/precise discussion. ...