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What is the S-Matrix theory?

  1. Nov 9, 2015 #1
    Can someone please explain Heisenberg's S-Matrix theory in simple terms. Minimals maths please. Please be as expansive as possible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2015 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    As with all questions of this sort, you will get better and more helpful answers if you can share what you've already studied and understood, and then pose a more specific question about the parts that you want help with.
  4. Nov 9, 2015 #3
    I am a novice to all fields of physics except Classical Mechanics. I understand(understand is perhaps too strong a word) Quantum Physics conceptually but not mathematically and I would like to learn about S-Matrix in its entirety(any information helps) but most specifically in its relation to String Theory.
  5. Nov 9, 2015 #4


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    You are venturing yourself into subjects you are not prepared to understand. Take your learning curve into the normal order: mathematical methods, classical mechanics (Newtonian, Lagrange, Hamilton, HJ), Electromagnetism, Quantum Mechanics. Typical QM curricula treat scattering theory (operator formalism) as their final chapter.
  6. Nov 9, 2015 #5


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    Without maths, one cannot say much more about scattering theory except that it relates what goes "in" to a reaction and what comes "out". Think of scattering of classical bodies off a potential well in classical mechanics as a very simple example.

    The term "S-Matrix" (i.e., "scattering matrix") means the expression of this idea in terms of quantum states (or fields) coming into a reaction, and those coming out. Vast amounts of knowledge can be gained from the S-Matrix in quantum field theory -- indeed it's hard to imagine any useful accelerator experiments being possible without an underpinning by S-Matrix theory.

    But, as others have hinted, you'll need to start getting into QM on a mathematical level to get more out of the subject than the vague handwaving explanation above.
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