Quantum mechanics in phase space

Watson, Philip (1991). Quantum mechanics in phase space. MPhil thesis The Open University.


The objective of this thesis is to describe the fundamental concepts relating to the reformulation of quantum mechanics in phase space. It is assumed that the interested reader is familiar with the principles and techniques of ordinary quantum mechanics.
In classical statistical mechanics the expectation values of physical quantities are calculated as averages over phase space distribution functions. It is possible to obtain a similar procedure in quantum mechanics. However, phase space is a classical concept and thus has no quantum mechanical equivalent, owing to the non-commutability of the operators p and q. A sensible basic requirement for the formulation of quantum mechanics in phase space is a linear one-one mapping between quantum operators and classical functions. This was achieved by the pioneering work of Weyl, Wigner and Moyal. The phase space that they devised we shall call "pseudo phase space". It is completely quantum. The pseudo phase space variables are represented by commuting c-numbers of momentum, p, and position, q; they are the result of applying the Weyl correspondence rule to the operators p and q, respectively.
In some ways the pseudo phase space formulation of quantum mechanics appears to return us to an "almost" classical arena, since we dispense with the calculus of non-commuting operators for purely algebraic methods. The pseudo phase space formulation of quantum mechanics is self-contained. That is, there is no need, in principle, to switch to the Schroedinger or Heisenberg pictures when solving physical problems, although it may often be convenient to do so. The classical appearance of the pseudo phase space scheme is especially useful when considering the semi-classical limit of quantum mechanics. In fact, for potentials up to and including the harmonic oscillator the equations represent classical motion.
The structure of the thesis is such that it takes the reader steadily through the major concepts of pseudo phase space theory. The mathematical techniques that shall be needed are developed early in Chapter 1. These are used throughout the thesis. This presents the advantage that the reader is not faced with learning new mathematical methods as the thesis proceeds.
The pseudo phase space formulation of quantum mechanics as found applications in all areas of mathematical physics. Hence, there is a considerable amount of specialist literature available on the subject. Itis hoped that this thesis serves has an introduction.

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