Geometric quantization is a marvelous tool for understanding the relation between classical physics and quantum physics. However, it's a bit like a power tool - you have to be an expert to operate it without running the risk of seriously injuring your brain. Here's a brief sketch of how it goes. This is pretty terse; for the details you'll have to read the series of articles on geometric quantization on the sci.physics.research archive.

- We start with a CLASSICAL PHASE SPACE: mathematically, this is
a manifold X with a
symplectic structure ω.
- Then we do PREQUANTIZATION: this gives us a Hermitian line bundle L
over X, equipped with a
U(1) connection D whose curvature equals iω.
L is called the PREQUANTUM LINE BUNDLE.
Warning: we can only do this step if ω satisfies the BOHR-SOMMERFELD CONDITION, which says that ω/2π defines an integral cohomology class. If this condition holds, L and D are determined to isomorphism, but not canonically.

- The Hilbert space H
_{0}of square-integrable sections of L is called the PREQUANTUM HILBERT SPACE. This is not yet the Hilbert space of our quantized theory - it's too big. But it's a good step in the right direction. In particular, we can PREQUANTIZE CLASSICAL OBSERVABLES: there's a map sending any smooth function on X to an operator on H_{0}. This map takes Poisson brackets to commutators, just as one would hope. The formula for this map involves the connection D. - To cut down the prequantum Hilbert space, we need to choose a
POLARIZATION, say P. What's this? Well, for each point x in X,
a polarization picks out a certain subspace P
_{x}of the complexified tangent space at x. We define the QUANTUM HILBERT SPACE, H, to be the space of all square-integrable sections of L that give zero when we take their covariant derivative at any point x in the direction of any vector in P_{x}. The quantum Hilbert space is a subspace of the prequantum Hilbert space.Warning: for P to be a polarization, there are some crucial technical conditions we impose on the subspaces P

_{x}. First, they must be ISOTROPIC: the complexified symplectic form ω must vanish on them. Second, they must be LAGRANGIAN: they must be*maximal*isotropic subspaces. Third, they must vary smoothly with x. And fourth, they must be INTEGRABLE. -
The easiest sort of polarization to understand is a REAL POLARIZATION.
This is where the subspaces P
_{x}come from subspaces of the tangent space by complexification. It boils down to this: a real polarization is an integrable distribution P on the classical phase space where each space P_{x}is Lagrangian subspace of the tangent space T_{x}X. - To understand this rigamarole, one must study examples! First,
it's good to understand how good old SCHRÖDINGER QUANTIZATION fits
into this framework. Remember, in Schrödinger quantization we
take our classical phase space X to be the cotangent bundle T
^{*}M of a manifold M called the CLASSICAL CONFIGURATION SPACE. We then let our quantum Hilbert space be the space of all square-integrable functions on M.Modulo some technical trickery, we get this example when we run the above machinery and use a certain god-given real polarization on X = T

^{*}M, namely the one given by the vertical vectors. - It's also good to study the BARGMANN-SEGAL REPRESENTATION, which
we get by taking X = C
^{n}with its god-given symplectic structure (the imaginary part of the inner product) and using the god-given KÄHLER POLARIZATION. When we do this, our quantum Hilbert space consists of analytic functions on C^{n}which are square-integrable with respect to a Gaussian measure centered at the origin. - The next step is to QUANTIZE CLASSICAL OBSERVABLES, turning them into linear operators on the quantum Hilbert space H. Unfortunately, we can't quantize all such observables while still sending Poisson brackets to commutators, as we did at the prequantum level. So at this point things get trickier and my brief outline will stop. Ultimately, the reason for this problem is that quantization is not a functor from the category of symplectic manifolds to the category of Hilbert spaces - but for that one needs to learn a bit about category theory.

Here are some definitions of important terms. Unfortunately they are defined using other terms that you might not understand. If you are really mystified, you need to read some books on differential geometry and the math of classical mechanics before proceeding.

- complexification - We can tensor
a real vector space with the complex numbers and get a complex vector
space; this process is called complexification. For example, we
can complexify the tangent space at some point of a manifold, which
amounts to forming the space of complex linear combinations of tangent
vectors at that point.
- distribution - The word "distribution"
means many different things in mathematics, but here's one: a "distribution"
V on a manifold X is a choice of a subspace V
_{x}of each tangent space T_{p}(X), where the choice depends smoothly on x. - Hamiltonian vector field - Given
a manifold X with a
symplectic structure
ω, any smooth function f: X -> R can be thought of as
a "Hamiltonian",
meaning physically that we think of it as the energy function and
let it give rise to a flow on X describing the time evolution of states.
Mathematically speaking,
this flow is generated by a vector field v(f) called
the "Hamiltonian vector field" associated to f. It is the unique
vector field such that
ω(.,v(f)) = df

In other words, for any vector field u on X we have

ω(u,v(f)) = df(u) = u f

The vector field v(f) is guaranteed to exist by the fact that ω is nondegenerate.

- integrable distribution - A distribution on a manifold X
is "integrable" if at least locally, there is a foliation of X by
submanifolds such that V
_{x}is the tangent space of the submanifold containing the point x. - integral cohomology class -
Any closed p-form on a manifold M defines an element of the pth deRham
cohomology of M. This is a finite-dimensional vector space, and it
contains a lattice called the pth integral cohomology group of M.
We say a cohomology class is integral if it lies in this lattice.
Most notably, if you take any U(1)
connection on any Hermitian
line bundle over M, its curvature 2-form will define an integral
cohomology class once you divide it by 2 π i. This cohomology class
is called the first Chern class, and it serves to determine the
line bundle up to isomorphism.
- Poisson brackets - Given a symplectic
structure on a manifold M and given two smooth functions on that
manifold, say f and g, there's a trick for getting
a new smooth function {f,g} on the manifold, called the Poisson
bracket of f and g.
This trick works as follows: given any smooth function f we can take its differential df, which is a 1-form. Then there is a unique vector field v(f), the Hamiltonian vector field associated to f, such that

ω(-,v(f)) = df

Using this we define

{f,g} = ω(v(f),v(g))

It's easy to check that we also have {f,g} = dg(v(f)) = v(f) g

so {f,g} says how much g changes as we differentiate it in the direction of the Hamiltonian vector field generated by f.

In the familiar case where M is R

^{2n}with momentum and position coordinates p_{i}, q_{i}, the Poisson brackets of f and g work out to be{f,g} = sum

_{i}df/dp_{i}dg/dq_{i}- df/dq_{i}dg/dp_{i} - square-integrable sections -
We can define an inner product on the sections of a
Hermitian line bundle over
a manifold X with a
symplectic
structure. The symplectic structure defines a volume form which
lets us do the necessary integral. A section whose inner product with
itself is finite is said to be square-integrable. Such sections form
a Hilbert space H
_{0}called the "prequantum Hilbert space". It is a kind of preliminary version of the Hilbert space we get when we quantize the classical system whose phase space is X. - symplectic structure -
A symplectic structure on a manifold M is a closed 2-form ω which is
nondegenerate in the sense that for any nonzero tangent vector u at any point
of M, there is a tangent vector u at that point for which w(u,v) is nonzero.
- U(1) connection - The group U(1) is
the group of unit complex numbers. Given a complex line bundle L with an
inner product on each fiber L
_{x}, a U(1) connection on L is a connection such that parallel translation preserves the inner product. - vertical vectors - Given a bundle E over a manifold M, we say a tangent vector to some point of E is vertical if it projects to zero down on M.

© 2000 John Baez

baez@math.removethis.ucr.andthis.edu