Fock Space


Fock space is just another separable infinite dimensional Hilbert space (and so isomorphic to all its separable infinite dimensional brothers). But the key is writing it down in a fashion that suggests a particle interpretation. In particular, suppose that H is the one-particle Hilbert space, i.e. the state space for a single particle. Now depending on whether our particle is a Boson or a Fermion, the state space of a pair of these particles is either Es(H ⊗ H) or Ea(H ⊗ H), where Es is the projection onto the vectors invariant under the permutation ΣH,H on H ⊗ H, and Ea is the projection onto vectors that change signs under ΣH,H. For

present purposes, we ignore these differences, and simply use H ⊗ H to denote one possibility or the other. Now, proceeding down the line, for n particles, we have the Hilbert space Hn ≡ H ⊗ · · · ⊗ H, etc..

A state in Hn is definitely a state of n particles. To get disjunctive states, we make use of the direct sum operation “⊕” on Hilbert spaces. So we define the Fock space F(H) over H as the infinite direct sum:

F (H ) = C ⊕ H ⊕ (H ⊗ H ) ⊕ (H ⊗ H ⊗ H ) ⊕ · · · .

So, the state vectors in Fock space include a state where there are no particles (the vector lies in the first summand), a state where there is one particle, a state where there are two particles, etc.. Furthermore, there are states that are superpositions of different numbers of particles.

One can spend time worrying about what it means to say that particle numbers can be superposed. But that is the “half empty cup” point of view. From the “half full cup” point of view, it makes sense to count particles. Indeed, the positive (unbounded) operator

N=0 ⊕ 1 ⊕ 2 ⊕ 3 ⊕ 4 ⊕···,

is the formal element of our model that permits us to talk about the number of particles.

In the category of Hilbert spaces, all separable Hilbert spaces are isomorphic – there is no difference between Fock space and the single particle space. If we are not careful, we could become confused about the bearer of the name “Fock space.”

The confusion goes away when we move to the appropriate category. According to Wigner’s analysis, a particle corresponds to an irreducible unitary representation of the identity component P of the Poincaré group. Then the single particle space and Fock space are distinct objects in the category of representations of P. The underlying Hilbert spaces of the two representations are both separable (and hence isomorphic as Hilbert spaces); but the two representations are most certainly not equivalent (one is irreducible, the other reducible).


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