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Lecture Notes on Relativistic Quantum Mechanics

I. BRIEF REVIEW OF SOME TOPICS OF SPECIAL RELALITIVY


A. The Lorentz group
The physical phenomena we are about to study does not involves the gravitational force, for sure. Basically we shall
deal with electromagnetic interaction, which, from a simple comparison
1
is way stronger than gravity. This means
that our theory is formulated on a xed non-dynamical background space-time, called Minkowski space-time. In what
follows we describe this structure in detail. Behind any physical theory theres a symmetry principle, or principles.
Roughly speaking we can divide the symmetries in two types: (i) space-time symmetries and (ii) internal symmetries.
The second one is associated with the kind of object we deal with - depends on the intrinsic properties of the particle.
The rst type is the one that we discuss now.
The theory of special relativity is based upon two postulates concerning or related with the space-time symmetry.
To summarize, the basic question here is about the validity of the physical laws, or how physical events are seen by
dierent inertial - remember, theres no acceleration - observers. The postulates are the following: (1) all physical
laws are invariant with respect to the choice of the inertial frame of reference, and (2) the speed of propagation of
light in vacuum does not depend on the particular reference frame and is the same in all directions, with numerical
value c 3 10
10 cm
s
.
We shall not discuss in details how these two postulates aect deeply the concept of space and time
1
; instead, we
mention some results.
First of all, the fact that laws of physics remain invariant under dierent choices of inertial frame suggest that
galilean transformations between two of them are not the correct ones, since Maxwell laws of electromagnetism are
clearly changed by such transformations. On the other hand, these transformations work, and are indeed symmetry
transformations for Newtons law of motion. We see that for eects dealing with light - electromagnetism -, the sym-
metry principle must be another one. Moreover, the constancy of velocity of light lead us to consider transformations
that can change not only spatial coordinates, but also time. Finally, we expect these transformations to be linear
ones. Otherwise, a non-accelerating event in one reference frame could become accelerated in the other.
These observations together with more precise considerations
2
lead us to look at this thing called space-time instead
of the usual space and time of newtonian world.
Space-time is a four dimensional mathematical space, where events occur. An event is identied by four coor-
dinates e
0
, e
1
, e
2
, e
3
that form an orthogonal basis of this space. The rst one corresponds to time, i.e., the time
in the clock of the observer that uses this system of reference that marks when the event happens. The three other
coordinates refer to the spatial localization of the event.
Notice that time and space have dierent physical dimension. But, since the velocity of light is a universal constant,
we may use it to create a time coordinate with dimension of space, so to say: ct.
A vector in space can be written in terms of the set e
1
, e
2
, e
3
that for brevity we denote e
i
, i = 1, 2, 3. So, the
spatial vector x is given by x = x
i
e
i
, where x
i
stands for the coordinates of this vector. In the same way, a vector in
time is given by the quantity x
0
e
0
, where x
0
is the time component. Then, we may set a vector in the 4-dimensional
space-time by writing
x = x

(1)
where = 0, 1, 2, 3.
Of course, vectors are only useful for physics if we can measure them. In other words, we need here a way of
computing inner products, and therefore, norm of vectors which makes possible to measure distances, projections,
absolute values, etc. Also, we said that the basis e

is an orthonormal basis. Now, let us see with respect to what


inner product operation we claimed that.
Dene the relation
e

=
_
_
_
1 if = 0 =
1 if = = 1, 2, 3
0 if ,=
(2)
1
Just compute the gravitational force between an electron and a proton, using Newtons law. Then, compute the electromagnetic force
between the same particles.
2
which can be summarized as
e

= g

= g

=
_
_
_
1 0 0 0
0 1 0 0
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_ (3)
The above symmetric tensor is called metric. Then, a space-time whose metric is given as above is called Minkowski
space-time.
As we now discuss the metric has a double role: it makes possible to write the inner product between vectors and
also it transforms covariant objects into contravariant ones.
Given two vectors in space-time, x and y, we have
x y = x

= g

= (x
0
y
0
) (x
i
y
i
) (4)
In particular, if y = x we have the norm of the vector:
|x|
2
= g

= (x
0
)
2
(x
i
x
i
)
Let us dene a covariant quantity a quantity with low indices, for instance, x

, and a contravariant quantity, a


quantity with upper indices, like x

. Although they refer to components of vectors, its common, and useful to be


sloppy and call them vectors itself. Indeed, we shall dene, and write, the following:
x

= (x
0
, x
1
, x
2
, x
3
) = (ct, x, y, z) (ct, x) (5)
As we said, the metric can transform a contravariant vector into a covariant one, and vice-versa. In other words, the
metric can lower and rise indices. This is done by contracting the metric indices, as
x

= g

= (x
0
, x
1
, x
2
, x
3
) = (g
00
x
0
, g
11
x
1
, g
22
x
2
, g
33
x
3
) = (ct, x)
The metric is invertible, and we denote its inverse by g

= g

. Also, theres the following relation that can be


easily veried: g

.
Certainly, these operations we showed above are not restricted to vectors, but it can be extended to any mixed
tensor, like
T

= g

For practical reasons we notice that a sign is changed when a spatial index is raised or lowered, and nothing happens
when this index is temporal.
So, from now we will many times call a quantity with index a vector, or a tensor, instead of talking about the
components of these quantities.
From the denition of the coordinates (5) we dene the 4-derivative
2
:

=
_
1
c

t
,

_
(6)
We regard

as a covariant vector. Then, we can play the same game as we did before:

= g

=
_
1
c

t
,

_
An important operator can be constructed from here: the DAlambertian. Its the squared norm of the 4-derivative:

2
=

=
1
c

2
t
2

2
(7)
Back to our main discussion... as we mentioned before, the inner product between vectors give us the measure
of some interesting physical quantity. On the other hand we expect that physical quantities - or the laws of Nature
2
Using the chain rule, for instance, for the time derivative:

x
0
=
t
x
0

t
=
1
c

t
. The space derivative doesnt have anything special.
3
- remain the same, independently of the chosen inertial frame. Then, the correct transformations between inertial
frames might take this into account. In a geometrical way, we may say that the symmetry transformations we are
looking for leave invariant the inner product in Minkowski space-time.
The simplest situation one can imagine for coordinate transformation is a boost in one space direction. Physically,
we consider two reference frames. Suppose we see the event in our rest system, using coordinates x

, and we
want to transform these coordinates to another reference system that uses coordinates x

, moving with velocity


v

= (0, v, 0, 0), i.e., with velocity v in x


1
direction.
We claim that the correct transformation between these frames is given by
x
0
= (x
0
x
1
)
x
1
= (x
1
x
0
) (8)
x
2
= x
2
x
3
= x
3
where =
1

1
2
and =
v
c
.
By correct we mean exactly that the following relation is respected:
x

= x

(9)
which can be easily veried.
Now, therere two other transformations of this kind, corresponding to the boosts in x
2
and x
3
directions. Let us
write all of them down, but, in a better way, using matrix notation: x

= Bx. We give B and index corresponding to


the axis where the boost is taken.
B
1
=
_
_
_
0 0
0 0
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_ B
2
=
_
_
_
0 0
0 1 0 0
0 0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_ B
3
=
_
_
_
0 0
0 1 0 0
0 0 1 0
0 0
_
_
_ (10)
Let us introduce a parameter dened trough the equation
tanh = (11)
Then, we have the following results:
tanh
2
=
sinh
2

cosh
2

=
cosh
2
1
cosh
2

=
2
cosh
2
(
2
1) = 1 cosh
2
=
1
1
2
cosh =
and, also
sinh
2
= cosh
2
1 =
1
1
2
1
sinh =
Notice that although we have introduced one parameter , we need indeed 3 parameters, one for each boost, i.e., one
parameter for each direction of space or for each velocity component:
tanh
i
=
v
i
c
Then, the above matrices corresponding to the boosts transformations are written as
B(
1
) =
_
_
_
cosh
1
sinh
1
0 0
sinh
1
cosh
1
0 0
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_B(
2
) =
_
_
_
cosh
2
0 sinh
2
0
0 1 0 0
sinh
2
0 cosh
2
0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_B(
3
) =
_
_
_
cosh
3
0 0 sinh
3
0 1 0 0
0 0 1 0
sinh
3
0 0 cosh
3
_
_
_
(12)
4
Its easy to see that the inverse of a boost matrix is the exactly same matrix with replaced by , and therefore,
correspond to a boost in the opposite direction.
Also, from the trigonometric relations cosh(a + b) = cosh
2
a+sinh
2
b and sinh(a + b) = 2 sinha coshb we can easily
see that B()B(

) = B( +

).
The boost transformations are also called special Lorentz transformations. They are elements of the Lorentz
group, which is the group of symmetry of space-time in special relativity. This group can be dened as the set
of transformations that leave the inner product in Minkowski space-time invariant. Then, Lorentz group is indeed
dened by the transformations of coordinates that respect equation (9). Let us put this denition in mathematical
language. Dene the transformation x

= x. Equation (9) says that


x
T
gx

= (x)
T
gx = x
T

T
gx = x
T
gx
This is only possible if is such that

T
g = g (13)
So, this is the denition of the Lorentz transformations : they satisfy (13). Let us write this equation using indices.
The condition for the invariance of the norm gives
|x

|
2
= g

= g

!
= |x|
2
= g

Then

= g

(14)
Multiplying both sides of this equation by the inverse matrix g

we get
(

(15)
from where we read the inverse Lorentz matrix (
1
)

= (

). One can easily check how to produce the


inverse matrix from the original one. First, the eect of the contraction L

is that the rst index is lowered. As


we know, if this rst index is dierent of zero then the sign changes, i.e.,
i
=
i

. So, we get a matrix with


lowered indices and negative signs in every entrance but the rst line. Now, the second contraction raises the second
index, and again, changes its sign if its dierent of zero.The result is a matrix with negative signs in the rst row
and column, except the element
0
0
, which has positive sign.
Now, from equation (13) we see that a transformation in matrix representation can be of two types: with
positive and with negative determinant. This is seen by taking the determinant of this equation and remembering
that det
T
= det and det g

= 1. Clearly these two types of transformations are disconnected, in the sense


that theres no continuous way to go from matrices with positive determinant to matrices with negative determinant,
once we would have to pass through zero determinant, and therefore, a matrix which has no inverse. The subset
of matrices with positive determinant is called proper Lorentz transformations, while the other subset: improper
Lorentz transformations. Remarkably, the proper Lorentz transformation group is in fact the true group, once it has
the identity element 1. Moreover, notice that when computing integrals, the integration volume is not changed under
proper transformations: d
4
x

= [
x

x
[d
4
x = det d
4
x which, of course, is relevant for physical computations.
The splitting of Lorentz transformation into proper and improper is not the only one. Between each of these subsets
we nd another separation. Consider equation (14):

0
g

0
= 1
Summing up everything we get (
0
0
)
2
(
i
0
)
2
= 1, which gives the inequality
(
0
0
)
2
= 1 + (
i
0
)
2
1
Then, (
0
0
) can assume two values:
0
0
1 or
0
0
1. Finally, we can summarize every possibility in the following
table:

0
0
1 1 1 1
det +1 +1 1 1
5
The subgroup

+
is named orthochronus proper Lorentz group. It has this name because besides being proper, it
preserves the temporal component sign.
The improper transformations will be discussed in the context of the Dirac equation.
Consider now a transformations of the proper orthochronus group. Being connected to the identity element, we can
produce any nite transformation by taking innitely many small - innitesimal - transformations from the identity
element. Then, let us write a element of the group as an innitesimal perturbation from the identity:
1 + M
where M is the innitesimal parameter. Taking this into equation (14) one gets
(

+ M

)g

+ M

) = g

Up to rst order in M this gives


g

+ g

+ g

= g

+ M

= 0
So, the innitesimal parameters are antisymmetric. This means that, being a 4 by 4 matrix, and consequently M,
we have 6 independent generators. Three of them are the boost generators, and the other three, as we shall now
discuss, are the generators of spatial rotations. let us call R the spatial rotations transformations. They preserve
the inner product of the three dimensional euclidean space, which implies that they are dened by R
T
R = 1. In
order to characterize such transformations we need 3 parameters - rotation angles - which are the components of the
vector

= n, being n an unit vector: |n| = 1. To be more precise, denote the components of this vector as
i
, with
i = 1, 2, 3, each of them standing for a direction in the cartesian basis. The domain of the parameters is the open
interval of the real line (, ). Finally, we remark that the space of the parameters is the sphere o
2
of radius . We
can isolate 3 one-parameter subgroups, each one corresponding to a rotations around one of the axis, so, a rotation
on the plane orthogonal to the respective axis. In matrix representation:
R(
1
) =
_
_
_
1 0 0
0 cos
1
sin
1
0 sin
1
cos
1
_
_
_ R(
2
) =
_
_
_
cos
2
0 sin
2
0 1 0
sin
2
0 cos
2
_
_
_ R(
3
) =
_
_
_
cos
3
sin
3
0
sin
3
cos
3
0
0 0 1
_
_
_ (16)
The corresponding Lorentz group elements are
L(
1
) =
_
_
_
_
_
1 0 0 0
0 1 0 0
0 0 cos
1
sin
1
0 0 sin
1
cos
1
_
_
_
_
_
L(
2
) =
_
_
_
_
_
1 0 0 0
0 cos
2
0 sin
2
0 0 1 0
0 sin
2
0 cos
2
_
_
_
_
_
L(
3
) =
_
_
_
_
_
1 0 0 0
0 cos
3
sin
3
0
0 sin
3
cos
3
0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_
_
_
(17)
Let us now get the innitesimal generators - Lie algebra elements - of the Lorentz group. In fact, let us see how, from
these innitesimal quantities one can get the nite transformation. Take the expansion we considered before for the
transformation close to the identity element. Write M =
i
M
i
for the rotations, and M =
i
N
i
for the boosts, so
that we have
L(
i
) 1 +
i
M
i
B(
i
) 1 +
i
N
i
Naturally, these innitesimal generators are given by
M
i
=
L(
i
)

=0
N
i
=
B(
i
)

=0
and they can be computed from the above denitions for L and B. In what follows, we use the following notation:
M
i0
= N
i
and M
ij
=
ijk
M
k
.
(M

10
) =
_
_
_
_
_
0 1 0 0
1 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M

20
) =
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 0
1 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M

30
) =
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 1
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
1 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(18)
6
(M

23
) =
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 1
0 0 1 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M

31
) =
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 1
0 0 0 0
0 1 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M

12
) =
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 0
0 0 1 0
0 1 0 0
0 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(19)
The above matrices can be obtained from a single formula:
(M

(20)
Using this formula we compute (M

and then, the Lie algebra.


(M

= g

(M

= g

)
(M

= g

(21)
(M
10
)

=
_
_
_
_
_
0 1 0 0
1 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M
20
)

=
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 0
1 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M
30
)

=
_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 1
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
1 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(22)
(M
23
)

_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 1
0 0 1 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M
31
)

_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 0
0 0 0 1
0 0 0 0
0 1 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(M
12
)

_
_
_
_
_
0 0 0 0
0 0 1 0
0 1 0 0
0 0 0 0
_
_
_
_
_
(23)
The algebra can be easily veried to be achieved by the single formula
[M

, M

] = g

+ g

+ g

(24)
Finally, let us show how to get the nite transformations from the innitesimal generators. Consider rst the boosts.
Apply the transformation B(
i
) 1 +
i
N
i
innitely many times to the space-time vector x

to get x

:
x

= lim
n
_
(1 +

i
n
N
i
)

1
. . . (1 +

i
n
N
i
)

n1

n
_
x

n
= lim
n
_
(1 +

i
n
)
n
_

=
_
e

i
N
i
_

=
_
cosh(
i
N
i
) + sinh(
i
N
i
)
_

Now, expand the hyperbolic functions in power series (the exponential itself)
x

=
_
1 +
(
i
N
i
)
2
2!
+
(
i
N
i
)
4
4!
+ +
i
N
i
+
(
i
N
i
)
3
3!
+ . . .
_

Consider case by case. For starting, let us take N


1
. Notice the following behavior for even and odd powers of N
1
:
N
2k
1
=
_
1
22
0
0 0
_
N
2k+1
1
= N
1
With that we can rewrite the above series as
x

=
__
1
22
0
0 1
22
_
+
_
(
1
)
2
2!
+
(
1
)
4
4!
+ . . .
_
_
1
22
0
0 0
_
+
_

1
+
(
1
)
3
3!
+ . . .
_
N
1
_

7
Using
(
1
)
2
2!
+
(
1
)
4
4!
+ = cosh
1
1, we get
x

=
_
_
_
_
_
cosh
1
sinh
1
0 0
sinh
1
cosh
1
0 0
0 0 1 0
0 0 0 1
_
_
_
_
_
x
Which gives exactly the nite transformation matrix B
1
. For N
2
and N
3
we do an analogous computation, nding at
the end B
2
and B
3
respectively.
And, of course, the same can be done for the rotations generators M
i
to obtain L
i
.
B. Interaction between a charged particle and an electromagnetic eld
Our rst task is to derive the lagrangian describing the relativistic free particle. First of all, the lagrangian must
respect some symmetry principle. The only physical property our particle has is mass m - for the moment. Also, theres
no internal structure. Then, the only symmetry here, that must be respected, is the space-time Lorentz invariance.
Moreover, its expected that the lagrangian has rst derivatives in space and in time. Then, from Hamiltons principle,
we should extremize the functional 1

=
_
L(x, x) d
4
x.
In non-relativistic theory the history of the particle comes from the path in space the particle goes during the time
interval. In relativistic theory, the history is told by the particles world-line, i.e., its path in space-time.
So, instead of minimizing the distance between two points in space, we should minimize the distance between two
points in space-time. Such distance is measured by the integration of the line element
ds =
_
c
2
dt
2
dx dx
Such an integral that must be minimized is just the action:
1

=
_
_
c
2
dt
2
dx dx
where we introduced the constant that must characterize the particle physically. Certainly this is related to the
mass once this is the only physical property of the particle. But we shall show it. Using v =
dx
dt
we can write
1

=
_
c dt
_
1
v v
c
2
and its easy to recognize the lagrangian
3
L = c
_
1
v
2
c
2
In order to nd the coecient we take the non-relativistic limit
v
c
1, for which we know that L =
1
2
mv
2
. Then
L c (1
1
2
v
2
c
2
)
The constant term can be dropped once it has no contribution for dynamics. Then, by comparison we get that = mc
- as we expected, its related to the mass. Finally, the lagrangian describing the free relativistic particle is
L = mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
(25)
Following, let us compute the energy of the free particle:
E =
L
v
v L
3
When its completely clear, we shall not bother in denoting v
2
by v
2
.
8
The canonical momentum is given by
p =
L
v
= mc
2
1
2
1
_
1
v
2
c
2
(
1
c
2
2v)
p =
mv
_
1
v
2
c
2
(26)
Then, energy is
E =
mv
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
+ mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
=
mv
2
+ mc
2
mv
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
E =
mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
(27)
One should notice that equations (26) and (27) are not independent. Indeed, they form a constraint between energy
and momentum. In order to see that, take the square of momentum norm and put inside this equation, the value for
v
2
obtained from the square of energy, computed from equation (27).
p
2
=
mv
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
= m
2
c
2
v
2
c
2
v
2
E
2
=
m
2
c
6
c
2
v
2
v
2
=
E
2
c
2
m
2
c
6
E
2

v
2
c
2
v
2
=
E
2
c
2
m
2
c
6
m
2
c
6
Then
p
2
=
E
2
c
2
m
2
c
6
c
4
which can be written as
E
2
= p
2
c
2
+ m
2
c
4
(28)
Or, using the 4-momentum dened as
p

= (
E
c
, p)
the above relation is just
p

= m
2
c
4
(29)
For our purpose, this is enough about the free particle. Let us now introduce another property besides the mass: the
charge. in order to see how this aect the behavior of the particle we need to put it inside an electromagnetic eld.
Its an experimental result that a particle with mass m and charge e inside an electric eld

E and a magnetic eld

B, moving with velocity v is accelerated as


d
2
x
dt
2
=
e
m
_

E +
1
c
v

B
_
(30)
From this result we shall deduce the lagrangian of such system. But before that we must remember that inside the
lagrangian we expect the potentials to appear, and not the elds. So, let us recall that the magnetic and electric elds
can be given generally by the scalar potential and the vector potential

A:
B
i
=
ijk

j
A
k
(31)
E
i
=
1
c
A
i
t

i
(32)
9
Also, notice that the RHS of the above equation of motion - which suppose to be the gradient of the potential, depends
on the velocity of the particle. This means that the potential is velocity dependent. Then we assume the lagrangian
to describe a relativistic particle interacting with some velocity dependent potential V (x, v):
L = mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
V (x, v)
Then, Euler-Lagrange equations give
L
x

d
dt
L
v
= 0

V
d
dt
p +
d
dt
V
v
= 0

F =

V +
d
dt
V
v
(33)
Now, what we have to do is to compare equation (30) with this one in order to nd V . First, we write (30) in terms
for the potential introduced above:
F
i
= e
_

i

1
c
A
i
t
+
1
c
(
ijk
v
j

klm

l
A
m
)
_
= e
_

i

1
c
A
i
t
+
1
c
(
il

jm

im

jl
)v
j

l
A
m
_
= e
_

i

1
c
A
i
t
+
1
c
(v
j

i
A
j
v
j

j
A
i
)
_
= e
_
(
i

1
c
v
j

i
A
j
) (
1
c
A
i
t
+
1
c
v
j

j
A
i
)
_
The rst term is just
i
(
1
c
v
j
A
j
). The second term can be improved:
dA
i
dt
=
A
i
t
+
j
A
i
v
j

F = e
_


(
1
c
v

A)
1
c
d

A
dt
_
Since neither

A nor depend on v, in the last term, instead of
1
c

A we could take
d
dt

v
(
1
c
v

A). Finally:

F = e
_


(
1
c
v

A) +
d
dt

v
(
1
c
v

A)
_
(34)
From here we nd immediately the potential and write the lagrangian:
L = mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
+
e
c
v

Ae (35)
The action is then composed by two parts: 1 = 1

+ 1
int
, the rst corresponding to the free theory and the second,
the interaction part.
1

= mc
_
ds
1
int
=
e
c
_
(

v

Ac)dt
=
e
c
_

A dx cdt
using dx
0
= c dt and A

= (,

A) we write
1
int
=
e
c
_
A

dx

10
The action is then
1 = mc
_
ds
e
c
_
A

dx

Now that we have the lagrangian describing the theory, let us compute the momentum and the energy.
The canonical momentum is given by
L
v
=
mv
_
1
v
2
c
2
+
e
c

A
We shall write it as
= p +
e
c

A (36)
Now, the energy
E = v L = ( p +
e
c

A) v L
= p v + mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2

e
c
v

A + e +
e
c

A v
=
_
p v + mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
_
+ e
E =
mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
+ e (37)
Notice that the two quantities from equations (26) and (27) that are constrained together are now given by
p =
e
c

A (38)
mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2
= E e (39)
When we change p by
e
c

A and the energy


mc
2
q
1
v
2
c
2
by E e we say that were taking the minimal coupling. This
is, in fact, what happens when we turn on an electromagnetic eld in a free theory. Let us check it looking to the
hamiltonian, which in fact, for the free theory, comes from the constraint E
2
= p
2
c
2
+ m
2
c
4
:
H = c
_
p
2
+ m
2
c
2
(40)
Now, when the electromagnetic eld is turned on we only need to change the energy and the momentum as discussed
above:
(E e) =
_
|
e
c

A|
2
c
2
+ m
2
c
4
Then, the hamiltonian in this case is
H =
_
|
e
c

A|
2
c
2
+ m
2
c
4
+ e (41)
11
Just to verify, we could compute the hamiltonian directly:
H =
_
v L
_

v=v()
=
mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2

v=v()
+ e
|
e
c

A|
2
=
c
2
m
2
v
2
c
2
v
2

v
2
c
2
=
|
e
c

A|
2
m
2
c
2
+|
e
c

A|
2
1
v
2
c
2
=
m
2
c
2
m
2
c
2
+|
e
c

A|
2
H =
mc
2
mc
_
m
2
c
2
+|
e
c

A|
2
+ e
H = c
_
m
2
c
2
+|
e
c

A|
2
+ e
Now, maybe, were ready for the quantum theory.
II. NON-RELATIVISTIC QUANTUM PARTICLE IN AN ELECTROMAGNETIC FIELD
Consider the lagrangian (35) when
v
c
1. The only approximation that is done here is in the kinetic term:
mc
2
_
1
v
2
c
2

1
2
mv
2
. Then, this theory is described by
L =
1
2
mv
2
+
e
c
v

Ae (42)
The canonical momentum is
=
L
v
= mv +
e
c

A = p +
e
c

A
and nally, using v =

e
c

A
m
we have the hamiltonian
H =

2
m

e
mc


A
(
e
c

A)
2
2m

e
mc


A +
e
2
mc
2
A
2
+ e
H =
1
2m
(
e
c

A)
2
+ e (43)
Of course, this could be easily obtained from the minimal coupling:
H =
p
2
2m
H e =
(
e
c

A)
2
2m
Now, canonical quantization consists in taking the following correspondences:
H

H = i

t


=

i

with the commutation relations


[

x,

] = i
The potentials

A and are transformed into operators whose action over the wave function is by multiplication. Also,
the vector potential is in U(1), therefore, [

A,

A] = 0. When dealing with operators, for convenience, we shall leave


the vector arrow, and put only the hat. Then, the quantum hamiltonian is

H =
1
2m
(
e
c

A)(
e
c

A) + e

12

H =
1
2m
(
e
c

A)(
e
c

A) + e

=
1
2m
_
( )
e
c
(

A)
e
c

A( ) +
e
2
c
2
A
2
+ e
_
=
1
2m
_

2

e
c

A)
e
c

A (

) +
e
2
c
2
A
2

_
+ e
=
1
2m
_

2

e
ic
(


A +

A

)
e
ic

A

+
e
2
c
2
A
2

_
+ e
Assuming that is time independent, we take the Lorentz gauge


A +
1
c

t
= 0, which gives


A = 0, then, we
get the Schroedinger equation for a spinless non-relativistic particle in an electromagnetic eld:

H =

2
2m

2
+ i
e
mc

A

+
e
2
2mc
2
A
2
+ e (44)
The introduction of the spin, as done by Pauli in 1927 is as follows. We consider the Pauli matrices

1
=
_
0 i
i 0
_

2
=
_
0 1
1 0
_

3
=
_
1 0
0 1
_
and take the kinetic term of the hamiltonian as the inner product between the these matrices and the kinetic momen-
tum p:

H =
1
2m
| (
e
c

A)|
2
+ e (45)
Naturally, the wave function now must be a vector with two components, called Pauli-spinor:
(x, t) =
_
(x, t)
(x, t)
_
The above hamiltonian gives exactly the coupling between the external magnetic eld and the spin, as we now verify.
First, Pauli matrices satisfy the relation
[
i
,
j
] = i
ijk

k
(46)
Its easy to check that for any two matrices
i
and
j
we have

i

j
= 1
ij
+ i
ijk

k
(47)
Then, for the kinetic term of the Pauli hamiltonian:

i
p
i

j
p
j
= (1
ij
+ i
ijk

k
) p
i
p
j
= p
2
+ i
k

kij
_
[ p
i
, p
j
]
2
+
p
i
, p
j

2
_
Where we separated the product p
i
p
j
into antisymmetric and symmetric part. Because of the Levi-Civita tensor
multiplying it, only the commutator survives. Let us compute this commutator. Remember that the operators are
dened in the space of Pauli-spinors, then we write
[
i

e
c

A
i
,
j

e
c

A
j
] = [
i
,
j
]
e
c
[
i
,

A
j
]
e
c
[

A
i
,
j
] +
e
2
c
2
[

A
i
,

A
j
]
=
e
c
_

i
(A
j
)

A
j
(
i
) +

A
i
(
j
)
j
(A
i
)
_
=
e
ic
_
(
i
A
j
) + A
j
(
i
) A
j
(
i
) + A
i
(
j
) (
j
A
i
)A
i
(
j
)
_
=
e
ic
_

i
A
j

j
A
i
_

e
ic
F
ij

Now, dene F
ij
=
ijl
B
l
, and use
ijk

ijl
= 2
kl
to get the nal result - the Schroedinger equation for a spin
1
2
non-relativistic particle:

H =
p
2
2m

e
2mc


B + e (48)
13
III. EARLY ATTEMPTS TO FORMULATE A RELATIVISTIC VERSION OF QUANTUM MECHANICS
Our starting point is the hamiltonian of the free relativistic particle
H =
_
p p c
2
+ m
2
c
4
which becomes the strange quantum operator

H =
_

2
c
2

2
+ m
2
c
4
A rst approach to try to dene this in a better way could be considering a Taylor expansion of it
mc
2
_
1

2
m
2
c
2

2
mc
2
_
1

2
2m
2
c
2

2
+ . . .
_

In this expression we get quantities of the form (

2
)
n
. To understand the meaning of such terms we can divide
space-time into a lattice and dene the action of

as M
XY

Y
, where X, Y, . . . are the points of the lattice. Then
(

2
)
n
XY

Y
= (M
XZ
M
ZW
. . . M
SY
)
Y
This, of course, requires interaction between every point of the lattice and therefore, a non-local theory, which is not
what were looking for.
A second attempt is this: instead of working with the operator

H, we could take its square, which then eliminates
the square root problem. Indeed, this is quite nice from relativistic point of view. Notice that Schoedinger equation

H = i

t
gives a clear distinction between space and time: theres a second order derivative in space coordinates
while a rst order derivative in time. For a relativistic theory we expect that both space and time should be treated
equally. Then, by taking the square of the hamiltonian we get

H
2
=
2
2
t
2
, and therefore, a second order derivative
in time, which is of the same order as the laplacian. So, we remain with

2

2
t
2
= (
2
c
2

2
+ m
2
c
4
)
_
1
c
2

2
t
2

2
_
+
_
mc

_
2
= 0
Let us denote M
mc

and use the denition of the DAlembert operator to write


(

+ M
2
) = 0 (49)
This is the Klein-Gordon equation.
We shall keep in mind that were trying to write a kind os Schroedinger equation for a relativistic particle, and at
the end, the is expected to be related to the probability density of nding the particle in some state. Based on this
rst result, apparently the Klein-Gordon equation is a candidate for such quantum mechanical description. In order
to understand if this is the case, let us study this equation. First, let us see what kind of object its describing.
Clearly, since the point of departure was the hamiltonian of a free relativistic particle, its describing such particle,
and moreover, for this system we know that the energy and momentum must be conserved. Then we can infer that
the wave function of a free relativistic particle must be such that a shift in time and a shift in space (which are,
by Noether theorem related to the conservation of energy and momentum respectively) produce no physical change,
what means that the only available change in the wave function can be a phase. This is exactly the case if we take
as
e

(k

)
= e
i

kxt)
where k

= (

c
,

k). One can easily check that x x+a and t t + where a and are constants, produces a phase
change: e

Using this ansatz inside Klein-Gordon equation we obtain


_


2
c
2
+ k
2
+ M
2
_
e
i

kxt)
= 0
from where we have the dispersion relation
_


2
c
2
+ k
2
+ M
2
_
= 0
14
Using Einstein-De Broglie relations: E = , p =

k, we get E
2
= p
2
c
2
+m
2
c
4
. So, if the wave function is such that
it satises the Klein-Gordon equation, then, the relativistic constraint between energy and momentum is respected.
Remark: One should notice that from the dispersion relation E
2
= p
2
c
2
+m
2
c
4
we may have two types of solution:E =

_
p
2
c
2
+ m
2
c
4
. Since we dont have any idea so far on how to interpret negative energy solutions we might forget
about them, in a very naive way.
Now, its a good idea to see what Klein-Gordon equation gives in the non-relativistic limit. Consider the plane
wave solution
= e
i

( pxEt)
whose energy is E = mc
2
_
1 +
p
2
m
2
c
2
. The non-relativistic limit implies taking | p| mc, which gives, for the energy:
E mc
2
+
1
2
p
2
m
. Using this into the plane wave solution:
= e
i

_
px(mc
2
+
1
2
p
2
m
)t
_
= e
i

_
px
p
2
2m
t
_
e

mc
2
t
= (x, t)e

mc
2
t
Now we substitute this into Klein-Gordon equation. First, computing the derivatives:

t
=

t
e

mc
2
t

mc
2
e

mc
2
t

t
=
i p
2
2m
e
i

_
px
p
2
2m
t
_
Using E = mc
2
+
p
2
2m
we see that for p
2
m
2
c
2
we have
p
2
2m
mc
2
, then we conclude that

t
is very small, and
shall be ignored; but only when we nish the computation of the second derivative!
Dene

E = E mc
2
=
p
2
2m
mc
2
, to write

t
=
i

Ee
i

_
px
p
2
2m
t
_
Now, for the second derivative:

t
2
=

2

t
2
e

mc
2
t

mc
2

t
e

mc
2
t

mc
2

t
e

mc
2
t

m
2
c
4

2
e

mc
2
t
=
_

t
2

2imc
2

t

m
2
c
4

2

_
e

mc
2
t
Notice that

2

t
2


E
2
mc
2
, then
1
c

t
2
=
_
2im

t
+
m
2
c
2

2

_
e

mc
2
t
For the spatial derivatives:

2
=

2
e

mc
2
t
Then, we get
(

+ M
2
)
2mi

2
= 0
15
which can be written as the Schroedinger equation for (x, t):


2
2m

2
= i

t
From we can compute

which is the probability density satisfying the continuity equation


(

)
t
+


S = 0
where

S is the probability current. In order to get these quantities we can proceed as follows. First, take the
Schroedinger equation and its complex conjugate. Then, multiply the rst by

and the second by . After that you


subtract the rst from the second. Let us compute it now. These two equations as


2
2m

2
+

V = i


2
2m

+ V

= i

t
The subtraction gives


2
2m
(

2
) = i
_

t
+

t
_
Notice that both terms are total derivatives:

_
i
2m
(

)
_
+

t
(

) = 0
From here we have exactly the denitions of the probability density and probability current.
This same trick can be considered for the Klein-Gordon equation.
1
Ray Dinverno; Introducing Einsteins Relativity, Reference [arXiv: ].
2
L. Landau; E. Lifshitz Theorie du Champ, Reference [arXiv: ]. 1
1