You are on page 1of 7


Introduction: A Brief Review of General Coordinate and Poincare Invariance During the 20th century, with the advent especially of Noethers theorem, [1] symmetry principles, and especially local symmetry principles, assumed a central role in theoretical physics. One such symmetry of consequence is the local gauge symmetry of electrodynamics. Another is the global symmetry identified by Minkowski [2] which leaves invariant the linear displacement element t 2 x 2 y 2 z 2 , and which later, when treated on a local basis, provided the geometric foundation for the General Theory of Relativity (GTR) [3]. But perhaps the most fundamental symmetry of all, also articulated with GTR, is the requirement the laws of nature must be formulated to be invariant under general, local transformations of coordinate systems. We endeavor here, to demonstrate that this principle of general coordinate invariance, as simple yet far reaching as it is already understood to be, leads without anything more, to electrodynamic gauge theory, to Planks quantization of energy [4] which also underpins Einsteins explanation of the photoelectric effect [5], and to the anti-commutating matrix mechanics [6] and uncertainty relationships [7] of Heisenberg, which undergird relativistic quantum mechanics. Questions regarding the so-called energy-time uncertainty are also clarified. (see, e.g., [8], section 5.6) Therefore, it is helpful to begin by reviewing the basic elements of the principle of general coordinate invariance, and in particular, how coordinate transformations are effectuated in a generally-covariant theory, as well as in the specialized case of inhomogeneous Lorentz, i.e., Poincare transformations. Consider the differential coordinate element dx . Under general coordinate transformations, this is a vector which transforms as:

dx dx =

x dx . x


It is sometimes helpful to think of this as just a variation of the fundamental calculus statement that total derivatives are related to partial derivatives by dx / dx = x / x , where one then transforms dx dx and x x . A contravariant (upper-indexed) vector B follows the identical transformation law, that is:

B B =

x B . x


We refer to this as a covariant transformation, because contrasting (1.2) with (1.1), each component of B co-varies in coordinated fashion with each element of dx under these general coordinate transformations. A covariant (lower-indexed) vector B transforms as: (see, e.g., [9], section 6.1)

B B =

x B x ,


The term covariant is often used in two different ways, one in relation to covariance under transformations as between (1.2) and (1.1), and the other in relation to a lower index. Generally, the intended meaning is discernable from context. Importantly, the x coordinates themselves, do not form a vector under general coordinate transformations. Rather, they transform generally as: (see, e.g., [10], at 422)

x x = x ( x ) ,
where ( x ) is a four-component, quadruplet, local gauge parameter. In the special case of a linear Poincare transformation, which may only be sensibly


defined in a region of flat spacetime, g = , and which we will examine here in some depth, these coordinates transform as: (see [9], equations (4.10) and (2.16), (2.17)) r x x = x ( x ) = b x + x . Here, b is a constant matrix b / x = 0 which specifies Lorentz boosts and rotational r r transformations, and x is a constant quadruplet x / x = 0 specifying time and space r translations / displacements. To avoid any possible confusion, because x will appear frequently in much of the development to follow, it is important to explain that we use the arrow r above the x in x a) to indicate that we are speaking of displacements through time and space, r and b) to distinguish these displacements x from the coordinates x themselves. The use of
should be interpreted in this way, and should not be taken to signify a vector, which is


another way in which the symbol is often employed. The coordinates x from which we are r carefully distinguishing the displacement x , do form a vector under the specialized Poincare transformations, a.k.a., inhomogeneous Lorentz transformations, specified in (1.5). But again, it bears emphasis that the x do not form a vector under general coordinate transformations.

r When this displacement x = 0 , (1.5) becomes a homogeneous Lorentz transformation,

i.e., a rotation and / or boost, x x = x ( x ) = b x . With x = (t , x, y, z ) , this transformation leaves invariant the Minkowski interval t 2 x 2 y 2 z 2 , which invariance is specified in more formal terms, using g = and the Minkowski metric tensor
diag ( ) = (1,1,1,1) , by:

x x x x = b b x x = b b x x ,


where we have employed b = b and renamed indexes in the final term. Included in the above is the relationship:

= b b .


Using sinh = v / 1 v 2 , cosh = 1 / 1 v 2 for a boost with velocity v along the 3 axis, together with a rotation through the 1-2 plane by an angle ,this is easily confirmed if we write out b , b above in component form, as:

cosh 0 = 0 sinh

0 cos sin 0

0 sin cos 0

sinh cosh 0 0 ; b = 0 0 sinh cosh

0 cos sin 0

0 sin cos 0

sinh 0 , (1.8) 0 cosh

In contravariant form, (1.7) may be written as:

= b b ,
and it is also easily confirmed that b b = .


We now introduce the common notation / x and / x . It is easy to

deduce from (1.4), x = x ( x ) , that the transformation matrix x = x / x in the contravariant transformation (1.2) may be written as: (see [10], at 422 just prior to equation (8))

x =

x x = = , x x x


and that x = x / x in the covariant transformation (1.3) is:

x =

x x = + = + , x x x


where in both cases we have applied x = x / x = . In the special case of a Poincare transformation (1.5), the gauge quadruplet is given by r ( x ) = x b x x Lin ( x ) , and is a completely linear function Lin of the spacetime coordinates x . Therefore, = b = constant , using b = 0 ( b is r r constant) and x = 0 ( x is constant). Thus, equation (1.10) specializes to:

x =

x = b . x


r If we further specialize to a displacement x 0 only, in a reference frame defined to have no rotation or boost, b = , then the above further specializes to:

x =

x = . x


Now let us turn to examine the metric tensor. Using (1.10), we see that the quadruplet gauge parameter ( x ) is intimately connected to understanding gravitation as a local gauge theory. For example, the contravariant metric tensor g = g , transforms as:
g g = x x g = g x x = g g g + g ,




+ 1 2

which for small , becomes g g = g { } ( x ) . Here, {A, B} = AB + BA is the anticommutator, and we have symmetrised the g term in the second line to accord with the transposition symmetry g = g . This is analogous to the local transformation

A A + ( x ) of the electromagnetic gauge field A , where ( x ) is a local singlet

phase, and explains why gravitation and electromagnetism are both regarded as local gauge theories. ([10], at 422) To date, however, the gauge nature of gravitation and the gauge nature of electrodynamics goes no further than this analogy. It would be desirable to find a direct physical connection between these two forms of local gauge symmetry, if one exists. In the specialized situation where we are considering the Poincare transformation (1.5), we must apply x = b , and so equation (1.14), with the help of (1.9), simplifies to:

g g =

x x g = b b g = b b = . x x


In other words, when consider the special case of a Poincare transformation, the transformation law for the metric tensor also tells us that g = , as it must. r Next, let us consider the special case of a simple displacement x 0 only, with no rotation or boost, b = . Here, from (1.5): r ( x ) = x 0 = constant . Here, we have:
g g = x x g = g = g = = constant . x x (1.17)


Again, as expected, a simple displacement takes place in flat spacetime. Finally, when spacetime is fully curved, the metric tensor may be defined in customary fashion using a veilbein ea ( x ) which is a local function of space and time, according to

g = ea eb ab . Here a, b K = 0,1,2,3 are Lorentz indexes and , K = 0,1,2,3 are spacetime

indexes. (We shall employ the convention that space-only spacetime indexes begin with i, i.e., that i, j K = 1,2,3 .) The veilbein may be both generally-transformed via the spacetime indexes as in (1.2), and Poincare transformed along via the Lorentz indexes as in (1.12), according to: ea e = a

x x b ea = b a eb . x x


Taken together with g = ea eb ab , this means that cd = b c a b d b ab = b c a b da , which is just a Lorentz-indexed restatement of (1.9).

r Special note should be taken from (1.16), that for simple displacements x 0 , the
gravitational gauge quadruplet ( x ) becomes 0 = constant , and is equal in magnitude and

r opposite in direction to the displacement quadruplet x from the inhomogeneous Lorentz

transformation (1.5). This is of interest because Isham shows in section 7.2.2 of [11], Displaced Observers and the Canonical Commutation Relationships, how the canonical commutation relationships (CCR) of quantum mechanics can be deduced simply by considering (spatial) displacements among different observers.

Here, we shall similarly show how to obtain the CCR as well as energy quantization based solely on considerations of displacement, but in so doing, we shall expressly maintain a generally-covariant form for our equations throughout the development, and shall not rely on quantum theory in any fashion at all, save for the introduction of a Dirac wavefunction which can be motivated solely by the desire to obtain a linear version of the Klein-Gordon equation which is in turn based in a known and simple fashion directly on the metric equation r ds 2 = g dx dx . The CCR developed via the displacement x = 0 will then provide a direct connection of quantum theory to the global gravitational gauge quadruplet 0 = constant in flat spacetime, g = = constant . However, by express maintenance of the generallycovariant form, and of this connection to 0 , it will become comparatively straightforward to generalize to a local gravitational gauge quadruplet ( x ) , and to an associated curved spacetime g . As such, as we shall see, Ishams approach of considering displaced observers to develop CCRs, can provide the basis for a quantum theory of gravity.

[1] Noether, E. (1918) Invariante Variationsprobleme, Nachr. D. Knig. Gesellsch. D. Wiss. Zu Gttingen, Math-phys. Klasse: 235257 (1918) [2] Minkowski, H., Space and Time, (1908), widely reprinted in The Principle of Relativity, Dover (1952) [3] Einstein, A., The Foundation of the General Theory of Relativity, widely reprinted in The Principle of Relativity, Dover (1952) [4] Planck, M., On the Law of Distribution of Energy in the Normal Spectrum, Ann. Phys. 309 (3): 553 63, (1901) [5] Einstein, A., On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light, Annalen der Physik 17: 132148 (1905) [6] Heisenberg, W., Quantum-Theoretical Re-interpretation of Kinematic and Mechanical Relations, Zeitschrift fr Physik, 33, 879-893 (1925) [7] Heisenberg, W., ber den anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechani,. Zeitschrift fr Physik. 43, 172198 (1927) [8] Sakurai, J.J., Modern Quantum Mechanics, Addison-Wesley (1994) [9] This can be found in virtually any basic reference about gravitational theory. One such good reference is Ohanian, H.C., Gravitation and Spacetime, Norton (1976)

[10] Zee, A., Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell, Princeton (2003) [11] Isham, C. J., Lectures on Quantum Theory Mathematical and Structural Foundations, Imperial College Press (1995)