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An irreducible representation of

  1. Dec 4, 2007 #1
    "An irreducible representation of..."

    So I was reading this paper by Max Tegmark linked from another thread, and one particular thing he said-- although didn't really have anything to do specifically with the paper it was part of-- caught my eye:

    So this is something I've actually seen expressed before, but this is the clearest expression of it I've ever seen. I wanted to ask a few (possibly stupid) questions about it.

    1. A variation on this claim that I've seen is that each quantum-mechanical spin value corresponds to an irreducible representation of SU(2). Is this linked to Tegmark's claim that the irreducible representations of Poincare provide all the quantum numbers of a particle; and if so, how? I.E., is the idea that SU(2) is a subgroup of the Poincaré group or something (...err, is it?) and there is some way we can decompose the Poincare group into SU(2) and some other subgroups where each of the subgroups has irreducible representations which correspond to a different quantum number?

    2. In general, would it be correct to say that the set of quantum numbers accessible to us is a consequence of the poincare group being the fundamental symmetry of our spacetime-- and if we lived in a spacetime with some other fundamental symmetry there would be different quantum numbers? Or is the way the quantum numbers line up with the poincare group largely coincidental? Say, what if we were to construct a toy model universe that had Lorentz group (which IS a subgroup of the Poincare group) symmetry, but not full Poincare symmetry-- would we "lose" some quantum number? (Which one?)

    3. Are the quantum numbers resulting from the poincare group in any way fundamentally different from the quantum numbers resulting from the SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1) symmetries of the standard model gauge groups? (For example when we say "quantum numbers" in this context we just mean a conserved quantity right?)

    4. I'm finding I'm actually kind of confused as to what an "irreducible representation" is, or a "representation" for that matter. I'd been under the impression that a "representation" of a lie group was when you take a lie group and then you find a type of affine transformation (i.e. a set of matrices, or rather a subspace of some GL(n)) that has the exact same properties as the lie group you want to model. Now I've been reading some stuff and I'm not so sure. This is kind of shifting from physics to math, and perhaps this is too big a question to be stuffing at the end of the post?!?, but...

    I'm looking at this "Representation Theory of Lie Algebras" text by Clara Loeh which Garrett Lisi linked in a previous thread here. This gives a very compact description of representations and irreducible representations, but I want to make sure I understand it. Loeh says on page 3, only in pretty TeX:

    So, looking at this closer:

    This sounds basically like what I said before-- we have a vector space, and there's a homomorphism from the lie algebra into* the general linear group of that vector space. (* I assume the homomorphism can be injective?)

    The next part:

    This... is... a little more confusing to me? I'm not entirely sure I properly understand the operation being described by (W) being in parenthesis like that. I think what this is saying is: we have a representation R defined as described above, and also a W which is a proper subspace of V. For each item in g, when you pick the transformation out of gl(V) corresponding to that item under the representation, and apply that transformation to the space W, the resulting space is a [proper?] subspace of W.

    Is that right so far? And if so, why must (R(x))(W) be a proper subspace of W, couldn't it be equal (for example under the identity transformation)? Or is the idea that when we are talking about subspaces you are allowed to omit the bar under the subset symbol and have it be assumed?

    And if this is all more or less correct: Would it be accurate to summarize the Loeh text as saying that a representation of a lie algebra is a space of linear transformations to which the lie algebra has a homomorphism, and a subrepresentation of that representation would be a subspace of that space which is closed under its own transformations?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2007 #2
    I Think you are making confusion on what kind of simmetries we see in nature (experiments).
    You should first distinguish between external and internal simmetries.
    The first are the ones coming from the invariant of the Action under transformation of the coordinates (X'=Mx) where M belongs to Poincare Group and x are the space time coordinates.
    The internal simmetries are the connected to the degree of freedom of a multiplet.
    In any case what you are using are Groups. In the case you are using Lie Groups, there exsist a fantastic theorem (Noether) that tells you how to connect simmetries to conservation laws, say quantum Number if your theory is a quantum one.
    But IMPORTANT is that you dont need a quantum theory to state so.
    Another point: you were asking if Lorentz Group has something to do with SU(2). Well it is possible to show that SO(3.1)=SO(4)=SU(2)XSU(2) locally wich answer to your question. But the important thing is that: while in Math an SU(2) is just a Group, in Physics it has many differnt interpretation. Let me explain. SU(2) can be the Group of invariance of classical particle and also the isospin one. But mathematically talking it does have the same dimension and same structure. When you talk About the S.M. SU(3)XSU(2)XU(1) you are tralking about internal simmetries. Ponicare invariance is obviusly a request in this model, since you are talking abou relativistic quantum field.

    I hope i answered to you.
    bye Marco.

    sorry for my bad english
  4. Dec 4, 2007 #3
    I suggest you a good reference: Hamermesh. Group theory and its application to... blah blah.
    A rappresentation of A lie algebra is just this:
    R: V--->End(V). And is homomorphic because you need that: R(g1)R(g2)=R(g1g2) and R(e)=Id. In other words a map wich preserve group structure.
  5. Dec 5, 2007 #4


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    Poincare unirreps give just the mass, spin and parity quantum numbers. They don't give
    charge, hypercharge, isospin, color, etc.

    Wigner's approach is called the "method of little groups". One finds a maximal set of
    mutually-commuting generators, in this case [itex]P^2, W^2, W \bullet P[/itex] and tries to
    find all sets of eigenvalues for them. Let's suppose that we choose [itex]m^2 \ne 0[/itex] as
    the eigenvalue of [itex]P^2[/itex]. (I'll leave out parity for now, because that's related to
    the discrete parity-inversion transformation.)

    But then... [itex]W^2[/itex] (Pauli-Lubansky vector squared) is a pain to work with
    directly, so Wigner said "let's go the rest frame where 4-momentum is (m,0,0,0) and
    then we need only work with the group of 3-space rotations, since these preserve (m,0,0,0).
    This is SO(3), now called the "little group". Its double-cover is SU(2) and we need to use
    it rather than just SO(3) if we want to find *all* the unirreps. Then, taking [itex]J^2,J_z[/itex]
    as the remaining mutually-commuting generators we can find the various allowed
    combinations of total spin and spin z-projection eigenvalues.

    Only mass,spin,parity. Not the "internal" quantum numbers.

    The set of mutually-commuting generators is quote different. The Casimir operators for
    Poincare are the [itex]P^2, W^2[/itex] but for Lorentz generators [itex]J_{\mu\nu}[/itex] they are [itex]J_{\mu\nu} J^{\mu\nu}[/itex]
    and [itex]\epsilon_{\mu\nu\rho\lambda}J^{\mu\nu}J^{\rho\lambda}[/itex]. The upshot is
    that these enable you to distinguish invariantly between particles of opposite chirality,
    whereas chiralities mix under Poincare translations, hence chirality is not one of the
    quantum numbers we use to classify elementary particles under the full Poincare group
    (well, actually, in the massless case it turns out to be the same helicity, but that's another
    story - I only talked about the massive case above).

    The bottom line is that restricting to a subgroup (here Poincare->Lorentz) does not
    in general correspond in an intuitive way to "loss" of quantum numbers. Rather, the
    set of quantum numbers changes drastically.

    The quantum numbers arising from Poincare have nothing to with those of
    SU(3)xSU(2)xU(1). To get a complete picture, we must look at all of them.
    "Quantum Number" means something which is invariant under a physically-allowed
    transformation, here either Poincare transformations or Gauge transformations.
    This is a distinct concept from "conserved quantity", which just corresponds to a
    generator which commutes with the Hamiltonian generator of time translations.

    I'm not sure if you're asking for a math explanation or a physically-intuitive
    hand-waving explanation. I'll attempt the latter...

    Consider just the everyday group of transformations in 3-space, i.e: E(3). Take a line, a plane
    and a cube. If you hold the plane side-on it looks like a line, but as soon as you apply
    some arbitrary rotations it becomes clear that they're two very different types of objects.
    Similarly, if you look square-on at one face of the cube it looks like a plane. But applying
    some rotations soon shows that they're different types of objects. OTOH, if you have
    two planes, there's no possible set of rotations you can do that will make one look
    like a plane and the other a cube. This is intuitively what it means for cubes,planes,and
    lines to correspond to (some of) the irreducible representations of E(3). I.e., there is an
    invariant distinction between the irreps.

    About the subspace thing and irreducibility, one could think of a subspace of "lines and
    planes", but it's pretty obvious that this can be invariantly decomposed into a set of
    lines and a set of planes, but the latter two cannot be further decomposed invariantly.

  6. Dec 6, 2007 #5
    Marco and Strangerep, thanks, that helps a lot!
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