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SYMMETRIES AND CONSERVATION LAWS

and z axes respectively), the operator that changes the phase of all kets, and many more. Examples of discrete operators are the parity operator P (which we have encountered in Section 1.6), the charge conjugation operator C (it corresponds to a change of particles into anti-particles and vice versa), the time reversal operator T (it corresponds to a change of t to −t), the permutation operator Pi,j (it corresponds to an exchange of the labels i and j of two particles), translations and rotations of a coordinate system by a ﬁxed amount (useful for example in the study of crystals), and many more. We include the word intrinsic in our deﬁnitions because, for example, the translation of the origin of a coordinate system will obviously change the eigenvalue of the position operator X, but it leaves other intrinsic properties such as energy, momentum, angular momentum, charge, mass, parity, and so on unchanged, and it is the latter property that is required for the translation to be a symmetry operation. We can phrase a symmetry property in still another way: a symmetry of a physical system has associated with it an unobservable quantity. For example, symmetry under translations implies that the absolute position of a physical system is unobservable (but its position relative to a coordinate system is observable, see above). This coordinate system can be chosen at will, and the properties of a physical system do not depend upon that choice. We summarize this by saying thatspace is uniform. Similarly, symmetry under rotations implies that the absolute orientation of a physical system is unobservable. Thus the direction of the axes of a coordinate system can be chosen at will and we say that space is isotropic. There is a deep connection with the Cosmological Principle that forms the basis of Cosmology. This principle states that space is uniform and isotropic. If absolute velocity is unobservable we conclude that the intrinsic properties of a physical system are invariant under Lorentz transformations. Our inability to tell the difference between inertial mass and gravitational mass (the Equivalence Principle) leads to the theory of General Relativity.

3.1.2 Conservation Laws

The connection between a symmetry of a physical system and a conservation law can be demonstrated as follows. If the state of a physical system is represented by the ket ψ then the system’s energy E is given by Hψ =Eψ The operator U connects the kets ψ and ψ ψ =Uψ (3.2) (3.1)

Quantum

Quantum

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