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Dimension definition

  1. Mar 24, 2013 #1
    How is a dimension defined in quantum mechanics?
     
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  3. Mar 24, 2013 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Usually the same as anywhere else.
    Can you provide an example of what you are thinking of?
     
  4. Mar 25, 2013 #3

    tom.stoer

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    To define dimension for an object like a manifold or a vector space just construct (locally!) a bijective map between this object a standard n-dim. Euclidean space.

    Examples:
    1) for the spin states |+> and |-> and their linear combinations you need a 2-dim. Euclidean space spanned by e1 and e2, so the state space is 2-dim.
    2) for the simple harmonic oscillator you have to map |n> to an Euclidean space; b/c that doesn't work for finite n we say that the associated Hilbert space is ∞-dim.
     
  5. Mar 25, 2013 #4

    Fredrik

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    I like to define the dimension of a vector space V as the positive integer n such that V contains a linearly independent set with n members, but no linearly independent set with n+1 members. If there's no such n, V is said to be infinite dimensional.
     
  6. Mar 25, 2013 #5

    tom.stoer

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    That's a very elegant definition
     
  7. Mar 26, 2013 #6
    What do you mean by the positive integer?

    What are dimensions in the string theory then? I think there are 11.
     
  8. Mar 26, 2013 #7

    Fredrik

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    I'm not sure I understand the question. The positive integers are the numbers 1,2,3,... and so on. Does that answer your question?

    That refers to the dimension of spacetime. Spacetime is defined as a smooth manifold, not as a vector space. The simplest way to explain the dimension of smooth manifold is to say that it's the number of coordinates that a coordinate system assigns to each point in its domain.

    The technical explanation goes like this: A smooth manifold is a topological manifold with additional structure. The dimension of the smooth manifold is defined as the definition of the underlying topological manifold. A topological manifold is a topological space that's locally homeomorphic to ##\mathbb R^n## for some positive integer n. The number n is called the dimension of the topological manifold.
     
  9. Mar 28, 2013 #8
    Tough. Anyway, thanks for the explanation.
     
  10. Mar 28, 2013 #9

    Fredrik

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    I should have included the simplified explanation: It's the number of real numbers that it takes to identify a specific event, i.e. a location in "space" at a moment in "time".

    The tricky part is to understand how that number can be anything but four (three for space, one for time). The simplest possibility is that there are some directions in space with the property that if you move in one of those directions, you will end up traveling around the universe and come back from the opposite direction. If the distance required to complete a full "lap" around the universe this way is extremely short, much shorter than e.g. the distance an atom extends in the directions that don't have this property, then it's plausible that these extra dimensions (=independent special directions) are unnoticeable.

    The book "The elegant universe" by Brian Greene makes an attempt to explain these things to readers who don't know math.
     
  11. Mar 29, 2013 #10
    Isn't a dimension meant to be an independant vector that cannot be described or calculated by another one (i.e. being vertical to another vector(s) ?
     
  12. Mar 29, 2013 #11

    Fredrik

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    I suppose so, but this notion is never given a precise meaning in math books. There's no definition that appears in math books that allows you to pick a specific line, vector or direction and say "this is a dimension". The precise definitions look like the statements I've made above. In the context of vector spaces, it has to do with linear independence. (How many members can a linearly independent set have?) In the context of manifolds, it has to to with how many real numbers a coordinate system associates with a point.
     
  13. Mar 29, 2013 #12

    tom.stoer

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    That's what Fredrik described in #4.
     
  14. Mar 29, 2013 #13
    I have got 2 questions, please.

    In microphysics one can met 11 or even more dimensions while macrospace is of 3(+1) dimensional. Is there any transition between them and is this transition is continuous or discrete?

    At quantum level we are facing fluctuations of physical variables. What is the official contemporary standpoint: could -in principle- the number of space dimensions itself fluctuate? (I guess the calculation from uncertainty relations is not adequate here.)

    Thank you.
     
  15. Mar 29, 2013 #14

    Fredrik

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    They just get more noticeable the smaller region of space you're looking at, like how the thickness of a wire get more noticeable when you zoom in on it.

    As far as I know, the number is fixed.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  16. Mar 29, 2013 #15
    Thank you.

    I guess if there were fluctuations in dimension within our measurement range we could notice somehow. (Probably this is a fairy tale like e, pi or the universal constants of physics can change in time.)
     
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