David Hestenes’ electron model

John R Ramsden, as a comment on Motl’s blog, points us to an article by David Hestenes, Reading the Electron Clock, 0802.3227. There are two good reasons for looking at this paper, and the experiment that inspired it. First, we can use it as an excuse to discuss Hestenes’ electron theory, and what it looks like in the density operator language. Second, in a later post, we can discuss de Broglie’s matter waves.


As the Wikipedia Zitterbewegung article states, Zitterbewegung [German for trembling motion] is an “interference between positive and negative energy states produces what appears to be a fluctuation (at the speed of light) of the position of an electron around the median, with a circular frequency of , or approximately 1.6 \times 10^{21} Hz .” It was first noticed by Schoedinger, I think. It comes about when you compute the position operator, as a function of time, for an electron with momentum. The electron’s momentum p and mass m define a velocity v = p/m, and the position operator x ends up being given partly by vt = pt/m, but there is another term, an oscillatory term. [In quantum mechanics, the Hamiltonian H gives the energy, and setting H = mc^2, so the equation in the Wikipedia article looks like x = tc^2pH^{-1} . Also, I’m mixing metaphors a bit between relativistic and non relativistic definitions of mass. Read the original articles for the correct derivation.] So long as you restrict to solutions of the Dirac equation which have only positive or negative energy, there is no Zitterbewegung, and this is how the frequency is usually ignored.

Hestenes is a long time advocate of The Zitterbewegung Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. In his interpretation, Zitterbewegung (sometimes called zbw or zitter) is not due to interference between positive and negative frequencies but instead arises from the complex phase factor present in all quantum mechanics. Hestenes looks at the zbw as being associated with spin. The consequences are wide. He writes:

The essential feature of the zbw idea is the association of the spin with a local circulatory motion characterized by the phase factor. Since the complex phase factor is the main feature which the Dirac wave function shares with its nonrelativistic limit, it follows that the Schroedinger equation for an electron inherits a zbw interpretation from the Dirac theory. It follows that such familiar consequences of the Schroedinger theory as barrier penetration can be interpreted as manifestations of the zbw.

From my point of view, zitterbewegung corresponds to the frequency with which the electron switches back and forth from its left handed to right hand form. At its deepest level, it arises from the Feynman checkerboard model previously discussed and the requirement that the left and right handed fields are massless and travel at speed c. (So the electron must oscillate back and forth in order to be stationary.) Hestenes also sees zitterbewegung as arising from spin, but in a manner that is a little different from mine. And he also begins with geometric (Clifford) algebra so our models have deep similarities. To see where the differences come about, it’s useful to analyze Hestenes’ mathematics from my (density matrix) point of view.

Hestenes’ model in Density Matrix form

Where Hestenes and I differ is in that while he uses the state vector formalism, for which the geometrization is kind of complicated and a little arbitrary, I use the pure density matrix formalism, which has only one unique and very simple geometrization. For example, in spin-1/2 qubits, the natural density matrix (operator) form for a spin up quantum state is (1+z)/2 where {x,y,z} are the Pauli spin matrices. The quantum state for spin in the -x direction is (1-x)/2, etc.

To review the traditional relationship between pure density operators and state vectors [i.e. where the density operator is defined from the state vector rather than vice versa], let’s discuss the quantum state for spin up. We can write a state vector representation as |a), where the curved bracket is used to prevent WordPress from misinterpreting. This state vector is not unique, but may be multiplied by any complex phase to obtain an equivalent representative, as in exp(+ik) |+z). This is the “ket.” For each such there is also a “bra” which takes the negative phase: exp(-ik) (+z|. The density matrix form is given by the product:
(1+z)/2 = exp(+ik) |+z) exp(-ik) (+z| = |+z)(+z|.

Now the density matrix was very naturally geometrized (written in Clifford algebra with geometric interpretation) as (1+z)/2, but this does not define a unique state vector form. And so, of course, Hestenes’ geometrization of the state vector is also not unique. He must provide information that corresponds to that arbitrary phase. Since he is building a geometric theory, he must provide that information in geometric form.

I’ve been discussing this with the Pauli algebra (or the “Pauli Spin Matrices” if you absolutely have to perform the ugly and unnecessary act of choosing an arbitrary representation for the Pauli algebra), but the differences are general to all Clifford algebras and also apply to the Dirac algebra (i.e. Dirac’s gamma matrices), and I will switch back and forth between the algebras.

In Hestenes’ paper, the arbitrary complex phase is given by equation (34), \gamma_2\gamma_1 . The origin of this arbitrary phase is better described in an earlier Hestenes paper, The Kinematic Origin of Complex Wave Functions, where it is defined on page 3 as follows:

The next step in explicating the geometric structure of the Dirac theory is to reformulate
it in terms of the spacetime algebra. One easy way to do that is to choose a fixed unit
spinor u satisfying the eigenvalue equations
\gamma_0 u = u\;\;\;( 7 )
\gamma_2 \gamma_1 u = iu\;\;\;( 8 )
where i is the usual unit imaginary of the complex field. Equation ( 8 ) is especially signiciant because it relates i to the bivector \gamma_2\gamma_1 , and thus reveals that i has an implicit geometric meaning in the Dirac theory. This meaning can be made explicit by eliminating i from the theory in favor of the geometric quantity \gamma_2\gamma_1 . It is easy to prove that each Dirac spinor \Psi can be written in the form
\Psi = \psi u
where \psi is a unique even element of the real Dirac algebra.

The real Dirac algebra is just the real Clifford algebra on x, y, z, and t. The even elements are the elements of the even subalgebra, that is, the subalgebra whose basis is {1, xy, xz, xt, yz, yt, zt, xyzt}.

Density matrices and the even subalgebra

Why is he talking about the “even subalgebra here?” It seems very arbitrary until you understand how the density operator language treats quantum states. A quantum state is given by a primitive idempotent of the Dirac algebra (which is a Clifford algebra). A complete set of basis elements means four quantum states that form a basis for any quantum state (just as two quantum states, spin up and spin down, form a complete basis set for a Pauli spin-1/2 state). In the density matrix language, these four states could be Q, R, S, and T which are 4×4 matrices that annihilate each other and sum to 1.

One finds complete basis sets for a Clifford algebra by first defining a “complete set of commuting roots of unity.” This means as large a set of operators (that square to 1) that we can put together, provided that they all commute and we don’t include trivial products. For the Dirac algebra, a complete set of commuting roots of unity is {ixy, ixyzt}. In fact, these are the usual set chosen for the usual spinors used in the Dirac equation. Note that they are both elements of the even Dirac algebra.

With this choice of the commuting roots of unity, the four states making up a complete basis set (electron, positron, spin up and spin down) is:
Q = (1+ixy)(1+ixyzt)/4,
R = (1+ixy)(1-ixyzt)/4,
S = (1-ixy)(1+ixyzt)/4,
T = (1-ixy)(1-ixyzt)/4.

More generally, we might want to look at spin in some other direction say w = ax+by+cz where a^2 +b^2 +c^2 = 1 . So “w” is another element of the Dirac algebra, a spatial vector. To get the basis set oriented in that direction, we need to replace the “xy” with something that has to do with u. Working in the +++- signature so that zz = +1, we can write xy = (xyz)(z). Thus for a general direction u, the complete basis set is:
Q = (1+ixyz w)(1+ixyzt)/4,
R = (1+ixyz w)(1-ixyzt)/4,
S = (1-ixyz w)(1+ixyzt)/4,
T = (1-ixyz w)(1-ixyzt)/4.
Note that the above is in the even subalgebra, the same place which Hestenes seems to arbitrarily pick out for \psi . And it should be clear that considering all the possible directions, the above sorts of things cover the even subalgebra. For example, we can write 1=Q+R+S+T, and ixyzt = Q-R+S-T, and ixyzu = Q+R-S-T, and more difficultly, ut = Q-R-S+T. Thus we get the scalar 1, the pseudoscalar ixyzt, an arbitrary spatial bivector ixyzu, and an arbitrary space-time bivector ut is covered by the basis set. This exhausts the even subalgebra’s basis set, {{1}, {ixyzt}, {ixy, iyz, izx}, {xt, yt, zt}} so any even element of the subalgebra can be written as a sum over multiples of the pure density operators given above (which do not mix particle with antiparticle).

The arbitrary spinor u as “fictitious vacuum”

The other part of Hestenes’ Dirac wave function prescription is the fixed spinor u. It’s quite complicated, and the confusion associated with this has generated some interesting literature, see the excellent paper by Baylis, quant-ph/0202060. Hestenes goes through a lot of gymnastics to explain this arbitrary item, but in the context of density matrix formalism and Julian Schwinger’s measurement algebra, its meaning is quite clear. It is a choice of vacuum.

There are two Schwinger papers that define the fictitious vacuum. The first is The Algebra of Microscopic Measurements which is quite short and easy to understand. The vacuum is defined on the second page of the second article, The Geometry of Quantum States. The reader who finds the following discussion impossible to fathom might read Schwinger’s version. The difference is that his is written in a field theory language while I’m writing here in a wave function vernacular.

Spinors Defined using Ficitious Vacuum

Let’s work entirely in the density matrix formalism. We choose a (more or less) arbitrary pure state “V” and call it the quantum vacuum. Given a (pure) density matrix state Q, we define corresponding bras and kets as follows:
|q) = Q V,
(q| = V Q,
providing QV and VQ are nonzero. (If they are zero, then we go back and choose another vacuum. Schwinger covers this case more elegantly, by defining a new state outside of the universe of states, that does not annihilate anything.) Since Q and V are pure density matrices, they satisfy QQ = Q, VV = V, and tr(Q) = tr(V) = 1. We now show that |q) and (q| act just like kets and bras.

As a first step, let’s compute (q|q):
(q|q) =(V Q) (Q V) = VQV.
Now the state V is fully defined by the fact that it has some set of quantum numbers defined by a complete set of operators. As a pure density matrix, it has these quantum numbers double sided, that is, they apply to either side. But the operator VQV has V on both sides and so it will also be an eigenstate for these operators and it will have the same eigenvalues. Therefore, it is a multiple of the eigenstate V. To figure out the multiple, write v = tr(VQV). Then VQV = vV. The reader can see that v must be real because this is just the transition probability between the states V and Q, that is, tr (VQV) = (q|v) (v|q). This tells us how to scale our spinor definition. And it also tells us that in computing scalar products, our answers will be in multiples of the vacuum V.

Now, let M be an arbitrary quantum operator. We wish to compute its expectation value for the state Q. In the density matrix language, this is given by:
m = (M) = tr( Q M ) = tr (Q Q M ) = tr (Q M Q) which must be equal to our (q| M |q) so tr (QMQ) = m, and as before, QMQ = mQ. Using this fact:
(q| M |q) = (VQ) M (QV) = (V Q M Q V)
= (V (QMQ) V) = (V mQ V) = m (VQV) = mv V.
The “v” is just the normalization for our choice of vacuum. That is, (q|q) = v V so we need to divide by v. The result is that (q| M |q) = m, and our definitions of (q| and |q) give the same expectation values as usual.

So the arbitrary “u” that Hestenes’ model of the electron uses corresponds to the arbitrary vacuum choice that Schwinger introduces when he converts his measurement algebra into state vector form. It corresponds to a way of picking an arbitrary geometric phase when converting from density matrix form to a spinor form.


Filed under physics

19 responses to “David Hestenes’ electron model

  1. Pingback: RIOFRIO Crushes CMB Anomalies! « Mass

  2. Doug

    Hi Carl,

    Zitterbewegung is also a “theoretical helical or [nearly] circular motion of elementary particles.

    This is also true of planets orbiting stars; helical with the stars in motion, nearly circular [ellitiptical] when the stars are stationary.

    I have been reading literature in mathematical dynamics. VV Kozlov, Dynamical Systems X: General Theory of Vortices, previewable at Google books, has “mathematical exposition of analogies between classical (Hamiltonian) mechanics, geometrical optics, and hydrodynamics”.

    Dynamics is related to Ergodic Theory.
    As I understand a potential difference, ergodics tends to view the diagonal on a square X x X planar surface; dynamics is more broad and can view the helix [diagonal equivalent] on a SIGMA x C [virtual] cylindrical surface [folded rectangle].

    From my perspective, this may be what Witten and Kasputin are attempting to do in Fig 4, page 89 of Electric-Magnetic Duality And The Geometric Langlands Program. Fig 14, page 130 may also illustrate Zitterbewegung if S is either a proton or star and a helix from C- to C+ is an electron or planet. In the latter case [star-planet], this may be a gravity assist that is faster or with shorter time than attempting to travel in the SIGMA direction alone.

  3. Hi Doug,

    Dynamical systems/Kozlov is a very nice book. On page 4 he asks the question if vorticial motion is Keplerian. He says that Newton considered this question in the Principia (that would be Book 2, section 9 Prop. 51, theorem 39) and then starts to obtain Kepler’s “semicubical” relation. But unfortunately page 5 and 6 are not included in Google preview. And my library does not have this book. Do you know how the derivation proceed?

    This issue must have been very important to Newton since he says in the scholium ending the section, “Therefore, the hypothesis of vortices can in no way be reconciled with astronomical phenomena and serves less to clarify the celestial motions than to obscure them. But how those motions are performed in free spaces without vortices can be understood from book 1 and will now be shown more fully in book 3 on the system of the world.

    Thanks for the reference.

  4. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1,

    My “interlibrary loan” copy of the Kozlov book is due 5/22/08. Perhaps your library also has this service?

    The bottom of page 5 has a discussion of Voltaire, Maupertuis and Clairaut. The bottom of page 6 begins a discussion of Hemholtz and Thomson.

    Returning to the Newton and Bernoulli section discussing Kepler:
    Kozlov proceeds with rho*(v^2/r)=rho’. There is a brief discussion of Huygens to obtain rho=rho[subscript_0]-(rho[ss0]*c^2)/r), rho[ss0]=constant.
    There is then a discussion of negative pressure at small r not present normally; must note curl of velocity field in rotary motion; Newton with Stoke’s clarification v=C[ss1]/r, with C[ss1]=constant; hence liquid has vortex-free motion with multivalued potential. There is then discussion of Newton arguing against Descartes’ theory.

    My clumsy summary does not do Kozlov justice.

  5. Thanks. In your Google preview, you can see pages 5 and 6?

  6. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1,

    No I cannot see p5-6.

    In viewing other books on Google, I have noticed that sometimes different pages are hidden while others are visible. Sometimes it takes 6-12 views to note such inconsistent changes. I do not know if this is the case for the Kozlov book.

  7. Doug,

    So, if you don’t see pages 5 and 6 either how do you know then what’s on pages 5 and 6 🙂

    I find this vortex thing very interesting so I was thinking about it a bit. I don’t know anything about hydrodynamics or rotating fluids so all these may be too obvious to you. I don’t know much about vector calculus either and I don’t like it and I feel that a problem such as this one can be solved by geometric methods used by Newton and Huygens. Even though I didn’t understand what Newton was doing, I thought that he had a nice figure and adding to that figure I came up with this figure

    Then, S/R = R/H

    So it seems that H is proportional to R^2 for a given S and the shape of the depression is a parabola. I think this is the correct experimental shape, right? For instance, they mention here that a “Newtonian” fluid rotating in a bucket will have the shape of a paraboloid of revolution.
    If this is true, then, the shape of the depression is not R = 1.5, as it should, if it were Keplerian. What are your thoughts on this? Also, Kozlov considers the density of the liquid, it appears that, that’s not a consideration.

    Carl, my apologies for off-topic posting. I don’t mind continuing in my blog if that’s ok with Doug.

    Thanks again for mentioning this interesting subject.

  8. carlbrannen

    Pioneer1, your postings here is not at all an imposition in any way.

    Your comment got caught in the spam filter for reasons that are beyond my understanding so I guess you then submitted it three times. I deleted the extra copies. Rock on!

  9. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1,

    I have the actual book in my hands, obtained from the local university library connection through the interlibrary loan program.
    The copy of the book I currently have is from a university about 400 miles from my location.

    Other pages of the book should be viewable.
    Kozlov is a VP of the Russian Academy of Science.

  10. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1 and Carl,

    The curve is most likely related to a parabola. Although it may be a parabola, I suspect that more likely the curve is a Catenary, related to a rolling parabola, related to minimal surfaces and considered a gravity curve.

    Wikipedia has the Kepler problem in GR.
    GOTO section ‘Precession of elliptical orbits’.
    Here there is a diagram on Kepler_GR with this text: “In the non-relativistic Kepler problem, a particle follows the same perfect ellipse (red orbit) eternally. General relativity introduces a third force that attracts the particle slightly more strongly than Newtonian gravity, especially at small radii. This third force causes the particle’s elliptical orbit to precess (cyan orbit) in the direction of its rotation; this effect has been measured in Mercury, Venus and Earth. The yellow dot within the orbits represents the center of attraction, such as the Sun.”

    The problem with this diagram is that the sun is stationary.

    I am limited to 2 “a href” per post in avoiding the spam filter.
    Continued next post.

  11. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1 and Carl, [continued]

    I suspect that this dynamic illustration shows a Kepler orbit when the sun is moving Nonsymmetric velocity time dilation, by Cleonis.
    In GR there would be a more imperfect orbit or wobble.
    Please read the Cleonis description of the GIF: “Schematic representation of asymmetric velocity time dilation. The animation represents motion as mapped in a Minkowski space-time diagram, with two dimensions of space, (the horizontal plane) and position in time vertically. The circles represent clocks, counting lapse of proper time. The Minkowski coordinate system is co-moving with the non-accelerating clock.”

    Comments on other sources:

    CarlB should be able to direct you to David Hestenes, Geometric Calculus Research and Development.
    “Geometric Calculus is a mathematical language for expressing and elaborating geometric concepts”, expanded from Geometric Algebra.

    Carl has a link to Terence Tao, Fields Medal 2006. See his 18 lectures on Ergodic Theory.

    Another text previewable on Google is Boris Hasselblatt, Anatole Katok, A First Course in Dynamics: With a Panorama of Recent Developments.

    Also see AMS 2000 Mathematical Subject Classification.
    Item 37-xx is Dynamical systems and ergodic theory, which I suspect unifies Hestenes, Kozlov, Tao, Borcherds, Witten, Penrose and other types of string theories with curled-up dimensions as well as cellular automata of Wolfram.
    I interpret Kozlov as ergodic theory on a [virtual] cylindrical surface using vortex vectors as solenoids.

    I think I have found a link between physics and economics Pareto distribution.
    Economist Vilfredo Pareto in about 1906 developed the Pareto principle [80-20] later expanded to Pareto distribution, a probability density function.
    Mathematician John Nash developed Noncooperative Game Theory [NCGT] with Equilibria using Pareto optimality as one of four criteria.
    NCGT is employed in economics, engineering, biology and social sciences.
    Imagine my surprise when I read “… as k -> oo the distribution approaches … the Dirac delta function”.
    There is a demonstration graph for k=1,2,3,oo.
    The Dirac delta is related to the Kronecker delta.

    One responder talked about Kirill Ilinski, Physics of Finance: Gauge Modelling in Non-Equilibrium Pricing, previewable on Google.
    The last section discusses Ito Calculus which can be found on Wikipedia.
    Ito received the inagural Gauss Prize in 2006.
    Ito moved Brownian motion beyond the randomness of Einstein into probability, including certain kinds of discontinuities called càdlàg functions.

  12. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1 and Carl,

    The Ilinski book is on Google, but pages are not previewable.
    On Amazon the “search inside” feature is available for the table of contents and a few pages for the nonsubscriber.

  13. Hi Doug,

    Thanks for the references. I looked at it a bit more and I believe that catenary may not be the correct form of the cross-section of the vortex depression. I think that the stationary surface area must be conserved. As the rotation increases the rotating surface of water decreases but its speed increases. The highest level is a thin ring rotating the fastest. Then wider and wider lower layers rotating slower and slower and ultimately the bottom-most layer that stays stationary. If we assume this simplistic model, catenary doesn’t seem to fit, because R = cosh w is 1 for R = 0 (w is the rotation per unit time) and the lowest level will not be stationary. In parabola when R = 0, w = 0. I think this also fits if I write the inverse of Kepler’s rule as R^1.5 = w. In this case, the outer orbit rotates the fastest and again when R = 0, w = 0.

    I don’t know how to differentiate between the parabola and the Kepler-bola (is there a name for R^1.5 curve?) I also assume that the original water level would stay at the mean of the parabola or R^1.5 but I could not find a difference.

    This is a great picture showing rotating water in a sphere. The shape seems to include a spiral component too!

  14. Here’s the link to picture, I hope:
    rotating water picture

  15. Pingback: Rotating bucket experiment at Freedom of Science

  16. Doug

    Hi Pioneer1,

    There is a possibility that you are correct.

    However, this 2001 paper Clanet and Quere, Onset of Menisci from J Fluid Mechanics 2002, v460, pp131-149 suggests a mathematical link between the meniscus and catenary beginning on p132. There are additional equations on p141.

    MathWorld has a page on the Superellipse demonstrating m-fold rotational symmetry that is probably related to the rotating bucket.

  17. Do you think the same shape will hold in rotational case as well?

  18. Pingback: Rotating bucket experiment « Science

  19. Gentlemen:

    The electron is a very simple beast, or at least insofar as the source of its magnetic moment, its mass, and even its angular momentum.

    The calculations are each done in three simple equations.

    It is described in Section 1 of http://www.tachyonmodel.com. ( Yep! That’s my web page. ) Feel free to shoot it down, if you wish!

    I also think you will find the Yukawa-like deuteron model (Section 2.2) that uses the same methodology as the electron model. Its calculated binding energy is 2.444, just slightly more than the experimental value.

    However, the most telling model, insofar as the validity of this model is concerned, is a meson model provided in Sections 3.1 – 3.3. It provides the masses of the psi mesons to within 4.7 %.

    Ernst Wall

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