The second mathematical idea that is crucial for quantum mechanics is that functions can be treated in a way that is fundamentally not that much different from vectors.
A vector
However, the same vector may instead be represented as a spike diagram, by plotting the value of the components versus the component index:
(The symbol
In the same way as in two dimensions, a vector in three dimensions, or, for that matter, in thirty dimensions, can be represented by a spike diagram:
And just like vectors can be interpreted as spike diagrams, spike diagrams can be interpreted as vectors. So a spike diagram with very many spikes can be considered to be a single vector in a space with a very high number of dimensions.
In the limit of infinitely many spikes, the large values of
For functions, the spikes are usually not shown:
In this way, a function is just a single vector in an infinite dimensional space.
Note that the
(It should be noted that to make the transition to infinite dimensions mathematically meaningful, you need to impose some smoothness constraints on the function. Typically, it is required that the function is continuous, or at least integrable in some sense. These details are not important for this book.)
Key Points
- A function can be thought of as a vector with infinitely many components.
- This allows quantum mechanics do the same things with functions as you can do with vectors.
Graphically compare the spike diagram of the 10-dimensional vector
Graphically compare the spike diagram of the 10-dimensional unit vector