Grassmann number


Grassmann number

In mathematical physics, a Grassmann number (also called an anticommuting number or anticommuting c-number) is a mathematical construction which allows a path integral representation for Fermionic fields. They were discovered by David John Candlin in 1956 [cite journal|journal= Nuovo Cimento | author= D.J. Candlin | volume =4 | title = On Sums over Trajectories for Systems With Fermi Statistics|pages=224 | year=1956] . A collection of Grassman variable heta_i are independent elements of an algebra which contains the real numbers that anticommutes with each other but commute with ordinary numbers x:

: heta_i heta_j = - heta_j heta_iqquad heta_i x = x heta_i.

In particular, the square of the generators vanish:

: ( heta_i)^2 = 0,, since heta_i heta_i = - heta_i heta_i.

In order to reproduce the path integral for a Fermi field, the definition of grassman integration needs to have the following properties:

* linearity: int, [a f( heta) + b g( heta) ] , d heta = a int,f( heta), d heta + b int,g( heta), d heta

* partial integrations formula

: int left [frac{partial}{partial heta}f( heta) ight] , d heta = 0

This results in the following rules for the integration of a Grassmann quantity:

: int, 1, d heta = 0: int, heta, d heta = 1

Thus we conclude that the operations of integration and differentiation of a Grassmann number are identical.

In the path integral formulation of quantum field theory the following Gaussian integral of Grassmann quantities is needed for fermionic anticommuting fields:

: int expleft [ heta^TAeta ight] ,d heta,deta = det A

with A being a N imes N matrix.

The algebra generated by a set of Grassmann numbers is known as a Grassmann algebra. The Grassmann algebra generated by "n" linearly independent Grassmann numbers has dimension 2"n". These concepts are all named for Hermann Grassmann.

Grassmann algebras are the prototypical examples of supercommutative algebras. These are algebras with a decomposition into even and odd variables which satisfy a graded version of commutativity (in particular, odd elements anticommute).

Exterior algebra

The Grassmann algebra is the exterior algebra of the vector space spanned by the generators. The exterior algebra is defined independent of a choice of basis.

Matrix representations

Grassmann numbers can always be represented by matrices. Consider, for example, the Grassmann algebra generated by two Grassmann numbers heta_1 and heta_2. These Grassmann numbers can be represented by 4×4 matrices:

: heta_1 = egin{bmatrix}0 & 0 & 0 & 0\1 & 0 & 0 & 0\0 & 0 & 0 & 0\0 & 0 & 1 & 0\end{bmatrix}qquad heta_2 = egin{bmatrix}0&0&0&0\0&0&0&0\1&0&0&0\0&-1&0&0\end{bmatrix}qquad heta_1 heta_2 = - heta_2 heta_1 = egin{bmatrix}0&0&0&0\0&0&0&0\0&0&0&0\1&0&0&0\end{bmatrix}

In general, a Grassmann algebra on "n" generators can be represented by 2"n" × 2"n" square matrices. Physically, these matrices can be thought of as raising operators acting on a Hilbert space of "n" identical fermions in the occupation number basis. Since the occupation number for each fermion is 0 or 1, there are 2"n" possible basis states. Mathematically, these matrices can be interpreted as the linear operators corresponding to left exterior multiplication on the Grassmann algebra itself.

Applications

In quantum field theory, Grassmann numbers are the "classical analogues" of anticommutingoperators. They are used to define the path integrals of fermionic fields. To this end it is necessary to define integrals over Grassmann variables, known as Berezin integrals.

Grassmann numbers are also important for the definition of supermanifolds (or superspace) where they serve as "anticommuting coordinates".

References


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