# Spinor fields and spinor wave functions

• fliptomato
In summary, the conversation discusses the properties of Weyl spinors, including their Fourier transformation and the importance of indices in their contraction. The confusion arises in understanding the commutation and anticommutation relations of spinor fields and the role of the bar and dagger notations in representing them. The conversation also touches on the importance of choosing a consistent convention for index contraction and the complexity of dealing with Weyl spinors compared to other types of objects.
fliptomato
Hi everyone, I've confused myself trying to understand Weyl spinors... here's my best attempt at well-posed questions: (by the way, a nice--if incomplete--reference on computations using Weyl spinors can be found http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~phys253b/handouts/WeylFeynman.ps , from Harvard's Phys 253B page)

1. Fermions are spinor fields which obey anticommutation relations (Zee's motivation for this is that a pair of electrons have to be antisymmetric under exchange of quantum numbers). These spinor fields can be Fourier transformed as a linear combination of spinor wavefunctions. In the above link, the author (Nima Arkani-Hamed, apparently) writes this as:

$$\xi_\alpha (x) = \sum_s \int \frac{d^3p}{(2\pi)^{3/2}(2E_p)^{1/2}}[x_\alpha a e^{-ip\cdot x} + y_\alpha a^\dagger e^{ip\cdot x}]$$ (NAH, eq.3)

Where now $$x$$ and $$y$$ are the wavefunctions (fourier components). $$x, y, a, a^\dagger$$ are all functions of 3-momentum and spin, and the $$a^\dagger$$ and $$a$$ are raising/lowering operators.

That being said, one thing that is not clear to me is why the wavefunctions $$x$$ and $$y$$ obey commutation relations while the fields $$\xi$$ obery anticommutation relations. I understand that the creation operators obey anticommutation relations, but why would the wavefunctions not?

[*]I've noticed that I should treat bars and daggers very carefully. For example, the reference above relates barred and daggered (where a dagger means hermetian conjugation) by $$\bar{x}_{\dot{\alpha}} \equiv x^\dagger_\beta$$.

Is it fair for me to interpret this as $$\bar{x}_{\dot{\beta}} = x^*_\beta$$, that is to say that one takes the complex conjugate of each component (without "transposing" the column spinor into a row spinor)? (This is consistent, I think, with the Peskin and Schroeder definition of $$\bar{u(p)} = u^\dagger(p)\gamma^0$$.) I understand that indices are important and are somewhat subtle--is it correct that hermetian conjugation would raise or lower the spinor index?

Now I become a little more uneasy when, in the context of the Standard Model, authors will use the bar notation to represent a right-handed particle. For example, $$\bar{e}^\dagger = e_R$$. Is this meaning for the bar still consistent with my previous understanding?

[*]Anyway, in addition to the bar, I've noticed that indices are very important and subtle. In particular, since indices are raised and lowered by the totally antisymmetric $$\epsilon$$ tensor,

$$x^\alpha y_\alpha = -x_\alpha y^\alpha$$

but

$$x^\alpha y_\alpha = y^\alpha x_\alpha$$.

(I suppose this is a justification for why the wavefunctions commute?) Anyway, it becomes important that one picks a convention for the contraction of dotted and undotted indicies, and the above document suggests having undotted indices go from upper left to lower right and dotted going from lower left to upper right. That is to say that we can drop the indices for terms that look like these: $$x^\alpha y_\alpha = xy$$, or $$\bar{x}^{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}_{\dot{\alpha}} = \bar{x}\bar{y}$$.

So computing Feynman diagrams amounts to following fermion lines and writing down terms with some consistent convention on raised and lowered indicies. (for example, following a fermion line: starting external fermion is raised if it's undotted and lowered if dotted, ending external fermion is the opposite) Once the amplitude is written this way, one needs to square it to get something proportional to cross section. $$|M|^2 = MM^*$$.

However, now I'm unsure what the index structure should look like. For example, if I have a term (writing indices explicitly):

$$x^\alpha y_\alpha$$

is the complex conjugate equal to $$\bar{x}_{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}^{\dot{\alpha}}$$ or $$\bar{x}^{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}_{\dot{\alpha}}$$? Or is it equal to something in terms of daggers?

The appendix to the above reference claims that: $$(xy)^\dagger = \bar{y}\bar{x}$$, which, using the above index notation is:

$$(x^\alpha y_\alpha)^\dagger = \bar{x}_{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}^{\dot{\alpha}}$$.

The claim is made that this is applicable to both anti-commuting and commuting spinors. (Why?) Well, then... why does the author use a dagger when the term in parenthesis should be a scalar? (i.e. a complex conjugate should do) Further, is this equation arbitary, or is there any motivation for why the indices must end up this way? Earlier, we picked an arbitrary convention for when indices can be dropped. It was "understood" that unbarred and barred spinors were contracted with the indices a certain way... but it's not clear that the complex conjugate of a contraction of the unbarred spinors would give a contraction of the barred spinors in with the appropriate convention. That is to say, why is it that undotted indices are contracted in one way (upper then lower) while dotted indices are contracted in the opposite way (lower then upper)?

Any insight would be much appreciated!

-Flip

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Hi tomato,

Let me try.

fliptomato said:
That being said, one thing that is not clear to me is why the wavefunctions $$x$$ and $$y$$ obey commutation relations while the fields $$\xi$$ obery anticommutation relations. I understand that the creation operators obey anticommutation relations, but why would the wavefunctions not?

I have three answers:
1) What makes you think that x and y should anticommute? - There is NO principle that says that for fermions all comutators are blindly replaced by anticommutators.
2) We have the same in Dirac fermions: x and y (which are usually denoted by u and v) commute.
3) If x and y were anticommuting, their product with the raising and lowering operators would be a commuting object, so the resulting field would be a commuting object, which would not make you happy.

fliptomato said:
I've noticed that I should treat bars and daggers very carefully. For example, the reference above relates barred and daggered (where a dagger means hermetian conjugation) by $$\bar{x}_{\dot{\alpha}} \equiv x^\dagger_\beta$$.
Probably you meant here $$\bar{x}_{\dot{\beta}} \equiv x^\dagger_\beta$$

fliptomato said:
Is it fair for me to interpret this as $$\bar{x}_{\dot{\beta}} = x^*_\beta$$, that is to say that one takes the complex conjugate of each component (without "transposing" the column spinor into a row spinor)? (This is consistent, I think, with the Peskin and Schroeder definition of $$\bar{u(p)} = u^\dagger(p)\gamma^0$$.) I understand that indices are important and are somewhat subtle--is it correct that hermetian conjugation would raise or lower the spinor index?
For Weyl spinors, the situation is more complicated than in the more simple cases where we have only covariant and contravariant vectors (so that they can be represented by row and column vectors). Weyl spinors include not 2 types of objects, but 4:
For a Lorentz transformation with rotation angle $$\theta$$ and rapidity $$\beta$$, we have the matrix
$$M=\exp\left(-\frac{1}{2}(i\theta+\beta)\sigma\right)$$
How do the spinors transform? There are 4 cases: $$\psi_\alpha$$ transforms by the matrix $$M$$, $$\bar\psi_{\dot\alpha}$$ by the matrix $$M^*$$, $$\psi^\alpha$$ by the matrix $$M^{-1}$$, and $$\bar\psi^{\dot\alpha}$$ by the matrix $$M^{-1*}$$. This is where the subtlety is coming from.

fliptomato said:
The appendix to the above reference claims that: $$(xy)^\dagger = \bar{y}\bar{x}$$, which, using the above index notation is:

$$(x^\alpha y_\alpha)^\dagger = \bar{x}_{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}^{\dot{\alpha}}$$.
You should not switch the order of x and y on the RHS.

fliptomato said:
Well, then... why does the author use a dagger when the term in parenthesis should be a scalar? (i.e. a complex conjugate should do)
Maybe the author wanted to include the case of a spinor field (like the expression for $$\xi$$ you wrote at the beginning of your post), and the dagger means that also $$a$$ should be relaced by $$a^\dagger$$, and vice versa, which is more than just complex conjugation. Is this the right thing to do? - I am confused about that at the moment.

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per

Spinor fields and spinor wave functions are important concepts in theoretical physics, particularly in the study of fermions. Spinor fields are fundamental fields that describe fermions, such as electrons and quarks. They are different from scalar and vector fields in that they transform differently under rotations and reflections. Spinor fields are also characterized by their spin, which can take half-integer values.

Spinor wave functions, on the other hand, are the Fourier components of spinor fields. They are used in the study of Weyl spinors, which are the fundamental building blocks of spinor fields. Weyl spinors are used to describe massless particles, such as neutrinos, and are important in theories like the Standard Model.

One of the key differences between spinor fields and spinor wave functions is their commutation or anticommutation relations. While spinor fields obey anticommutation relations, spinor wave functions obey commutation relations. This is because spinor fields are fundamental fields, while spinor wave functions are just Fourier components of these fields.

The notation used for spinor fields and spinor wave functions can be confusing, particularly with the use of bars and daggers. In general, the bar notation is used to represent the Hermitian conjugate of a spinor field or wave function. This means that the complex conjugate is taken for each component, but the spinor index is not "transposed" from a column spinor to a row spinor. It is important to keep track of indices, as they can be raised and lowered by the totally antisymmetric \epsilon tensor.

In the context of the Standard Model, the bar notation can also be used to represent right-handed particles, such as \bar{e}^\dagger = e_R. This notation is still consistent with the previous understanding, as the Hermitian conjugate of a right-handed spinor is still a right-handed spinor.

When computing Feynman diagrams, it is important to follow a consistent convention for raised and lowered indices. This convention is arbitrary, but it is important to be consistent in order to correctly write down the amplitude and compute the cross section. The complex conjugate of a term with indices can be written as \bar{x}_{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}^{\dot{\alpha}} or \bar{x}^{\dot{\alpha}}\bar{y}_{\dot{\alpha}}, depending on the convention chosen.

## 1. What is a spinor field?

A spinor field is a mathematical object used in quantum field theory to describe the properties of particles with intrinsic angular momentum, known as spin. It is a complex-valued vector field that assigns a spinor to every point in space-time.

## 2. What is the difference between a spinor field and a scalar field?

A scalar field is a mathematical object that assigns a scalar value (a number) to every point in space-time, while a spinor field assigns a spinor, which is a more complex mathematical object, to every point in space-time. Spinor fields are used to describe particles with spin, while scalar fields are used to describe particles without spin.

## 3. How are spinor fields related to spinor wave functions?

A spinor field is a mathematical object that describes the properties of particles with spin, while a spinor wave function is a solution to the Dirac equation, which is a relativistic wave equation that describes the behavior of spin-1/2 particles. Spinor wave functions are derived from spinor fields and provide a way to calculate the probability of finding a particle with a certain spin at a given point in space-time.

## 4. What is the significance of spinor fields in physics?

Spinor fields are essential in describing the properties and behavior of elementary particles in quantum field theory. They are used to predict and explain various phenomena in particle physics, such as the spin of particles, their interactions with other particles, and the creation and annihilation of particles. Spinor fields also play a crucial role in the Standard Model, which is the current theory that describes the fundamental particles and forces in the universe.

## 5. How are spinor fields experimentally verified?

Spinor fields cannot be directly observed, but their effects can be measured through experiments. For example, the predictions of spinor wave functions can be tested using quantum experiments, such as the Stern-Gerlach experiment, which demonstrated the quantized nature of spin. Additionally, accelerators and colliders are used to study the interactions of particles described by spinor fields, providing evidence for their existence and properties.

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