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Symmetries and Conservation Laws
3.1 SYMMETRIES AND CONSERVATION LAWS 3.1.1 Symmetries
Symmetries and conservations laws are intimately connected, in classical physics as well as in quantum physics. To study this connection we introduce the notion of a symmetry operation: an operation on a physical system is a symmetry operation if it leaves the intrinsic properties of the physical system invariant. We say that the physical system has a symmetry. Symmetry operations have associated with them symmetry operators that work on the ket associated with the physical system: an operator U is called a symmetry operator if the ket ψ and the ket ψ = U ψ represent the same intrinsic properties of the physical system. In other words, the intrinsic properties of the system are invariant under the operation of a symmetry operator on the system’s ket. Or in still other words: the sets of eigenvalues of all commuting operators that correspond to the intrinsic properties of the physical system are invariant under the operation of a symmetry operator. There are two kinds of operators (and thus two kinds of symmetry operators): continuous ones and discrete ones. Continuous operators depend upon one or more continuous variables while a discrete operator does not. Examples of continuous operators are the three translation operators Tx , Ty and Tz (they correspond to a shift of the origin of a coordinate system in the x, y and z directions respectively), the three rotation operators Rx , Ry and Rz (they correspond to a rotation of a coordinate system around the x, y

An Introduction to Advanced Quantum Physics Hans P. Paar © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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