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Archive for the ‘Lie theory’ Category

If V is a finite-dimensional complex vector space, then the symmetric group S_n naturally acts on the tensor power V^{\otimes n} by permuting the factors. This action of S_n commutes with the action of \text{GL}(V), so all permutations \sigma : V^{\otimes n} \to V^{\otimes n} are morphisms of \text{GL}(V)-representations. This defines a morphism \mathbb{C}[S_n] \to \text{End}_{\text{GL}(V)}(V^{\otimes n}), and a natural question to ask is whether this map is surjective.

Part of Schur-Weyl duality asserts that the answer is yes. The double commutant theorem plays an important role in the proof and also highlights an important corollary, namely that V^{\otimes n} admits a canonical decomposition

\displaystyle V^{\otimes n} = \bigoplus_{\lambda} V_{\lambda} \otimes S_{\lambda}

where \lambda runs over partitions, V_{\lambda} are some irreducible representations of \text{GL}(V), and S_{\lambda} are the Specht modules, which describe all irreducible representations of S_n. This gives a fundamental relationship between the representation theories of the general linear and symmetric groups; in particular, the assignment V \mapsto V_{\lambda} can be upgraded to a functor called a Schur functor, generalizing the construction of the exterior and symmetric products.

The proof below is more or less from Etingof’s notes on representation theory (Section 4.18). We will prove four versions of Schur-Weyl duality involving \mathfrak{gl}(V), \text{GL}(V), and (in the special case that V is a complex inner product space) \mathfrak{u}(V), \text{U}(V).

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In the previous post we described the Heisenberg picture of quantum mechanics, which can be phrased quite generally as follows: given a noncommutative algebra A (the algebra of observables of some quantum system) and a Hamiltonian H \in A, we obtain a derivation [-, H], which is (up to some scalar multiple) the infinitesimal generator of time evolution. This is a natural and general way to start with an algebra and an energy function and get a notion of time evolution which automatically satisfies conservation of energy.

However, if A is commutative, all commutators are trivial, and yet classical mechanics somehow takes a Hamiltonian H \in A and produces a notion of time evolution. How does that work? It turns out that for algebras of observables A of a classical system, we can think of A as the classical limit \hbar \to 0 of a family A_{\hbar} of noncommutative algebras. While A is commutative, the noncommutativity of the family A_{\hbar} equips A with the extra structure of a Poisson bracket, and it is this Poisson bracket which allows us to describe time evolution.

Today we’ll describe one way to formalize the notion of taking the classical limit using the deformation theory of algebras. We’ll see how Poisson brackets pop out along the way, as well as the relevance of the lower Hochschild cohomology groups.

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Today we will give four proofs of the classification of the (finite-dimensional complex continuous) irreducible representations of \text{SU}(2) (which you’ll recall we assumed way back in this previous post). As a first step, it turns out that the finite-dimensional representation theory of compact groups looks a lot like the finite-dimensional representation theory of finite groups, and this will be a major boon to three of the proofs. The last proof will instead proceed by classifying irreducible representations of the Lie algebra \mathfrak{su}(2).

At the end of the post we’ll briefly describe what we can conclude from all this about electrons orbiting a hydrogen atom.

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We now know what a Lie algebra is and we know they are abstractions of infinitesimal symmetries, which are given by derivations. Today we will see what we can say about associating infinitesimal symmetries to continuous symmetries: that is, given a matrix Lie group G, we will describe its associated Lie algebra \mathfrak{g} of infinitesimal elements and the exponential map \mathfrak{g} \to G which promotes infinitesimal symmetries to real ones.

As in the other post, I will be ignoring some technical details for the sake of exposition. For example, I am generally not specifying how I’m topologizing various objects, and this is because of the general fact that a finite-dimensional real vector space has a unique Hausdorff topology compatible with addition and scalar multiplication. Whenever I talk about limits in such a vector space, I therefore don’t need to specify how I’m imposing a topology, although it will generally be convenient to induce it via a norm (which I am also not specifying).

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Someone who has just read the previous post on how exponentiating quaternions gives a nice parameterization of \text{SO}(3) might object as follows: “that’s nice and all, but there has to be a general version of this construction for more general Lie groups, right? You can’t always depend on the nice properties of division algebras.” And that someone would be right. Today we’ll begin to describe the appropriate generalization, the exponential map from a Lie algebra to its Lie group. To simplify the exposition, we’ll restrict to the case of matrix groups; that is, nice subgroups of \text{GL}_n(\mathbb{F}) for \mathbb{F} = \mathbb{R} or \mathbb{C}, which will allow us to mostly avoid differential geometry.

The theory of Lie groups and Lie algebras is regarded to be one of the most beautiful in mathematics, and it is also fundamental to many areas, so today’s post is an extended discussion motivating the definition of a Lie algebra. In the next post we will actually do something with them.

For studying the hydrogen atom, our interest in Lie algebras comes from the following. If a Lie group G acts smoothly on a smooth manifold M, its Lie algebra acts by differential operators on the space C^{\infty}(M) of smooth functions, and these differential operators are the “infinitesimal generators” which give us conserved quantities for the evolution of a quantum system on M (in the case that G consists of symmetries of the Hamiltonian). Despite the fact that Lie algebras are commonly sold as a tool for understanding Lie groups, arguably in quantum mechanics the Lie algebra of symmetries of a Hamiltonian is more fundamental. This is important in sitations where the Lie algebra can sometimes exist without an associated Lie group.

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The simplest compact Lie group is the circle S^1 \cong \text{SO}(2). Part of the reason it is so simple to understand is that Euler’s formula gives an extremely nice parameterization e^{ix} = \cos x + i \sin x of its elements, showing that it can be understood either in terms of the group of elements of norm 1 in \mathbb{C} (that is, the unitary group \text{U}(1)) or the imaginary subspace of \mathbb{C}.

The compact Lie group we are currently interested in is the 3-sphere S^3 \cong \text{SU}(2). It turns out that there is a picture completely analogous to the picture above, but with \mathbb{C} replaced by the quaternions \mathbb{H}: that is, \text{SU}(2) is isomorphic to the group of elements of norm 1 in \mathbb{H} (that is, the symplectic group \text{Sp}(1)), and there is an exponential map from the imaginary subspace of \mathbb{H} to this group. Composing with the double cover \text{SU}(2) \to \text{SO}(3) lets us handle elements of \text{SO}(3) almost as easily as we handle elements of \text{SO}(2).

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In order to study the hydrogen atom, we’ll need to know something about the representation theory of the special orthogonal group \text{SO}(3). This post consists of a few preliminaries along the way to doing this. I’ll be somewhat vague about a few things that 1) I don’t have much experience with, and 2) that would detract from the main narrative anyway.

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