Quantization (physics)

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In physics, quantization is the process of explaining a classical understanding of physical phenomena in terms of a newer understanding known as "quantum mechanics". It is a procedure for constructing a quantum field theory starting from a classical field theory. This is a generalization of the procedure for building quantum mechanics from classical mechanics. One also speaks of field quantization, as in the "quantization of the electromagnetic field", where one refers to photons as field "quanta" (for instance as light quanta). This procedure is basic to theories of particle physics, nuclear physics, condensed matter physics, and quantum optics.

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Quantization methods

Quantization converts classical fields into operators acting on quantum states of the field theory. The lowest energy state is called the vacuum state and may be very complicated. The reason for quantizing a theory is to deduce properties of materials, objects or particles through the computation of quantum amplitudes. Such computations have to deal with certain subtleties called renormalization, which, if neglected, can often lead to nonsense results, such as the appearance of infinities in various amplitudes. The full specification of a quantization procedure requires methods of performing renormalization.

The first method to be developed for quantization of field theories was canonical quantization. While this is extremely easy to implement on sufficiently simple theories, there are many situations where other methods of quantization yield more efficient procedures for computing quantum amplitudes. However, the use of canonical quantization has left its mark on the language and interpretation of quantum field theory.

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