# What is Matrices: Definition + 1000 Threads

In mathematical physics and mathematics, the Pauli matrices are a set of three 2 × 2 complex matrices which are Hermitian and unitary. Usually indicated by the Greek letter sigma (σ), they are occasionally denoted by tau (τ) when used in connection with isospin symmetries.

These matrices are named after the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. In quantum mechanics, they occur in the Pauli equation which takes into account the interaction of the spin of a particle with an external electromagnetic field.
Each Pauli matrix is Hermitian, and together with the identity matrix I (sometimes considered as the zeroth Pauli matrix σ0), the Pauli matrices form a basis for the real vector space of 2 × 2 Hermitian matrices.
This means that any 2 × 2 Hermitian matrix can be written in a unique way as a linear combination of Pauli matrices, with all coefficients being real numbers.
Hermitian operators represent observables in quantum mechanics, so the Pauli matrices span the space of observables of the 2-dimensional complex Hilbert space. In the context of Pauli's work, σk represents the observable corresponding to spin along the kth coordinate axis in three-dimensional Euclidean space R3.
The Pauli matrices (after multiplication by i to make them anti-Hermitian) also generate transformations in the sense of Lie algebras: the matrices iσ1, iσ2, iσ3 form a basis for the real Lie algebra

s
u

(
2
)

{\displaystyle {\mathfrak {su}}(2)}
, which exponentiates to the special unitary group SU(2). The algebra generated by the three matrices σ1, σ2, σ3 is isomorphic to the Clifford algebra of R3, and the (unital associative) algebra generated by iσ1, iσ2, iσ3 is isomorphic to that of quaternions.

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