Physica Scripta

The geometry of quantum chaos

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The simplest chaotic Hamiltonian systems arise in geometry: A point particle moving freely on a 2 or 3 dimensional manifold of constant negative curvature. There is tremendous variety representing both bound state and scattering situations, quite in contrast to the non-chaotic motion on surfaces of constant positive curvature. The classical mechanics has been studied for almost a century and reduces to an enumeration and description of geodesic lines which in turn are closely connected with the topology of the manifold. Physics enters only in a trivial manner since everything can be scaled with the (kinetc) energy of the particle. In the quantum mechanics of these motions, however, the energy is the essential parameter, and one can ask how the two mechanics are related to each other. Quite surprisingly, Feynman’s path integral gives the same answer as its classical approximation, just as in the harmonic oscillator. In 3 dimensions, this result holds for the propagator itself, while in 2 dimensions it is true only for the trace and yields Selberg’s trace formula. A few striking examples of constant negative curvature spaces will be shown. Thus, quantum chaos can be understood in terms of classical chaos in spite of their qualitatively different features: fractal for the latter, smooth for the former. © 1985 IOP Publishing Ltd.


19 Feb 2007


Physica Scripta