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In this section we will investigate application of the operators in quantum physics. An operator is defined as a rulet hat transform a given function into another function. For example a differential operator transform a function in to its derivative . We are dealing linear operators which satisfy the following two properties: (A is an operator)

where A is operator, f and g are functions and c are constant. Now let us introduce basic properties of operators. Basic Properties of Operators Most of the properties of operators are obvious, but they are summarized below for completeness. The sum and difference of two operators and are given by

The product of two operators is defined by Two operators are equal if for all functions The identity operator does nothing (or multiplies by 1)

The associative law holds for operators The commutative law does not generally hold for operators. In general, convenient to define the quantity which is called the commutator of If and commute then . is defined as successive applications of the operator: and . Note that the order matters, so that . It is

The n-th power of an operator

The exponential of an operator

is defined via the power series

Eigenfunctions and Eigenvalues

An eigenfunction of an operator again, times a constant. where

is a function

such that the application of

on

gives

is a constant called the eigenvalue.

When a system is in an eigenstate of observable (i.e., when the wavefunction is an eigenfunction of the operator ) then the expectation value of is the eigenvalue of the wavefunction. Thus if Then

assuming that the wavefunction is normalized to 1, as is generally the case. If the wavefunction is a combination of eigenstates then eigenvalues and expectation values can be calculated as follows. Let us assume that we have a wavefunction which is a linear combination of two eigenstates of with eigenvalues and .

Then the expectation value of A is

assuming that and are orthonormal (shortly we will show that eigenvectors of Hermitian operators are orthogonal). Then Thus the average value of is a weighted average of eigenvalues, with the weights being the squares of the coefficients of the eigenvectors in the overall wavefunction.

Hermitian Operators

As mentioned previously, the expectation value of an operator is given by

and all physical observables are represented by such expectation values. Obviously, the value of a physical observable such as energy or density must be real, so we require to be real. This means that we must have , or

Operators which satisfy this condition are called Hermitian. One can also show that for a Hermitian operator,

or any two states

and

.

An important property of Hermitian operators is that their eigenvalues are real. (prove yourself) Another important property of Hermitian operators is that their eigenvectors are orthogonal (or can be chosen to be so). Suppose that and are eigenfunctions of with eigenvalues and , with . If is Hermitian then

Then

Thus we have shown that eigenfunctions of a Hermitian operator with different eigenvalues are orthogonal. In the case of degeneracy (more than one eigenfunction with the same eigenvalue), we can choose the eigenfunctions to be orthogonal. We can easily show this for the case of two eigenfunctions of with the same eigenvalue. Suppose we have

We now want to take linear combinations of

and

to form two new eigenfunctions

and now we want the new functions to be orthogonal:

Thus we choose:

and we obtain orthogonal eigenfunctions. This Schmidt-orthogonalization procedure can be extended to the case of n-fold degeneracy, so we have shown that for a Hermitian operator, the eigenvectors can be made orthogonal.

**Commutators in Quantum Physics
**

The commutator, is very important in quantum mechanics. Since a definite value of observable can be assigned to a system only if the system is in an eigenstate of , then we can simultaneously assign definite values to two observables and only if the system is in an eigenstate of both and . Such that

Therefore That is, for two physical quantities to be simultaneously observable, their operator representations must commute. The following rules for commutators are useful and you can prove yourself. They are summarized below.

We also have the identity

Finally, if Obey the relation:

then uncertainties in

and

defined as

The examples and exercises about this topics will be given in a separate file.

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