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Complex Numbers in Quantum Theory

Description: In 1927, Nobel prize winning physicist, E. Schrodinger, in correspondence with Ehrenfest, wrote the following about the new theory: “What is unpleasant here, and indeed directly to be objected to, is the use of complex numbers. Psi is surely fundamentally a real function.” This seemingly simple issue remains unexplained almost ninety years later. In this dissertation I elucidate the physical and theoretical origins of the complex requirement. I identify a freedom/constraint situation encountered by vectors when, employed in accordance with adopted quantum representational methodology, and representing angular momentum states in particular. Complex vectors, quite simply, provide more available adjustable variables than do real vectors. The additional variables relax the constraint situation allowing the theory’s representational program to carry through. This complex number issue, which lies at the deepest foundations of the theory, has implications for important issues located higher in the theory. For example, any unification of the classical and quantum accounts of the settled order of nature, will rest squarely on our ability to account for the introduction of the imaginary unit.
Date: August 2015
Creator: Maynard, Glenn
Partner: UNT Libraries