Vector Representations and Why Would They Deviate From Projective Geometry? Note Quote.


There is, of course, a definite reason why von Neumann used the mathematical structure of a complex Hilbert space for the formalization of quantum mechanics, but this reason is much less profound than it is for Riemann geometry and general relativity. The reason is that Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics and Schrödinger’s wave mechanics turned out to be equivalent, the first being a formalization of the new mechanics making use of l2, the set of all square summable complex sequences, and the second making use of L2(R3), the set of all square integrable complex functions of three real variables. The two spaces l2 and L2(R3) are canonical examples of a complex Hilbert space. This means that Heisenberg and Schrödinger were working already in a complex Hilbert space, when they formulated matrix mechanics and wave mechanics, without being aware of it. This made it a straightforward choice for von Neumann to propose a formulation of quantum mechanics in an abstract complex Hilbert space, reducing matrix mechanics and wave mechanics to two possible specific representations.

One problem with the Hilbert space representation was known from the start. A (pure) state of a quantum entity is represented by a unit vector or ray of the complex Hilbert space, and not by a vector. Indeed vectors contained in the same ray represent the same state or one has to renormalize the vector that represents the state after it has been changed in one way or another. It is well known that if rays of a vector space are called points and two dimensional subspaces of this vector space are called lines, the set of points and lines corresponding in this way to a vector space, form a projective geometry. What we just remarked about the unit vector or ray representing the state of the quantum entity means that in some way the projective geometry corresponding to the complex Hilbert space represents more intrinsically the physics of the quantum world as does the Hilbert space itself. This state of affairs is revealed explicitly in the dynamics of quantum entities, that is built by using group representations, and one has to consider projective representations, which are representations in the corresponding projective geometry, and not vector representations.


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