Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I Why do Dirac spinors obey the Klein-Gordon equation?

  1. Jun 21, 2016 #1
    The solutions to the Dirac equation are also solutions of the Klein-Gordon equation, which is the equation of motion for the real scalar field. I can see that the converse is not true, but why do spinors follow the equation for real-field particles? Is there any physical meaning to it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    Sure, any free-particle mode for a particle with mass ##m## must obey the "on-shell condition" ##p^2=m^2## (in units where \hbar=c=1). Thus the fields must obey the free KG equation
    $$(\Box+m^2) \psi=(\partial_{\mu} \partial^{\mu} + m^2)\psi=0.$$
    That's true for the Dirac equation, because you have
    $$(\mathrm{i} \not{\partial}-m) \psi=0.$$
    This implies of course
    $$(\mathrm{i} \not{\partial}+m)(\mathrm{i} \not{\partial}-m) \psi=0$$
    Now multiply out the operator. You get
    $$(-\not{\partial}^2-m^2)\psi = 0 \qquad (*),$$
    but now
    $$\not{\partial}^2=\gamma^{\mu} \gamma^{\nu} \partial_{\mu} \partial_{\nu}.$$
    Since the partial derivatives commute this gives from the Dirac-matrices' anti-commutation relations (Clifford algebra of Minkowski space!)
    $$\not{\partial}^2= \frac{1}{2} [\gamma^{\mu},\gamma^{\nu}]_+ \partial_{\mu} \partial_{\nu} = g^{\mu \nu} \partial_{\mu} \partial_{\nu} = \Box,$$
    and thus (*) is just the proof that the Dirac field describes really particles with mass ##m##.
  4. Jun 21, 2016 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    If you square the Dirac Equation, you get the Klein-Gordon equation. So any solution of the Dirac Equation is a solution of the Klein-Gordon equation.
  5. Jun 21, 2016 #4
    Thank you both. I already see how to go from the Dirac equation to the KG. My question was: how is it possible that spinors, which are the particles of the Dirac field, follow the equation of motion of the real scalar field particles. It just weirds me out.

    Does it mean that all free field operators obey the KG on top of their own equation of motion? Is there any significance to the real scalar field only obeying KG?
  6. Jun 21, 2016 #5

    George Jones

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Moving beyond single-particle states, quantum fields are operators on mutli-particle states (Fock spaces), and quantum fields for spin 0 and spin 1/2 satisfy different commutation/anti-commutation relations.
  7. Jun 21, 2016 #6

    Paul Colby

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I might also point out the components of E and B fields of electromagnetism obey a wave equation ##(m = 0)##. The reasons are relativity and the fact that space time is homogeneous and isotropic.
  8. Jun 22, 2016 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    I don't see, what's weird about it. What don't you understand about my derivation?

    The key to the full understanding, why relativistic wave equations look the way they look is the representation theory of the Poincare group. See, e.g., my QFT lecture notes:

  9. Jun 22, 2016 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    There is nothing strange about it. Consider some quantity ##f(t)## satisfying first-order differential equation
    Obviously, it follows that this quantity also satisfies the second order differential equation
  10. Jun 22, 2016 #9
    No, I don't see anything wrong or weird with the math. It is just that I found it curious that the Dirac field obeyed the equation for the scalar real field, and I though there might be some interesting physics behind the fact, like fermions and scalar real particles having some common property, or fermions being scalar real field particles with an additional characteristic, or somethin.

    But I guess the fact that none of you understood what I meant means that there's actually nothing interesting about it after all.

    Thanks for your answers.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted