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Phase space

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  • We construct a Cartesian space in which each of the \(6N\) coordinates and momenta is assigned to one of \(6N\) mutually orthogonal axes. Phase space is, therefore, a \(6N\) dimensional space. A point in this space is specified by giving a particular set of values for the \(6N\) coordinates and momenta. Denote such a point by

    \[ x = (p_1, \cdots , p_N, r_1, \cdots , r_N )\]

    \(x\) is a \(6N\) dimensional vector. Thus, the time evolution or trajectory of a system as specified by Hamilton's equations of motion, can be expressed by giving the phase space vector, \(x\) as a function of time.


    Figure: Evolution of an ensemble of classical systems in phase space (top). The systems are a massive particle in a one-dimensional potential well (red curve, lower figure). The initially compact ensemble becomes swirled up over time.

    The law of conservation of energy, expressed as a condition on the phase space vector:

    \[ H(x(t)) = \text {const} = E \]

    defines a \(6N - 1\) dimensional hypersurface in phase space on which the trajectory must remain.

    Contributors and Attributions

    Mark Tuckerman (New York University)