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Essential Quantum Mechanics$
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Gary Bowman

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199228928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199228928.001.0001

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Commutators and Uncertainty Relations

Commutators and Uncertainty Relations

(p.82) 7 Commutators and Uncertainty Relations
Essential Quantum Mechanics

Gary E. Bowman

Oxford University Press

Commutators and uncertainty relations have sparked much debate and confusion as to their physical meaning. As such, this chapter focuses partly on historical and interpretational aspects. Because it is central to the uncertainty relations, the commutator — including its manifestation in matrix mechanics — is introduced first. It is emphasized that the commutator of two operators is generally another operator. The general form of the uncertainty relations is then introduced. These relations reflect the fact that probability distributions for different observables are generally not independent. Moreover, application of the uncertainty relations generally requires knowledge of the quantum state — a fact that is obscured by the well known position-momentum uncertainty relation. Various proposed physical interpretations of the uncertainty relations are then discussed. The chapter concludes with a brief reflection on the significance of the uncertainty relations.

Keywords:   matrix mechanics, observable, probability distribution, interpretation

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