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NPTEL Physics Mathematical Physics - 1

Module 4
Dirac Delta function
Lecture 21
P. A. M. Dirac (1920-1984) made very significant contribution to quantum theory
of radiation and relativistic quantum mechanics. The quantum statistics for the
fermions is also associated with his name.
The function that we are interested in describing in this chapter is an important one
in the context of quantum mechanics and electrodynamics in particular, but is
generally found in all areas of physics - namely, the Dirac delta function. For
example, the concept of an impulse appears in many physical situations; that is, a
large force acts on a system for a very short interval of time. Such an impulse can
appropriately
be
denoted
by
a
Dirac
delta
()
function.
In one dimension the - function has the following properties ( ) = =
( ) =
1. a) (x-a) =0 for xa
And

b) ( ) = 1
- function can be visualized as the Gaussian that becomes narrower and narrower,
but at the same time becomes higher and higher, in such a way that the area
enclosed by the curve remains constant. From the above definition, it is evident
that for an arbitrary function f(x),

2. ()( ) = ()

The above property can be interpreted as follows.

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NPTEL Physics Mathematical Physics - 1

The convolution of the arbitrary function and the - function when integrated
yields the value of the arbitrary function computed at the point of singularity. Thus
- function is, even though, sharply peaked, but still is a well behaved function.
Further properties of the function are

3. () ( ) = ()
where the prime denotes differentiation with respect to the argument.
If the - function has an argument which is a function f(x) of an independent
variable x, it can be transformed according to the rule,
4. [()] =

1
( )
|
|

( )

where f(x) is assumed to have simple' zeros at x = xi


In more than one dimension,
5. ( 0 ) = ( 0 )( 0 )( 0 )
And for the integral,
0

6. (
0 ) 3 = {

1
0

If v includes

=
0

If v does not includes

=
0

} where v = d r
3

Other properties of the function are:


7. () = () :: Symmetric with respect to change in the argument.
8. () = - (): The derivative is antisymmetric
9. x() = 0
10. () = ()
1

11. () = () > 0

These latter relations can be verified by multiplying it with a continuous


differentiable function, followed by an integration. Say, we want to prove property
number 9.
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NPTEL Physics Mathematical Physics - 1

Let () be a continuous differentiable function,


() () = 0

(1)

Since () is arbitrary,
() = 0

(2)

To prove property number 10 consider the relation,


()() = (0)()

(3)

Differentiating (3)
()() + () () = (0) ()
Thus,
() () = (0) () () ()
In the special case, when () = ;

(4)
we get,

() = ()
Rest of the relations are also straightforward to prove.
Further properties of the - function are as follows12. ( 2 2 ) =

1
2

[( ) + ( + )]:

a>0

13. () = (0) () : already used.


14. () = ()
1 >0
Where () = {
}
0 <0

(x) is called Heaviside step function.

15. ( ) ( ) = ( )

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