Relativistic angular momentum

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Main article: angular momentum
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In physics, relativistic angular momentum refers to the mathematical formalisms and physical concepts that define angular momentum in special relativity (SR) and general relativity (GR). The relativistic quantity is subtly different from the three-dimensional quantity in classical mechanics.

Angular momentum is a dynamical quantity derived from position and momentum, and is important; angular momentum is a measure of an object's "amount of rotational motion" and resistance to stop rotating. Also, in the same way momentum conservation corresponds to translational symmetry, angular momentum conservation corresponds to rotational symmetry – the connection between symmetries and conservation laws is made by Noether's theorem. While these concepts were originally discovered in classical mechanics – they are also true and significant in special and general relativity. In terms of abstract algebra; the invariance of angular momentum, four-momentum, and other symmetries in spacetime, are described by the Poincaré group and Lorentz group.

Physical quantities which remain separate in classical physics are naturally combined in SR and GR by enforcing the postulates of relativity, an appealing characteristic. Most notably; space and time coordinates combine into the four-position, and energy and momentum combine into the four-momentum. These four-vectors depend on the frame of reference used, and change under Lorentz transformations to other inertial frames or accelerated frames.

Relativistic angular momentum is less obvious. The classical definition of angular momentum is the cross product of position x with momentum p to obtain a pseudovector x×p, or alternatively as the exterior product to obtain a second order antisymmetric tensor xp. What does this combine with, if anything? There is another vector quantity not often discussed – it is the time-varying moment of mass (not the moment of inertia) related to the boost of the centre of mass of the system, and this combines with the classical angular momentum to form an antisymmetric tensor of second order. For rotating mass–energy distributions (such as gyroscopes, planets, stars, and black holes) instead of point-like particles, the angular momentum tensor is expressed in terms of the stress–energy tensor of the rotating object.

In special relativity alone, in the rest frame of a spinning object; there is an intrinsic angular momentum analogous to the "spin" in quantum mechanics and relativistic quantum mechanics, although for an extended body rather than a point particle. In relativistic quantum mechanics, elementary particles have spin and this is an additional contribution to the orbital angular momentum operator, yielding the total angular momentum tensor operator. In any case, the intrinsic "spin" addition to the orbital angular momentum of an object can be expressed in terms of the Pauli–Lubanski pseudovector.[1]

Special relativity[edit]

The 3-angular momentum as a bivector (plane element) and axial vector, of a particle of mass m with instantaneous 3-position x and 3-momentum p.

Orbital 3d angular momentum[edit]

The classical definition of angular momentum can be used in SR and GR, but this needs some consideration, as outlined below.

Cross product definition: pseudovector[edit]

In classical mechanics, the orbital angular momentum of a particle with instantaneous three-dimensional position vector x = (x1, x2, x3) = (x, y, z) and momentum vector p = (p1, p2, p3) = (px, py, pz), is defined as the axial vector

\mathbf{L} = \mathbf{x}\times \mathbf{p}

which has three components:

L_3 = x_1 p_2 - x_2 p_1
L_1 = x_2 p_3 - x_3 p_2
L_2 = x_3 p_1 - x_1 p_3\,.

This quantity is additive, and for an isolated system, the total angular momentum of a system is conserved. However, this definition can be used in three dimensions only – considering that the cross product in the definition defines an axial vector perpendicular to the plane spanned by x and p. In four dimensions, there is not one axis uniquely perpendicular to a two-dimensional plane, but two such axes, allowed by the additional dimension.

Exterior product definition: antisymmetric tensor[edit]

An alternative definition is to conceive orbital angular momentum as a plane element. This can be achieved by replacing the cross product by the exterior product in the language of exterior algebra, and angular momentum becomes a contravariant second order antisymmetric tensor:[2]


with components

L^{ij} = x^i p^j - x^j p^i = 2 x^{[i} p^{j]}

where the indices i and j take the values 1, 2, 3. The components can be systematically collected into a 3 × 3 antisymmetric matrix:

\mathbf{L} & = \begin{pmatrix}
L^{11} & L^{12} & L^{13} \\
L^{21} & L^{22} & L^{23} \\
L^{31} & L^{32} & L^{33} \\
\end{pmatrix} = \begin{pmatrix}
0 & L_{xy} & L_{xz} \\
L_{yx} & 0 & L_{yz} \\
L_{zx} & L_{zy} & 0
\end{pmatrix} = \begin{pmatrix}
0 & L_{xy} & -L_{zx} \\
-L_{xy} & 0 & L_{yz} \\
L_{zx} & -L_{yz} & 0
\end{pmatrix} \\
& =\begin{pmatrix}
0 & xp_y - yp_x & -(zp_x - xp_z) \\
-(xp_y - yp_x) & 0 & yp_z - zp_y \\
zp_x - xp_z & -(yp_z - zp_y) & 0

Outer product definition: bivector[edit]

A very similar definition is also used in geometric algebra to define angular momentum as a bivector:


although in this context the product ∧ is the outer product of geometric algebra, which happens to have the same symbol and properties as the exterior product in standard exterior algebra.[3]

Dynamic mass moment[edit]

Additionally in classical mechanics, the three-dimensional quantity for a particle of mass m moving with velocity u:[2][4]

\mathbf{N} = m \left( \mathbf{x} - t \mathbf{u} \right) = m \mathbf{x} - t \mathbf{p}

has the dimensions of mass moment – length multiplied by mass. It is related to the boost (relative velocity) of the centre of mass (COM) of the particle or system of particles, as measured in the lab frame. There is no universal symbol, nor even a universal name, for this quantity – different authors denote it by various other symbols (for example μ), may designate other names, and may define N to be the negative of what is used here – the above form has the advantage that it resembles the familiar Galilean transformation for position, which in turn is the non-relativistic boost transformation between inertial frames. This vector is also additive: for a system of particles, the vector sum is the resultant:

\sum_n \mathbf{N}_n = \sum_n m_n \left(\mathbf{x}_n - t \mathbf{u}_n \right) = \left(\mathbf{x}_\mathrm{com}\sum_n m_n - t \sum_n m_n \mathbf{u}_n \right)

where the system's centre of mass is:

\mathbf{x}_\mathrm{com} = \frac{\sum_n m_n\mathbf{x}_n}{\sum_n m_n}

For an isolated system, N is conserved in time, apparent by differentiating with respect to time. Unlike L, N is a (polar) vector, not a pseudovector, and is therefore invariant under rotations.

The resultant Ntotal for a multiparticle system has the physical visualization that, whatever the complicated motion of all the particles are, they move in such a way that the system's COM moves in a straight line. This doesn't necessarily mean all particles "follow" the COM, nor that all particles all move in almost the same direction simultaneously, just that the motion of each particle is coupled with respect to the COM.

In special relativity, if the particle moves with velocity v relative to the lab frame, then

E = \gamma(\mathbf{v})m_0c^2, \quad \mathbf{p}=\gamma(\mathbf{v})m_0\mathbf{v}

where γ is the Lorentz factor and m0 the rest mass of the particle. Some authors use relativistic mass or proper velocity:

m = \gamma(\mathbf{v})m_0, \quad \mathbf{u}=\gamma(\mathbf{v})\mathbf{v}

The corresponding relativistic mass moment in terms of m0, m, v, p, E, in the same lab frame is:

\mathbf{N} = m\mathbf{x} - \mathbf{p}t = \frac{E}{c^2}\mathbf{x} - \mathbf{p}t = \gamma(\mathbf{v})m_0(\mathbf{x} - \mathbf{v}t)

defined here so that the relativistic equation in terms of the relativistic mass, and classical definition, have the same form. The relativistic mass simplifies the expressions in this context as it removes extra Lorentz factors. However relativistic mass is discouraged by some authors since it can be a misleading quantity to apply in certain equations. In the following, N is expressed in terms of the rest and relativistic masses.

Intertwine of L and N: Lorentz transformations[edit]

Consider the Lorentz boost in standard setup with velocity V = (V, 0, 0) in the direction of the coincident xx′ axes. The mass–energy E = mc2 and momentum components p = (px, py, pz) of an object, as well as position coordinates x = (x, y, z) and time t in frame F are transformed to E′ = mc2, p′ = (px′, py′, pz′), x′ = (x′, y′, z′), and t′ in F′ according to:

t' = \gamma(V) \left(t -\frac{Vx}{c^2}\right)\,,\quad E' = \gamma(V) \left(E - Vp_x \right)
x' = \gamma(V) (x - Vt)\,,\quad p_x' = \gamma(V) \left(p_x - \frac{VE}{c^2}\right)
y' = y \,,\quad p_y' = p_y
z' = z \,,\quad p_z' = p_z

The velocity V here is the relative velocity between the frames, not necessarily of the object relative to F: i.e. neither F nor F′ is the rest frame of the object.

For the orbital 3-angular momentum L as a pseudovector, we have:

L_x' = y' p_z' - z' p_y' = y p_z - z p_y = L_x
L_y' = z' p_x' - x' p_z' = \gamma(V)[ (zp_x - x p_z) + V(p_z t - z E/c^2) ] = \gamma(V) [ L_y - V (m z - p_z t) ]
L_z' = x' p_y' - y' p_x' = \gamma(V) [ (xp_y - y p_x) + V(y E/c^2 - p_y t) ] = \gamma(V) [L_z + V (m y - p_y t) ]


N_x = mx - p_xt = \gamma(u)m_0(x - u_x t)
N_y = my - p_yt = \gamma(u)m_0(y - u_y t)
N_z = mz - p_zt = \gamma(u)m_0(z - u_z t)

In the second terms of Ly′ and Lz′, there are cyclic permutations in the components of V and N', that are entirely in the y and z directions perpendicular to v in the x direction, and hence no components actually in the x direction. The cross product of the vectors V and N can be inferred:

 - V (m z - p_z t) = V_z N_x - V_x N_z = \left(\mathbf{V}\times\mathbf{N}\right)_y
 V (m y - p_y t) = V_x N_y - V_y N_x = \left(\mathbf{V}\times\mathbf{N}\right)_z

Since Lx is parallel to the relative velocity V, and the other components Ly and Lz are perpendicular to V, we can collect the components into the pseudovector equations:

\mathbf{L}_\parallel' = \mathbf{L}_\parallel
\mathbf{L}_\perp' = \gamma(\mathbf{V})\left(\mathbf{L}_\perp + \mathbf{V} \times \mathbf{N} \right)

using the decomposition of 3-angular momentum in each frame into components parallel and perpendicular to V, respectively subscripted by ∥ and ⊥:

\mathbf{L} = \mathbf{L}_\parallel + \mathbf{L}_\perp \,,\quad \mathbf{L}' = \mathbf{L}_\parallel' + \mathbf{L}_\perp'\,.

These transformations are true for all V, not just for motion along the xx′ axes.

Considering L as a tensor, we get a similar result:

\mathbf{L}_\perp' = \gamma(\mathbf{V})\left(\mathbf{L}_\perp + \mathbf{V} \wedge \mathbf{N} \right)

where the exterior product term has the factor of two for the antisymmetrization of position and momentum components:

 -V (m z - p_z t) = V_z N_x - V_x N_z = \left(\mathbf{V}\wedge\mathbf{N}\right)_{zx}
 V (m y - p_y t) = V_x N_y - V_y N_x = \left(\mathbf{V}\wedge\mathbf{N}\right)_{xy}

Due to length contraction in the plane perpendicular to L, the component of L parallel to the Lorentz boost remains unaffected, while the components of L perpendicular to the boost include an angular momentum contribution V × N from the relative motion and are "warped" by the Lorentz factor γ(V).

For the dynamic mass moment:

N_x' = m' x' - p_x' t' = \gamma(V)\left(m-\frac{V p_x}{c^2}\right)\gamma(V)(x - vt) - \gamma(V)\left(p_x - \frac{VE}{c^2}\right) \gamma(V)\left(t - \frac{Vx}{c^2}\right) = N_x
N_y' = m' y' - p_y' t' = \gamma(V)\left(m-\frac{V p_x}{c^2}\right)y - p_y \gamma(V)\left(t-\frac{Vx}{c^2}\right) = \gamma(V)\left(N_y + \frac{V L_z}{c^2}\right)
N_z' = m' z' - p_z' t' = \gamma(V)\left(m-\frac{V p_x}{c^2}\right)z - p_z \gamma(V)\left(t-\frac{Vx}{c^2}\right) = \gamma(V)\left(N_z - \frac{V L_y}{c^2}\right)

and collecting parallel and perpendicular components as before:

\mathbf{N}_\parallel' = \mathbf{N}_\parallel
\mathbf{N}_\perp' = \gamma(\mathbf{V})\left(\mathbf{N}_\perp - \frac{1}{c^2}\mathbf{V}\times\mathbf{L}\right)

as before, the mass moment in the direction perpendicular to the boost gains a contribution due to the motion of the COM under a Lorentz boost and warps by the Lorentz factor γ(V), while in the direction parallel to the boost it remains the same.

4d Angular momentum as a bivector[edit]

In relativistic mechanics, the COM boost and orbital 3-angular momentum of a rotating object are combined into a four-dimensional bivector in terms of the 4-position X and the 4-momentum P of the object:[5][6]

\mathbf{M} = \mathbf{X}\wedge\mathbf{P}

In components:

M^{\alpha\beta} = X^\alpha P^\beta - X^\beta P^\alpha = 2 X^{[\alpha} P^{\beta]}

which are six independent quantities altogether. Since X and P are frame-dependent, so is M. Three components:

M^{ij} = x^i p^j - x^j p^i = L^{ij}

are the components of the familiar classical 3-orbital angular momentum, and the other three:

M^{0i} = x^0 p^i - x^i p^0 = c\,\left(t p^i - x^i \frac{E}{c^2} \right) = c\,\left(t p^i - m x^i \right) = \gamma(u)m_0 c\,\left(t u^i - x^i \right) =  - c N^i

correspond to the relativistic mass moment given above, multiplied by −c. The components of the tensor can be systematically displayed as a matrix:

\mathbf{M} & = \begin{pmatrix}
M^{00} & M^{01} & M^{02} & M^{03} \\
M^{10} & M^{11} & M^{12} & M^{13} \\
M^{20} & M^{21} & M^{22} & M^{23} \\
M^{30} & M^{31} & M^{32} & M^{33} 
\end{pmatrix} \\
 & = \left(\begin{array}{c|ccc} 0 & - N^1 c & - N^2 c & - N^3 c \\
 N^1 c & 0 & L^{12} & -L^{31} \\
 N^2 c & -L^{12} & 0 & L^{23} \\
 N^3 c & L^{31} & -L^{23} & 0 
\end{array}\right) \\
 & = \left(\begin{array}{c|c} 0 & - \mathbf{N} c \\
\mathbf{N}^\mathrm{T} c & \mathbf{x}\wedge\mathbf{p} \\

in which the last array is a block matrix formed by treating N as a row vector which matrix transposes to the column vector NT, and xp as a 3 × 3 antisymmetric matrix.

The components of the angular momentum pseudovector enter the angular momentum tensor in the same way as if it were a 3d bivector.

Again, this tensor is additive: the total angular momentum of a system is the sum of the angular momentum tensors for each constituent of the system:

\mathbf{M}_\mathrm{total} = \sum_n \mathbf{M}_n = \sum_n \mathbf{X}_n \wedge \mathbf{P}_n  \,.

Each of the six components forms a conserved quantity when aggregated with the corresponding components for other objects and fields.

Lorentz transformation[edit]

The angular momentum tensor M is indeed a tensor which changes according to a Lorentz transformation matrix Λ, as illustrated in the usual way by tensor index notation:

{\bar{M}}^{\alpha\beta} & = {\bar{X}}^\alpha {\bar{P}}^\beta - {\bar{X}}^\beta {\bar{P}}^\alpha \\
& = \Lambda^\alpha {}_\gamma X^\gamma \Lambda^\beta {}_\delta P^\delta - \Lambda^\beta {}_\delta X^\delta \Lambda^\alpha {}_\gamma P^\gamma \\
& = \Lambda^\alpha {}_\gamma \Lambda^\beta {}_\delta  \left( X^\gamma P^\delta - X^\delta P^\gamma \right) \\
& = \Lambda^\alpha {}_\gamma \Lambda^\beta {}_\delta  M^{\gamma \delta}  \\

In fact, one can Lorentz-transform the four position and four momentum separately, and then antisymmetrize those newly found components to obtain the angular momentum tensor in the new frame.

Rigid body rotation[edit]

For a rotating rigid body rotating with an angular velocity ω (a pseudovector), the tangential velocity at a point x is:

\mathbf{v} = \boldsymbol{\omega}\times\mathbf{x}

and cannot exceed a magnitude of c, since in SR the translational velocity of any massive object cannot exceed the speed of light c. Mathematically this translates to:

0 \leq |\mathbf{v}| = |\boldsymbol{\omega}\times\mathbf{x}| < c

The maximum angular velocity of any massive object therefore depends on the size of the object. The angular velocity (pseudovector) is related to the angular momentum (pseudovector) through the moment of inertia tensor I:

\mathbf{L} = \mathbf{I}\cdot\boldsymbol{\omega} \quad \rightleftharpoons \quad L_i = I_{ij} \omega_j

(the dot · denotes tensor contraction on one index). The relativistic angular momentum is also limited by the size of the object.

Spin, orbital, and total angular momentum in special relativity[edit]


The following is a summary from MTW.[7] Throughout for simplicity, Cartesian coordinates are assumed.

The total angular momentum density about the position 4-vector Yβ (an event), in terms of the stress–energy tensor Tβγ (a second order tensor field depending on space and time) and the position 4-vector Xα, is given by a 3rd order tensor:

\mathcal{J}^{\alpha\beta\gamma} = (X^\alpha - Y^\alpha )T^{\beta\gamma} - (X^\beta - Y^\beta )T^{\alpha\gamma}

Note it is antisymmetric in α and β. The integral over a 3d spacetime hypersurface denoted by \partial \mathcal{V}, a boundary (indicated by the ∂ symbol) of a region of 4d spacetime \mathcal{V}, yields the total angular momentum tensor:

J^{\alpha\beta} = \oint_{\partial \mathcal{V}} \mathcal{J}^{\alpha\beta\gamma} d^3 \Sigma_\gamma

where Σγ is the volume 1-form, analogous to a normal unit vector on a 2d surface in ordinary 3d Euclidean space. The integral within a spacelike surface of constant time is:

J^{\alpha\beta} = \oint_{\partial \mathcal{V}} \mathcal{J}^{\alpha\beta 0} d^3 \Sigma_0 = \oint_{\partial \mathcal{V}} [(X^\alpha - Y^\alpha )T^{\beta 0} - (X^\beta - Y^\beta )T^{\alpha 0}] dxdydz

which has spacelike components Jij that collect together into the spatial part of the angular momentum tensor, since Tj0 for j = 1, 2, 3 is the jth component of the object's 3d momentum per unit volume.

Angular momentum conservation[edit]

The conservation of energy–momentum is given in differential form by the continuity equation:

 \partial_\gamma T^{\beta\gamma} = 0

where ∂γ is the four gradient. (In non-Cartesian coordinates and general relativity this would be replaced by the covariant derivative). Then, angular momentum conservation is given by another continuity equation:

 \partial_\gamma \mathcal{J}^{\alpha\beta\gamma} = 0

The integral equations use Gauss' theorem in spacetime:

 \int_\mathcal{V} \partial_\gamma T^{\beta\gamma} \, c dt \, dx \, dy \, dz = \oint_{\partial \mathcal{V}} T^{\beta\gamma} d^3 \Sigma_\gamma = 0
 \int_\mathcal{V} \partial_\gamma \mathcal{J}^{\alpha\beta\gamma} \, c dt \, dx \, dy \, dz = \oint_{\partial \mathcal{V}} \mathcal{J}^{\alpha\beta\gamma} d^3 \Sigma_\gamma = 0

Intrinsic angular momentum[edit]

In the rest frame of the object, the 4-momentum reduces to:

\mathbf{P}=(m_0 c,0,0,0)

where m0 is the rest mass of the object, and since T00 is the energy density of the object, its center of mass is given by:

X^i_\text{com} = \frac{1}{m_0} \int_{\partial \mathcal{V}} X^i T^{00} dxdydz

where the integrals are over a purely spacelike 3d hypersurface. There is an intrinsic angular momentum in this frame, in other words, the angular momentum about any event

\mathbf{X}_\text{com} = (Y^0, X^1_\text{com}, X^2_\text{com}, X^3_\text{com})

on the wordline of the object's center of mass. Applying the above definition, these components are denoted by Sαβ for "intrinsic spin" by analogy with spin in quantum mechanics, and are:

S^{0j} = 0\,, \quad S^{jk} = \epsilon^{jk\ell}S^\ell \,,\quad S^\ell = \int_{\partial \mathcal{V}} \epsilon^{\ell mn}(x^m - x^m_\text{com}) T^{0n} dxdydz

in which Sjk form the spacelike components of the spin tensor and Sl form the spacelike components of the intrinsic angular momentum pseudovector, recalling that T0n is the nth component of momentum of the object per unit volume. The entries of the spacelike spin tensor can be arranged into a matrix:

\mathbf{S}= \begin{pmatrix}
S^{11} & S^{12} & S^{13} \\
S^{21} & S^{22} & S^{23} \\
S^{31} & S^{32} & S^{33} \\
\end{pmatrix} = \begin{pmatrix}
0 & S_{xy} & S_{xz} \\
S_{yx} & 0 & S_{yz} \\
S_{zx} & S_{zy} & 0
\end{pmatrix} = \begin{pmatrix}
0 & S_{xy} & -S_{zx} \\
-S_{xy} & 0 & S_{yz} \\
S_{zx} & -S_{yz} & 0
 S_z = S_{xy} =\int_{\partial \mathcal{V}} [(x - x_\text{com}) T^{0y} - (y - y_\text{com}) T^{0x} ]dxdydz
 S_x = S_{yz} =\int_{\partial \mathcal{V}} [(y - y_\text{com}) T^{0z} - (z - z_\text{com}) T^{0y} ]dxdydz
 S_y = S_{zx} = \int_{\partial \mathcal{V}} [(z - z_\text{com}) T^{0x} - (x - x_\text{com}) T^{0z} ]dxdydz

Collecting these components into a 4-vector with a zero timelike component S0 = 0 and spacelike components are (S1, S2, S3), the above equations form part of:

S^{\rho\sigma} = \varepsilon^{\mu\nu \rho\sigma} U_\mu S_\nu

in which the 4-momentum Pν of the center of mass related to the 4-velocity of the center of mass Uν according to the usual definition:

P_\nu = m_0 U_\mu

and the spin pseudovector is orthogonal to Sα:

U_\alpha S^\alpha = P_\alpha S^\alpha = 0

Spin–orbital decomposition[edit]

For some displacement 4-vector (XαYα) orthogonal to the 4-momentum,

 (X_\alpha - Y_\alpha) P^\alpha = 0

the total angular momentum tensor Jμν about the event Yα:

J^{\mu\nu} = M^{\mu\nu} + S^{\mu\nu}

is the sum of the orbital angular momentum tensor as introduced earlier, with (XαYα) replacing Xα:

M^{\mu\nu} = (X^\mu - Y^\mu) P^\nu - (X^\nu - Y^\nu) P^\mu

and the spin tensor determined previously. Contracting Jμν with Pν on ν leads to:

X^\mu - Y^\mu = \frac{1}{m_0^2} P_\nu J^{\mu\nu}

and contracting Jμν with Uλελμνρ on μν yields:

S_\rho = \frac{1}{2}\varepsilon_{\lambda\mu\nu\rho} U^\lambda J^{\mu\nu} ,

which is the Pauli-Lubanski pseudovector.

Torque in special relativity[edit]

The torque acting on a point-like particle is defined as the derivative of the angular momentum tensor given above with respect to proper time:[8][9]

\boldsymbol{\Gamma} = \frac{d \mathbf{M}}{d\tau} = \mathbf{X}\wedge \mathbf{F}

or in tensor components:

\Gamma_{\alpha\beta} = X_\alpha F_\beta - X_\beta F_\alpha

where F is the 4d force acting on the particle at the event X. As with angular momentum, torque is additive, so for an extended object one sums or integrates over the distribution of mass.

Angular momentum in general relativity[edit]

The angular momentum of test particles in a gently curved background is more complicated in GR but can be generalized in a straightforward manner. If the Lagrangian is expressed with respect to angular variables as the generalized coordinates, then the angular momenta are the functional derivatives of the Lagrangian with respect to the angular velocities. Referred to Cartesian coordinates, these are typically given by the off-diagonal shear terms of the spacelike part of the stress–energy tensor. If the spacetime supports a Killing vector field tangent to a circle, then the angular momentum about the axis is conserved.

One also wishes to study the effect of a compact, rotating mass on its surrounding spacetime. The prototype solution is of the Kerr metric, which describes the spacetime around an axially symmetric black hole. It is obviously impossible to draw a point on the event horizon of a Kerr black hole and watch it circle around. However, the solution does support a constant of the system that acts mathematically similar to an angular momentum.

Angular momentum as the generator of spacetime boosts and rotations[edit]

Throughout this section, see (for example) and E. Abers (2004),[10] B.R. Durney (2011),[11] and H.L. Berk et al.[12] and references therein.

The angular momentum tensor is the generator of boosts and rotations in spacetime, in the Lorentz group. Lorentz transformations can be parametrized by rapidity φ for a boost in the direction of a three-dimensional unit vector \hat{\mathbf{a}}, and a rotation angle θ about a three-dimensional unit vector \hat{\mathbf{n}} defining an axis, so \varphi\hat{\mathbf{a}} = \varphi(a_1, a_2, a_3) and \theta\hat{\mathbf{n}} = \theta(n_1, n_2, n_3) are together six parameters of the Lorentz group (three for rotations and three for boosts). The Lorentz group is 6-dimensional.

The boost generators K and rotation generators J can be combined into one generator for Lorentz transformations; M the antisymmetric angular momentum tensor, with components:

M^{0a} = -M^{a0} = K_a \,,\quad M^{ab} = \varepsilon_{abc} J_c \,.

and correspondingly, the boost and rotation parameters are collected into another antisymmetric four-dimensional matrix ω, with entries:

\omega_{0a} = - \omega_{a0} = \varphi a_a \,,\quad \omega_{ab} = \theta \varepsilon_{abc} n_c \,,

The general Lorentz transformation (summation over repeated matrix indices α and β) is then given by the Matrix exponential:

\Lambda(\varphi,\hat{\mathbf{a}}, \theta,\hat{\mathbf{n}}) = \exp\left(-\frac{i}{4}\omega_{\alpha\beta}M^{\alpha\beta}\right) = \exp \left[-\frac{i}{2}\left(\varphi \hat{\mathbf{a}} \cdot \mathbf{K} + \theta \hat{\mathbf{n}} \cdot \mathbf{J}\right)\right]

The Λ matrices act on any four vector A = (A0, A1, A2, A3) and mix the time-like and the space-like components, according to:

\mathbf{A}' = \Lambda(\varphi,\hat{\mathbf{a}}, \theta,\hat{\mathbf{n}}) \mathbf{A}

The angular momentum tensor forms 6 of the 10 generators of the Poincaré group, the other four being the components of the four-momentum for spacetime translations.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ D.S.A. Freed, K.K.A. Uhlenbeck. Geometry and quantum field theory (2nd ed.). Institute For Advanced Study (Princeton, N.J.): American Mathematical Society. ISBN 0-821-886-835. 
  2. ^ a b R. Penrose (2005). The Road to Reality. Vintage books. p. 433. ISBN 978-00994-40680.  Penrose includes a factor of 2 in the wedge product, other authors may also.
  3. ^ D. Hestenes (1999). New Foundations for Classical Mechanics. Fundamental Theories of Physics 99 (2nd ed.). Springer. ISBN 0792355148. 
  4. ^ M. Fayngold (2008). Special Relativity and How it Works. John Wiley & Sons. p. 138. ISBN 3527406077. 
  5. ^ R. Penrose (2005). The Road to Reality. Vintage books. pp. 437–438, 566–569. ISBN 978-00994-40680.  Note: Some authors, including Penrose, use Latin letters in this definition, even though it is conventional to use Greek indices for vectors and tensors in spacetime.
  6. ^ M. Fayngold (2008). Special Relativity and How it Works. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 137–139. ISBN 3527406077. 
  7. ^ J.A. Wheeler, C. Misner, K.S. Thorne (1973). Gravitation. W.H. Freeman & Co. pp. 156–159, §5.11. ISBN 0-7167-0344-0. 
  8. ^ S. Aranoff (1969). "Torque and angular momentum on a system at equilibrium in special relativity". American journal of physics 37.  This author uses T for torque, here we use capital Gamma Γ since T is most often reserved for the stress–energy tensor.
  9. ^ S. Aranoff (1972). "Equilibrium in special relativity" (PDF). Nuovo Cimento 10: 159. 
  10. ^ E. Abers (2004). Quantum Mechanics. Addison Wesley. pp. 11, 104, 105, 410–411. ISBN 978-0-13-146100-0. 
  11. ^ B.R. Durney. "Lorentz Transformations". arXiv:1103.0156v5. 
  12. ^ H.L. Berk, K. Chaicherdsakul, T. Udagawa. "The Proper Homogeneous Lorentz Transformation Operator eL = eω·Sξ·K, Where’s It Going, What’s the Twist" (PDF). Texas, Austin. 

Further reading[edit]

Special relativity
General relativity

External links[edit]