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Path Integrals

General QM system; hermitian coordinates Q with conjugate momenta P satisfying
[Q, P ] = i

(1.1)

These are Schrodinger Picture operators at a fixed time t0 . By Spectral theorem these
operators have a complete set of eigenvectors such that
Q |qi = q |qi

(1.2)

hq 0 |qi = δ(q 0 − q)

(1.3)

we normalise the eigenstates such that

By the completeness,
I=

Z

dq |qi hq|

(1.4)

Similarly
P |pi = p |pi

(1.5)

hp0 |pi = δ(p0 − p)

(1.6)

we normalise the eigenstates such that

By the completeness,
I=

Z

dp |pi hp|

1
hq|pi = √ eipq ,

1
hp|qi = √ e−ipq

(1.7)
(1.8)

Suppose at time t0 the particle is found to be in a state |qi. The system evolves over time
and at time t is found to be in a state |q(t)i = U (t, t0 ) |qi with U (t, t0 ) = e−iH(t−t0 ) where
H is the Hamiltonian of the particle.
The probability amplitude that the system is found to be in a state |q 0 i is given by
hq 0 | e−iH(t−t0 ) |qi

(1.9)

In Heisenberg pic the operators have time dependence Q(t) = eiH(t−t0 ) Q(t0 )e−iH(t−t0 ) where

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t0 ) (1. Thus in a system with momentum conserved [H. t.15) i The quantity hq| e− ~ H(t−t0 ) |q0 i = hq. t0 ) = Z dqN . t|q0 . t1 . t2 . t1 . q0 . ti = eiH(t−t0 ) |q 0 i.10) We have |q. P ] = 0 if the system is in a state |pi at time t0 it will remain in that state for all t. The propagator G(q. t|q. t0 i and |q 0 . t) ∂t (1.16) .13) where H is the Hamiltonian of the particle. q1 . t0 ) = δ(q2 − q0 ) Repeated use of the Markovian property means we can write G(q. t0 ) = Z dq1 G(q2 . Q(t) has instantaneous eigenstates |q.12) which satisfies the Schrodinger equation i~ ∂ ψ(q. In the Heisenberg picture we can rewrite the transition amplitude as hq 0 | e−iH(t−t0 ) |qi = hq 0 . t. q0 . t) = Hψ(q. . ti defined such that Q(t) |q. The quantity hq 0 | e−iH(t−t0 ) |qi also arises from a different perspective. . t0 i (1. t) = hq|ψ(t)i (1. t) = hq2 | e− ~ H(t−t0 ) |ψ(t0 )i (1. t0 i is called the propagator G(q. ti = eiH(t−t0 ) |qi which is NOT the result of letting the state |qi evolve to a time t. The states |qi cannot be energy eigenstates since then the time evolution would only yield a phase factor. t2 .Q(t0 ) = Q. q0 . G(q2 . ti (1. . t0 ) 2 (1. t0 ) satisfies the following properties • Markovian. dq1 G(q. q0 . q0 . The time-evolution is governed by i hq2 |ψ(t)i = ψ(q2 . t0 . t0 ). q0 . tN ) . t0 ) • Normalisation is. qN .14) Inserting a complete set of position eigenstates we have hq|ψ(t)i = Z i dq0 hq| e− ~ H(t−t0 ) |q0 i ψ(q0 . t. G(q1 . q0 . . G(q2 . ti = q |q.11) since |qi = |q. t1 )G(q1 . Consider the time-dependent state |ψ(t)i with the coordinate representation ψ(q. t.

. Now when we take ∆t → 0 we have Z Z ∆t N X → Z tN dt.20) to rewrite this as " dpj −iH(qj+1 .P )∆t |pj i hpj |qj i = Now use hp|qi = Z √1 e−ipq 2π Z dpj e−iH(qj+1 . Assume this has been done.23) t0 j=0 q(tj+1 ) − q(tj ) q(tj + ∆t) − q(tj ) qj+1 − qj = = → q(t) ˙ ∆t ∆t ∆t 3 (1. dqN − H(qj+1 .17) Z dq |qi hq| between dq1 . Thus we want to evaluate hqj+1 | e−iH∆t |qj i having taken N + 1 to be large so that ∆t is small. e−iH∆t |q0 i with N + 1 exponential factors.t. dqN hqN +1 | e−iH∆t |qN i hqN | . . .21) Insert this back into the full expression to get  N X dpN dp0 pj .pj )∆t i(pj (qj+1 −qj ) Z dpj e e = exp i∆t pj 2π 2π ! (qj+1 − qj ) − H(qj+1 . (1. Using the commutation relations we can rewrite H so that all terms are s. . Now insert a complete set of states I = each exponential to have −iH(t−t0 ) hq| e |q0 i = Z (1.pj )∆t hpj |qj i hqj+1 |pj i (1.19) We have H = H(Q. Thus Z dpj hqj+1 | e−iH(Q. |q1 i hq1 | e−iH∆t |q0 i (1. pj ∆t !# (1. Now define smooth functions q(t) and p(t) such that q(tk ) = qk and likewise for p.This amounts to dividing the time interval t − t0 into N + 1 steps of length ∆t so that t − t0 = (N + 1)∆t. P ). Consider hqj+1 | e−iH∆t |qj i and insert a complete set of momentum eigenstates hqj+1 | e−iH∆t |qj i = Z dpj hqj+1 | e−iH∆t |pj i hpj |qj i (1. all Q’s are on the left of all P ’s. .24) . . exp i∆t 2π 2π j=0 ! ! (qj+1 − qj ) hqN +1 | e−iH(tN −t0 ) |q0 i = dq1 . . pj  ∆t (1.22) This is the DISCRETE version of the path integral.. Thus hq| e−iH(t−t0 ) |q0 i = hq| e−iH∆t . .18) where we have renamed q = qN +1 .. so we can approximate e−iH∆t ≈ 1 − iH∆t + O(∆t2 ).

Dp(t) = lim N →∞ j=1 Z Y N dqj j=0 2π (1. Now we can do the dp integrals explicitly since they are Gaussian.30) Passing to the continuum limit like last time we find hqN +1 | e−iH(tN −t0 ) |q0 i = Z  Z t N Dq(t)exp i  dt t0  where we have now defined Z Dq(t) = lim N →∞ Z Y N  dqj j=1 m 2πi∆t (N +1)/2 (1.28) # m − i∆tV (qj+1 ) 2 (1.27) The Gaussian integral is Z So −iH∆t hqj+1 | e r |qj i = s dpe −ap2 +bp+c " = 2π b2 +c e 2a a m qj+1 − qj exp i∆t 2πi∆t ∆t  2 (1.32) For a free particle we can compute the transition amplitude exactly without needing to resort to path integrals. We have P2 2m hqj+1 | e −iH∆t |qj i = Z p2 (qj+1 − qj ) − j − V (qj+1 ∆t 2m " ! dpj exp i∆t pj 2π !# (1. Consider 00 −t0 hq 00 | eiH(t 4 |q 0 i (1.33) .25) Thus we arrive at the path integral representation for the propagator / transition amplitude. P ) = − V (Q).29) m 2 q˙ (t) − V (q) 2 (1.26) t0 Now consider examples. Return to the Discrete case. hqN +1 | e −iH(tN −t0 ) |q0 i = Z  Z t N  dt (p(t)q(t) ˙ − H(q(t).Define Z Dq(t) = lim Z Y N N →∞ Z dqj . Particle in a potential V (Q) has Hamiltonian H(Q. p(t))) Dq(t)Dp(t)exp i (1.31) The term in the exponential is just the classical action so we have hqN +1 | e −iH(tN −t0 ) |q0 i = Z Dq(t)eiS (1.

34) # (1.with H = 1 P2 2m and insert a complete set of momentum eigenstates to get 00 hq | e = Z dpe iH(t00 −t0 ) ip2 (t00 −t0 )/2m 0 |q i = 00 Z 0 hq |pi hp|q i = dp hq 00 | eiP Z 2 (t00 −t0 )/2m |pi hp|q 0 i i(t00 − t0 ) 2 p + i(q 00 − q 0 )p dpexp 2m " (1.35) Evaluating the Gaussian integral gives us 00 iH(t00 −t0 hq | e 0 |q i = s m m q 00 − q 0 exp i 2πi(t00 − t0 ) 2 t00 − t0 " 5 #! (1.36) .