A Course in Modern Mathematical Physics
Groups, Hilbert Space and Differential Geometry
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2004
Online Publication Date:September 2012
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511607066.016
Our purpose in this chapter is to present the key concepts of quantum mechanics in the language of Hilbert spaces. The reader who has not previously met the physical ideas motivating quantum mechanics, and some of the more elementary applications of Schrödinger's equation, is encouraged to read any of a number of excellent texts on the subject such as [1–4]. Otherwise, the statements given here must to a large extent be taken on trust – not an altogether easy thing to do, since the basic assertions of quantum theory are frequently counterintuitive to anyone steeped in the classical view of physics. Quantum mechanics is frequently presented in the form of several postulates, as though it were an axiomatic system such as Euclidean geometry. As often presented, these postulates may not meet the standards of mathematical rigour required for a strictly logical set of axioms, so that little is gained by such an approach. We will do things a little more informally here. For those only interested in the mathematical aspects of quantum mechanics and the role of Hilbert space see [5–8].
Many of the standard applications, such as the hydrogen atom, will be omitted here as they can be found in all standard textbooks, and we leave aside the enormous topic of measurement theory and interpretations of quantum mechanics. This is not to say that we need be totally comfortable with quantum theory as it stands. Undoubtedly, there are some philosophically disquieting features in the theory, often expressed in the form of socalled paradoxes.