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Time evolution is the change of state brought about by the passage of time, applicable to systems with internal state (also called stateful systems). In this formulation, time is not required to be a continuous parameter, but may be discrete or even finite. In classical physics, time evolution of a collection of rigid bodies is governed by the principles of classical mechanics. In their most rudimentary form, these principles express the relationship between forces acting on the bodies and their acceleration given by Newton's laws of motion. These principles can also be equivalently expressed more abstractly by Hamiltonian mechanics or Lagrangian mechanics.
The concept of time evolution may be applicable to other stateful systems as well. For instance, the operation of a Turing machine can be regarded as the time evolution of the machine's control state together with the state of the tape (or possibly multiple tapes) including the position of the machine's read-write head (or heads). In this case, time is discrete.
Stateful systems often have dual descriptions in terms of states or in terms of observable values. In such systems, time evolution can also refer to the change in observable values. This is particularly relevant in quantum mechanics where the Schrödinger picture and Heisenberg picture are (mostly) equivalent descriptions of time evolution.
Consider a system with state space X for which evolution is deterministic and reversible. For concreteness let us also suppose time is a parameter that ranges over the set of real numbers R. Then time evolution is given by a family of bijective state transformations
Ft, s(x) is the state of the system at time t, whose state at time s is x. The following identity holds
To see why this is true, suppose x ∈ X is the state at time s. Then by the definition of F, Ft, s(x) is the state of the system at time t and consequently applying the definition once more, Fu, t(Ft, s(x)) is the state at time u. But this is also Fu, s(x).
In some contexts in mathematical physics, the mappings Ft, s are called propagation operators or simply propagators. In classical mechanics, the propagators are functions that operate on the phase space of a physical system. In quantum mechanics, the propagators are usually unitary operators on a Hilbert space. The propagators can be expressed as time-ordered exponentials of the integrated Hamiltonian. The asymptotic properties of time evolution are given by the scattering matrix.
A state space with a distinguished propagator is also called a dynamical system.
To say time evolution is homogeneous means that
In the case of a homogeneous system, the mappings Gt = Ft,0 form a one-parameter group of transformations of X, that is
For non-reversible systems, the propagation operators Ft, s are defined whenever t ≥ s and satisfy the propagation identity
In the homogeneous case the propagators are exponentials of the Hamiltonian.
In the Schrödinger picture, the Hamiltonian operator generates the time evolution of quantum states. If is the state of the system at time , then
This is the Schrödinger equation. Given the state at some initial time (), if is independent of time, then the unitary time evolution operator is the exponential operator as shown in the equation
In quantum mechanics, the Hamiltonian of a system is an operator corresponding to the total energy of that system, including both kinetic energy and potential energy. Its spectrum, the system's energy spectrum or its set of energy eigenvalues, is the set of possible outcomes obtainable from a measurement of the system's total energy. Due to its close relation to the energy spectrum and time-evolution of a system, it is of fundamental importance in most formulations of quantum theory.
The mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics are those mathematical formalisms that permit a rigorous description of quantum mechanics. This mathematical formalism uses mainly a part of functional analysis, especially Hilbert spaces, which are a kind of linear space. Such are distinguished from mathematical formalisms for physics theories developed prior to the early 1900s by the use of abstract mathematical structures, such as infinite-dimensional Hilbert spaces, and operators on these spaces. In brief, values of physical observables such as energy and momentum were no longer considered as values of functions on phase space, but as eigenvalues; more precisely as spectral values of linear operators in Hilbert space.
The Schrödinger equation is a linear partial differential equation that governs the wave function of a quantum-mechanical system. It is a key result in quantum mechanics, and its discovery was a significant landmark in the development of the subject. The equation is named after Erwin Schrödinger, who postulated the equation in 1925, and published it in 1926, forming the basis for the work that resulted in his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933.
In quantum mechanics, a density matrix is a matrix that describes the quantum state of a physical system. It allows for the calculation of the probabilities of the outcomes of any measurement performed upon this system, using the Born rule. It is a generalization of the more usual state vectors or wavefunctions: while those can only represent pure states, density matrices can also represent mixed states. Mixed states arise in quantum mechanics in two different situations: first when the preparation of the system is not fully known, and thus one must deal with a statistical ensemble of possible preparations, and second when one wants to describe a physical system which is entangled with another, without describing their combined state.
In physics, the Heisenberg picture or Heisenberg representation is a formulation of quantum mechanics in which the operators incorporate a dependency on time, but the state vectors are time-independent, an arbitrary fixed basis rigidly underlying the theory.
In physics, the Schrödinger picture or Schrödinger representation is a formulation of quantum mechanics in which the state vectors evolve in time, but the operators are mostly constant with respect to time. This differs from the Heisenberg picture which keeps the states constant while the observables evolve in time, and from the interaction picture in which both the states and the observables evolve in time. The Schrödinger and Heisenberg pictures are related as active and passive transformations and commutation relations between operators are preserved in the passage between the two pictures.
The path integral formulation is a description in quantum mechanics that generalizes the action principle of classical mechanics. It replaces the classical notion of a single, unique classical trajectory for a system with a sum, or functional integral, over an infinity of quantum-mechanically possible trajectories to compute a quantum amplitude.
The adiabatic theorem is a concept in quantum mechanics. Its original form, due to Max Born and Vladimir Fock (1928), was stated as follows:
In quantum mechanics, the interaction picture is an intermediate representation between the Schrödinger picture and the Heisenberg picture. Whereas in the other two pictures either the state vector or the operators carry time dependence, in the interaction picture both carry part of the time dependence of observables. The interaction picture is useful in dealing with changes to the wave functions and observables due to interactions. Most field-theoretical calculations use the interaction representation because they construct the solution to the many-body Schrödinger equation as the solution to the free-particle problem plus some unknown interaction parts.
The Wheeler–DeWitt equation for theoretical physics and applied mathematics, is a field equation attributed to John Archibald Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt. The equation attempts to mathematically combine the ideas of quantum mechanics and general relativity, a step towards a theory of quantum gravity.
In quantum mechanics, a two-state system is a quantum system that can exist in any quantum superposition of two independent quantum states. The Hilbert space describing such a system is two-dimensional. Therefore, a complete basis spanning the space will consist of two independent states. Any two-state system can also be seen as a qubit.
The Ehrenfest theorem, named after Paul Ehrenfest, an Austrian theoretical physicist at Leiden University, relates the time derivative of the expectation values of the position and momentum operators x and p to the expectation value of the force on a massive particle moving in a scalar potential ,
In mathematical physics, some approaches to quantum field theory are more popular than others. For historical reasons, the Schrödinger representation is less favored than Fock space methods. In the early days of quantum field theory, maintaining symmetries such as Lorentz invariance, displaying them manifestly, and proving renormalisation were of paramount importance. The Schrödinger representation is not manifestly Lorentz invariant and its renormalisability was only shown as recently as the 1980s by Kurt Symanzik (1981).
The Born rule is a key postulate of quantum mechanics which gives the probability that a measurement of a quantum system will yield a given result. In its simplest form, it states that the probability density of finding a system in a given state, when measured, is proportional to the square of the amplitude of the system's wavefunction at that state. It was formulated by German physicist Max Born in 1926.
A stationary state is a quantum state with all observables independent of time. It is an eigenvector of the energy operator. It is also called energy eigenvector, energy eigenstate, energy eigenfunction, or energy eigenket. It is very similar to the concept of atomic orbital and molecular orbital in chemistry, with some slight differences explained below.
In quantum physics, unitarity is the condition that the time evolution of a quantum state according to the Schrödinger equation is mathematically represented by a unitary operator. This is typically taken as an axiom or basic postulate of quantum mechanics, while generalizations of or departures from unitarity are part of speculations about theories that may go beyond quantum mechanics. A unitarity bound is any inequality that follows from the unitarity of the evolution operator, i.e. from the statement that time evolution preserves inner products in Hilbert space.
This is a glossary for the terminology often encountered in undergraduate quantum mechanics courses.
The Koopman–von Neumann mechanics is a description of classical mechanics in terms of Hilbert space, introduced by Bernard Koopman and John von Neumann in 1931 and 1932, respectively.
In quantum mechanics, dynamical pictures are the multiple equivalent ways to mathematically formulate the dynamics of a quantum system.
In quantum mechanics, the Schrödinger equation describes how a system changes with time. It does this by relating changes in the state of system to the energy in the system. Therefore, once the Hamiltonian is known, the time dynamics are in principle known. All that remains is to plug the Hamiltonian into the Schrödinger equation and solve for the system state as a function of time.