- #1

- 477

- 4

## Main Question or Discussion Point

this is a concept which i don't believe has been properly described to me and i really don't understand well enough. can someone discribe it to me in relitivly simple terms.

- Thread starter maximus
- Start date

- #1

- 477

- 4

this is a concept which i don't believe has been properly described to me and i really don't understand well enough. can someone discribe it to me in relitivly simple terms.

- #2

- 196

- 0

- #3

- 152

- 0

- #4

- 152

- 0

- #5

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus

Science Advisor

Gold Member

- 7,213

- 175

hasn't time been imaginary ever since 1905?Originally posted by sheldon

Edit: perhaps that was a little vague. I mean, hasn't time been considered as having imaginary coordinates ever since special relativity was first published?

Last edited:

- #6

- 36

- 0

I haven't been online for awhile but now that I am, obviously I will reply to such a profound question..;)

Imaginary time is just what it says: "imaginary"

The term comes from quantum mechanics/field theory and is often used when people are calculating transition probabilities, i.e. Path integrals.

In principle a number of definitions exist and I don't know the context you are working with, but I "use" imaginary time in the following case:

replace 1/kT --> it, in the expression exp (-H/kT)

So exp(-H/kt)--> exp(-iHt)

Using this, the partition function Z can be rewritten as:

Z=Tr(exp[-H/kT])=Tr(exp[-iHt])

Tr is the trace and is the sum of all diagonal elements:

Tr(A)=sum_i <x

By introducing a imaginary time coordinate (here a "minute" of imaginary time corresponds with a chnage in inverse temperature) we can now write the partition function as a path integral. Imporatnt to note is that this unrelated to relativity, in the sense that imaginary time is completely independent of normal space-time coordinates. (there is no "curved imaginary" space time)

Hope this helps...

- #7

- 208

- 0

- #8

jeff

Science Advisor

- 658

- 1

It's the other way round: Using a more explicit path integral notation, although we can think heuristically of the path integral Z = ∫Dφexp[i∫dOriginally posted by heumpje...replace 1/kT --> it, in the expression exp (-H/kT)

So exp(-H/kt)--> exp(-iHt)...

Last edited:

- #9

Imagine

Maximus, I like your well-defined "Location"

Ivan, your edit is fully justified, time was imaginary timinfinitely long before 1905.

Sheldon, I would appreciate to know more about "... showed that the universe could ..." Do you have Hawking or Hartle writing which shows the pertinence of imaginary time benefit in physics?

heumpje and jeff, I didn't fully understand your explanations but it seams, for me, that your usage of "imaginary time" aims only to simplify problem resolution, am I wrong?

Is someone, somewhere, sometime, already considered integrating the imaginary part (i) into the time metric instead of considering them apart?

- #10

jeff

Science Advisor

- 658

- 1

In going from real time t to imaginary time τ via t→τ ≡ -it, the original temporal dimension becomes in effect just another spatial dimension, that is, imaginary time τ has the properties of a spatial coordinate. This is easily understood in the context of flat spaces. The square of the distance from the origin of a point with coordinates (x,y,z,t) in the usual 4-dimensional minkowski space is xOriginally posted by Imagineheumpje and jeff, I didn't fully understand your explanations but it seams, for me, that your usage of "imaginary time" aims only to simplify problem resolution, am I wrong?

It's main use is the one I alluded to in my response to heumpje's post.

Last edited:

- #11

cityhunter

I don't really understand imaginary time myself, but what do you mean by "there is no 'curved imaginary' space time). I read the following: "Imaginary time was introduced to avoid singularities, or points at which the spacetime curvature becomes infinite, that occur in ordinary time. Imaginary time too would be curved by matter in the universe and therefore would meet the three spatial dimensions to form a closed surface like that of Earth. This curved surface would not have a beginning or end, or indeed any boundaries or edges." from this website: http://library.thinkquest.org/27930/time.htm?tqskip1=1&tqtime=0708. It sounds like they are saying that imaginary space-time is curved, or am I missing something?Originally posted by heumpje

Hi there,

mporatnt to note is that this unrelated to relativity, in the sense that imaginary time is completely independent of normal space-time coordinates. (there is no "curved imaginary" space time)

Hope this helps...

Last edited by a moderator:

- #12

Tiberius

Where can I get a bumper sticker with that on it?Originally posted by jeff

It's the other way round: Using a more explicit path integral notation, although we can think heuristically of the path integral Z = ∫Dφexp[i∫d^{d}xL(φ,∂φ)] as converging due to the cancellation among the oscillatory phase factors for different paths, for greater mathematical rigour, we consider instead the euclideanized version Z_{E}= ∫Dφexp[-∫d^{d}x_{E}L_{E}(φ,∂φ)] obtained from Z by analytic continuation via a wick rotation t→t_{E}≡ -it in which t_{E}is called imaginary time due to the factor of i, and d^{d}x_{E}is the measure on ordinary d-dimensional euclidean space (as opposed to the original minkowskian space). This transformation is well-defined since Z is analytic and analytic continuations of analytic functions are unique.

- #13

Tiberius

In a sense, really, all negative numbers would be "imaginary" (although not technically so), right? What I mean is, when you think of math and numbers as "representing something", then "2 oranges" actually represents something. "-2 oranges" doesn't really represent anything other than the position that you SHOULD have 2 oranges and you don't. You can't actually hold "-2 oranges" in your hand. In this sense, negative numbers themselves were really just something we made up as a convenience because it helps us solve certain equations easier - and that's why I say they're really "imaginary" in a sense, even if they don't technically count as Imaginary numbers. I think this is why we get into all sorts of problems when we try to find the square root of -4, and then have to make up even more stuff (2i) that will help us get where we need to be.Originally posted by sheldon

- #14

vedder

Pages 58-63 of Universe In A Nutshell has a real easy to understand explaination of this subject. It might give one a good base to then go on and contemplate jeff's excellent expose'.

- #15

Tiberius

Again, I think if you think conceptually about the fact that numbers are just symbols and ask youself what you're really representing with them, it seems to me that a "negative" charge, is really just an opposite charge of a given strength. We could have just as easily chosen to symbolize - as + and + as -. Just as we could have just as easily have decided that we were going to think of south as being "up" and always drawn our maps with australia at the top and north america at the bottom. It would be just as "correct".Originally posted by vedder

But what if the "-2" were meant to represent a negative charge tiberius?

So you're still not really representing any reality of something being "negative". For example, we could have just as easily called a charge of +1 a "Dolomar charge of 1" (just to make up a word). Then we could have called a charge of -1 a "Trinamar charge of 1". Then we'd have a law that states that Dolomar and Trinamar charges attract while Dolomar charges repel one another, as do Trinamar charges. It would all work just as well to describe what's happening, all without the concept of negative or positive. Here again, we use the concept of "negative" because its more convenient and less cumbersome, but that still doesn't mean negative numbers actually represent something directly.

This isn't important to mathematics and physics, but it is important when you're trying to philosophically conceptualize what is ACTUALLY being represented by the things we talk about in math and physics.

- #16

vedder

In that case wouldn't +2 be an imaginary number as well? Since we could logically say 'that a "positive" charge, is really just an opposite charge of a given strength.'Again, I think if you think conceptually about the fact that numbers are just symbols and ask youself what you're really representing with them, it seems to me that a "negative" charge, is really just an opposite charge of a given strength. We could have just as easily chosen to symbolize - as + and + as -. Just as we could have just as easily have decided that we were going to think of south as being "up" and always drawn our maps with australia at the top and north america at the bottom. It would be just as "correct".

I mean... if we were to call all negative numbers imaginary it would seem a bit arbitrary to me considering where i quoted you.

The oranges analogy is logically self sufficient. But i feel it to be inappropriate when considering things such as... lets say proton(1), neutron(0), and electron(-1), especially if we consider these things to be real. Is the electron imaginary? I think if one were to call all negative numbers imaginary, one would be forced to call

- #17

Imagine

Irrelevantly where you place positive real (up-north, down-south, down-north or up-south), negative is to positive as per squared imaginary is to squared real, on the same

Mathematicians found answers to some mathematical interrogations as per "root of negative real number" or Lorentz transformation. Physicists applied the Lorentz transformation to respect relativity constraint (speed limit of event propagation). Engineers applied imaginary and complex numbers and functions to solve oscillatory systems (don't break it, that's oscillate!).

As physicist, I didn't find satisfactory explanation except that, in our world, physical observables are always squared things but, frequently, we are resolving in "mono" things, here interveins imaginary stuff, borrowed to maths to help us.

- #18

Tiberius

No, +2 would not be imaginary. You have to understqand that the "+" is only there to differentiate it because we also use a "-". Numbers are imaginary in that they are symbols, but a normal positive number is a symbol that actually represents something more directly correlated to reality than does a negative number. Without any negatives, you'd simply have numbers, plain and simple. The oranges is a good example so I won't repeat it.Originally posted by vedder

In that case wouldn't +2 be an imaginary number as well? Since we could logically say 'that a "positive" charge, is really just an opposite charge of a given strength.'

I mean... if we were to call all negative numbers imaginary it would seem a bit arbitrary to me considering where i quoted you.

The oranges analogy is logically self sufficient. But i feel it to be inappropriate when considering things such as... lets say proton(1), neutron(0), and electron(-1), especially if we consider these things to be real. Is the electron imaginary? I think if one were to call all negative numbers imaginary, one would be forced to callallnumbers imaginary. And "in a sense" i suppose they are. But, i'll leave that discussion to the philosophy forum i think.

Again, in the case of protons, neutrons, and electrons, you could say...

neutron: no charge

proton: 1 Dolomar charge

electron: 1 Trinamar charge

That might be more cumbersome but conceptually it's more representative of the reality of the situation. Electrons are real, as is their charge. But we CHOOSE to use the concepts of negative numbers, and we CHOOSE to apply them to electrons. All that is real in this situation is that there is a particular sort of force that can be stronger or weaker, and that interacts in certain ways with the forces of things like protons. We don't HAVE to call electron charges "negative". In fact, we COULD call electron charges +1 and Protons -1 if we wanted as well. It would be just as workable and "correct".

But my point is, because numbers can represent real things, and negative numbers actually don't represent OBJECTS, but higher concepts - THIS is why you get into problems when you're working out various equations involving negatives, and then you back out and think, wait a minute - "If I were to apply this to reality it would be nonsense!" So little contraptions have to be made up so that negative numbers will still function properly. I'm certain that all of mathematics could be reworked, and still function in every way, without the use of negative numbers. While conceptually and philosophically more closely symbolic of reality, it would be a LOT more cumbersome and difficult - and that's why you should keep us philosophers out of the math lab!

- #19

vedder

Naaaa, we need philosophers in the math lab to keep the mathematicians honest.

- #20

- 1,481

- 0

If I count 100 electrons each with a - charge of 1 I end up this 100 negative charges or a minus charge of 100. I don't have in my hand

-100 electrons.

- #21

- 152

- 0

http://www.psyclops.com/hawking/resources/origin_univ.htmlOriginally posted by Imagine

Maximus, I like your well-defined "Location"

Ivan, your edit is fully justified, time was imaginary timinfinitely long before 1905.

Sheldon, I would appreciate to know more about "... showed that the universe could ..." Do you have Hawking or Hartle writing which shows the pertinence of imaginary time benefit in physics?

heumpje and jeff, I didn't fully understand your explanations but it seams, for me, that your usage of "imaginary time" aims only to simplify problem resolution, am I wrong?

Is someone, somewhere, sometime, already considered integrating the imaginary part (i) into the time metric instead of considering them apart?

- #22

Imagine

Nice reading, merci!

I liked the history resume. I am not a fan of maths but a fan of physics. Is it possible to find some writings about this Hawking "exercise" of integrating imaginary time into physic expressions? Somethings like negative energy, imaginary mass, imaginary particule/anti-particule, ...

- #23

- 152

- 0

here is some more food.Originally posted by Imagine

I liked the history resume. I am not a fan of maths but a fan of physics. Is it possible to find some writings about this Hawking "exercise" of integrating imaginary time into physic expressions? Somethings like negative energy, imaginary mass, imaginary particule/anti-particule, ...

http://www.motherservice.org/Essays/Sri Aurobindo & Hyperspace.htm

- Last Post

- Replies
- 13

- Views
- 4K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 5

- Views
- 2K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 7

- Views
- 923

- Last Post

- Replies
- 9

- Views
- 1K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 21

- Views
- 4K

- Replies
- 4

- Views
- 3K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 38

- Views
- 9K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 2

- Views
- 13K

- Last Post

- Replies
- 7

- Views
- 2K

- Replies
- 1

- Views
- 2K