## Gradient expansions, strong perturbations and classicality

24/11/2008

It is a common view that when in an equation appears a very large term we cannot use any perturbation approach at all. This is a quite common prejudice and forced physicists, for a lot of years, to invent exotic approaches with very few luck to unveil physics behind equations. The reason for this relies on a simple trick generally overlooked by mathematicians and physicists and here is my luck. This idea can be easily exposed for the Schroedinger equation. So, let us consider the case $(H_0+\lambda V)|\psi\rangle=i\hbar\frac{\partial|\psi\rangle}{\partial t}$

with $\lambda\rightarrow\infty$. This is a very unlucky case both for a physicist and a mathematician as the only sure approach that come to our rescue is a computer program with all the difficulties this implies. Of course, it would be very nice if we could find a solution in the form of an asymptotic series like $|\psi\rangle=|\psi_0\rangle+\frac{1}{\lambda}|\psi_1\rangle+\frac{1}{\lambda^2}|\psi_2\rangle+\ldots$

but we know quite well that if we insert such a solution into the Schroedinger equation we get meaningless results. But there is a very smart trick that can get us out of this dark and can produce the required result. I have exposed this since 1992 on Physical Review A (see here) and this paper was not taken too seriously by the community so that I had time enough to be able to apply this idea to all fields of physics. The paper producing the turning point has been published on Physical Review A (thank you very much, Bernd Crasemann!). You can find it here and here. The point is that when you have a strong perturbation, an expansion is not enough. You also need a rescaling in time like $\tau=\lambda t$. If you do this and insert the above expansion into the original Schroedinger equation, this time you will get meaningful results: A dual Dyson series that, being now the perturbation independent of time, becomes a well-known gradient expansion: Wigner-Kirkwood series. But this series is a semiclassical one and you get the striking result that a strongly perturbed quantum system is a semiclassical system! So, if you want to change a quantum system into a classical one just perturb it strongly. This is something that happens when one does a measurement in quantum mechanics using just electromagnetic fields that are the only means we know to accomplish such a task.

This result about strong perturbations and semiclassicality has been published on a long time honored journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society A (see here and here). I am pleased of this also because of my estimation for Michael Berry, the Editor. I have met him at a Garda lake’s Conference some years ago and I have listened a beautiful talk by him about the appearance of a classical world out of the quantum conundrum. I remember he asked me how to connect to internet from the Conference site but there there was just a not so cheap machine from Telecom Italia and then my help was quite limited.

So, I just removed a prejudice and was lucky enough to give sound examples in all branches of physics. Sometime, looking in some dusty corners of physics and mathematics can be quite rewarding!