Foundations of Physics

, Volume 44, Issue 12, pp 1317–1335 | Cite as

On the Relation Between Gauge and Phase Symmetries

  • Gabriel Catren


We propose a group-theoretical interpretation of the fact that the transition from classical to quantum mechanics entails a reduction in the number of observables needed to define a physical state (e.g. from \(q\) and \(p\) to \(q\) or \(p\) in the simplest case). We argue that, in analogy to gauge theories, such a reduction results from the action of a symmetry group. To do so, we propose a conceptual analysis of formal tools coming from symplectic geometry and group representation theory, notably Souriau’s moment map, the Mardsen–Weinstein symplectic reduction, the symplectic “category” introduced by Weinstein, and the conjecture (proposed by Guillemin and Sternberg) according to which “quantization commutes with reduction”. By using the generalization of this conjecture to the non-zero coadjoint orbits of an abelian Hamiltonian action, we argue that phase invariance in quantum mechanics and gauge invariance have a common geometric underpinning, namely the symplectic reduction formalism. This stance points towards a gauge-theoretical interpretation of Heisenberg indeterminacy principle. We revisit (the extreme cases of) this principle in the light of the difference between the set-theoretic points of a phase space and its category-theoretic symplectic points.


Quantum mechanics Gauge theories Moment map Symplectic reduction Symplectic “category” 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013 Grant Agreement no 263523). I also thank Daniel Bennequin and Mathieu Anel for helpful discussions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire SPHERE (UMR 7219)Université Paris Diderot - CNRSParisFrance
  2. 2.Facultad de Filosofía y LetrasUniversidad de Buenos Aires - CONICETBuenos AiresArgentina

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