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Spatial representation of field commutator

  1. May 8, 2008 #1
    Hi all!

    I worked for hours on this simple commutator of real scalar fields in qft:

    [tex]\left[\Phi\left(x\right),\Phi\left(y\right) \right] = i\Delta\left( x-y \right)[/tex]


    [tex]\Delta\left(x\right) = \frac{1}{i}\int {\frac{{d^4 p}}
    {{\left( {2\pi } \right)^3 }}\delta \left( {p^2 - m^2 } \right)\operatorname{sgn} \left( {p^0 } \right)e^{ - ip \cdot x} }[/tex]

    The task is to solve this integral and to look at the cases [tex]x^2 = 0[/tex] and [tex]m\rightarrow 0[/tex].

    But, what I get in my calculations is that for space like x the commutator is zero whereas the integral diverges for time-like x. Normally there should be a Bessel function involved in the end and I am just totally confused now. But maybe I should show the steps I took:

    i) Spacelike x

    The expression is Lorentz-invariant. For space-like x we go into a reference frame where [tex]x_0[/tex] is zero, then
    [tex]\Delta \left( x \right) = \frac{1}
    {i}\int {\frac{{d^3 \vec p}}
    {{\left( {2\pi } \right)^3 }}\frac{1}
    {{2\sqrt {\vec p^2 + m^2 } }}\left( {e^{ - i\vec p \cdot \vec x} - e^{ - i\vec p \cdot \vec x} } \right)}
    and this is zero. What argument fails here? Calculating just one term of the bracket leads to a modified Bessel function. I followed Weinberg, p. 202 here - its strange...

    ii) Timelike x

    Then we go into a reference frame where [tex]\vex x = 0[/tex] and we get
    \Delta \left( x \right) = \frac{1}
    {i}\int {\frac{{d^3 \vec p}}
    {{\left( {2\pi } \right)^3 }}\frac{1}
    {{2\sqrt {\vec p^2 + m^2 } }}\left( {e^{ - iEx_0 } - e^{iEx_0 } } \right)} \hfill \\
    = 4\pi \frac{1}
    {i}\int {\frac{{dp}}
    {{\left( {2\pi } \right)^3 }}\frac{{p^2 }}
    {{2\sqrt {p^2 + m^2 } }}\left( {e^{ - iEx_0 } - e^{iEx_0 } } \right)} \hfill \\
    This integral diverges quadratically.

    So there has to be something wrong, otherwise this task wouldn't make any sense... I hope somebody can help me here, I am totally lost with this task. I worked hours on that problem and I don't know what to do any more.

    A big thanks in advance to everybody!!

  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2008 #2
    Consider doing the integral in terms of E instead of p?
  4. May 8, 2008 #3
    Yes, sadly... same result :(
  5. May 8, 2008 #4
    Peskin says
    [tex]D(x-y) = \frac{1}{4\pi^2} \int_m^\infty\!dE\, \sqrt{E^2 - m^2} e^{-i E t}[/tex]
    from which I suspect you'll find your answer. It's in the lower bound of the E integral.
  6. May 8, 2008 #5
    My bad. This might not be exactly your expression, which is due to the pole prescription in the Feynman propagator. In any event, I think you'll be able to get something that goes like [tex]e^{-m t}[/tex].
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  7. May 8, 2008 #6
    ah, ok, I see that on p. 26 is exactly what I wanted. Thanks for the hint! But then again: I can't see why there the integral 2.51 goes to [tex]e^{-imt][/tex] for t goes to infinity? I mean, sure, for big E the oscillation is too high and gives zero. But then on the lower end the prefactor [tex]\sqrt{E^2 - m^2[/tex] gives zero. On the other hand, if we don't take the m in the exponent too seriously, this is true.

    A big Thanks to you, Ibrits! Do you have a better explanation for the limit t->\infinity?

  8. May 8, 2008 #7


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    It's using the method of "stationary phase approximation".
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stationary_phase_approximation

    BTW, are you still trying to solve the spacelike case? If so, Scharf's
    "Finite Quantum Electrodynamics", pp64-69, might help.
    Last edited: May 8, 2008
  9. May 9, 2008 #8

    Hans de Vries

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    Notice that Weinberg's results are totally different as those from P&S and Zee.
    (Weinberg is right, the others are wrong). The exact definition of the outside
    the light-cone behavior of the Feynman propagator is given by:


    This corresponds to Weinberg's equation (5.2.9). For small arguments we can
    simply replace the Bessel function [itex]K_1(r)[/itex] with [itex]1/r[/itex], for instance:


    Try it yourself http://functions.wolfram.com/webMathematica/FunctionEvaluation.jsp?name=BesselK". Since m is very small we can in general simply replace
    Weinberg's (5.2.9) with:


    Which is independent of the mass m (!) and much more serious.

    It's hard for me to understand, now it has become more or less routine to make
    anti-hydrogen in the laboratory, how one can maintain the idea that anti-matter
    propagates backward in time... Going backwards in time we see:

    Somehow gamma flashes mysteriously produce anti-protons and positrons at the
    inside surface of a vacuum container. These instantaneously pair up to form
    anti-hydrogen which turns out to be very cold (amazingly after such high energy
    events) After a while the anti-hydrogen spontaneously ionizes (it's instable).
    The constituents are then accelerated to ultrarelativistic speed and end their
    lives in high energy synchrotron collisions..

    Oh well....

    Regards, Hans
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  10. May 9, 2008 #9

    Hans de Vries

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    Oops, no more time to edit over-impulsive posts. Rushing back home didn't help...
    Of course m should be mc/hbar which is not small. So the 1/r behavior is indeed
    below the Compton radius. Later on I want to say a few things more.

    Regards, Hans
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  11. May 9, 2008 #10
    Hi Hans,

    I just came back seeing your posts... thanks a lot for your answers!! I am impressed... and will check everyting you said ;). But, well, that won't happen before tuesday, I am on a bike tour the next three days.

    But please go on to continue writing, I am very interested!! There are so many mysterious things in qft, especially for a, well somewhat, a beginner (I hear two courses on qft right now and already had courses in qed and qcd).

    So, if I may please you, I am interested in everything related with this topic! A big thanks in advance for your couragement!!

    Have a nice weekend, I will check back monday evening!


    PS: @strangerep Thanks for the hint of the stationary phase method, helped me a lot!
  12. Dec 29, 2011 #11
  13. Dec 30, 2011 #12


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    Sorry, I don't have enough time right now, but I'll try to remember to get back to this sometimes next week. (Since you're asking a necro-question I'll have to refresh my memory...)
  14. Dec 31, 2011 #13


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    Well, well. I wrote that 3.5 years ago, and now have the benefit of that extra study time, so I must now post a correction...

    The [itex]e^{-imt}[/itex] (for [itex]t\to\infty[/itex] is not obtained by the stationary phase method. Indeed the stationary phase method doesn't seem to work here at all -- neither by a stationary exponent (critical point of the 1st kind) nor the boundary points of the integration (critical points of the 2nd kind).

    A much better reference for calculating these propagators is

    G. Scharf, "Finite Quantum Electrodynamics -- The Causal Approach".

    In the section titled "Discussion of the Commutation Functions", he calculates lots of these propagators exactly.

    The answer is that the exact propagator is a Bessel function (actually a Hankel function in our case). The asymptotic behaviour of for large arguments approaches something like this:
    H^{(2)}_0(z) ~\sim~ \sqrt{\frac{2}{\pi z}} \, e^{-iz} ~~~~~~[|z|\to\infty]
    (Ref: Abramowitz & Stegun.)

    (In our case, z is mt.)

    Imho, P&S really should have given a reference instead of simply quoting the asymptotic result (and should also have mentioned the factor of [itex]1/\sqrt{t}[/itex]).
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