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Multiple-valued functions, branch points, branch lines, Riemann surfaces

Multiple-valued functions, branch points, branch lines


Example 1. Suppose we are given the function w = z1/2 and ask ourselves how this function will map points taken along curve C which encircles the origin as shown in Fig. 1. We pick points along the curve and let z make a complete circuit (counterclockwise) around the origin. For insight into what is happening we express z as z = re. The image of z in the w plane is then given by w = ole1.gif eiθ/2. Thus each point P(r, θ) is mapped into its image P'( ole2.gif , θ/2). Point P1 (r1, θ1) is imaged into P1'( ole3.gif , θ1/2). P2, P3 and P4 are imaged into points P2', P3' and P4' as shown in the figure. Each point P is mapped into its image P' in the w plane where P' has half the amplitude of P. We make a complete circuit around curve C and arrive back at point P1 again. The amplitude of P1 is now θ = θ1 + 2π. Point P1(r1, θ1 + 2π) is imaged into point ole4.gif (r1, θ1/2 + π) shown in the figure in the third quadrant of the w plane, where we are denoting the images of points from the second circuit around C with an over-bar. As we continue points P2, P3 and P4 map into points ole5.gif and ole6.gif as shown in the figure. Finally we arrive at point P1 for the third time and the amplitude is now θ = θ1 + 4π. This time point P1 maps into the same point that it did on the first trip through, point P1', and the process starts over again.


We can describe the above process by saying that if 0 ole8.gif θ < 2π we are on one branch of multiple-valued function z1/2, while if 2π ole9.gif θ < 4π we are on the other branch of the function.

The above phenomenon in which a point P on C maps into two points on C' occurs because curve C encircles the origin. If C did not encircle the origin it wouldn’t happen. A point on C would then map into a single point on C'. Let us consider this case. See Fig. 2. In Fig. 2 we see that the amplitude of z varies between θ1 and θ2. The amplitude of w will then vary between θ1/2 and θ2 /2. Point P1 will be mapped only into point P1', P2 will be mapped only into point P2', etc. The mapping is different and one-to-one. 


Example 2. Let us now consider how the function w = (z - a)1/2 maps a curve C that encircles point a. See Fig. 3. ole11.gif is the position vector to point z on the curve. ole12.gif is the position vector to point a. As point z moves counterclockwise around curve C the vector ole13.gif , extending from point a to z, winds around point a. On the first trip around the curve, point P1 is mapped into point P1'. Assume the amplitude of the vector ole14.gif is θ1 at P1. Note that arg w = ole15.gif arg (z - a) so the amplitude of w will be θ1 /2. When z has made a complete circuit and arrives at P1 the second time the amplitude of ole16.gif will be θ1 + 2π and the amplitude of w will be θ1/2 + π. P1 will map into ole17.gif . When z proceeds on around the circuit again and arrives at P1 for the third time, the amplitude of ole18.gif will be 4π, the amplitude of w will be θ1 /2 + 2π, and P1 will map into P1' again.

Branch point. If different values of a function f(z) are obtained by successively encircling some point z0 in the complex plane, as occurred in examples 1 and 2 above, then the point z0 is called a branch point. In Example 1 the origin O is a branch point and in Example 2, the point a is a branch point.

A branch point represents a singularity of a multi-valued function, however, it has a different character from the points ordinarily called singular points.


Example 3.     f(z) = (z - 2)1/3 has a branch point at z = 2.


Example 4.    f(z) = ln (z2 + z - 6) has branch points where z2 + z - 6 = 0, i.e. at z = 2 and z = -3.

Branch line. A branch line is a line extending out from a branch point defining a boundary between branches. When a variable z crosses a branch line the function f(z) switches from one branch to another. The heavy line OX in Fig. 1 extending from the branch point O to infinity is a branch line.

Riemann surface. Let z0 be any complex number. How many complex numbers w will satisfy the equation w5 = z0? Answer: There are five different complex numbers that will satisfy this equation. If we pick any number z0 in the complex plane there are five different fifth roots of z0. Thus we say that the function w = z1/5 is a 5-value function. Five different numbers satisfy it. The function w = z1/5 associates with each point z in the complex plane five different numbers. Let us designate these five numbers as s1, s2, ... , s5. We can now conceive of five “sheets of values” overlaying the z plane, one stacked on top of another, going from Sheet 1 up to Sheet 5. The first sheet consists of the s1 numbers for all (x, y) number pairs in the plane i.e. all points of the plane. The second sheet consists of the s2 numbers for all (x, y) number pairs in the plane. Etc. for all five sheets. A function w = z1/2 has two sheets associated with it. A function w = z1/8 has eight sheets associated with it. The five sheets associated with the 5-value function w = z1/5 represent the five branches of the function. They represent the five sheets of a 5-sheet Riemann surface. The Riemann surface consists of a collection of five sheets where each sheet represents a single-valued function. The sheets in a Riemann surface are conceived of as connected to one another. To understand how they are connected consider the case of a 2-sheet Riemann surface where the branch point is the origin O as in Example 1 above. Imagine the two sheets, Sheet 1 and Sheet 2, overlaying the z plane. Now cut both sheets along OX and imagine that the lower edge of the bottom sheet is joined to the upper edge of the top sheet. Then starting in the bottom sheet and making one complete circuit around the branch point we arrive in the top sheet when we cross the branch line (or branch cut) OX. We must now imagine the other cut edges joined together so that by continuing the circuit we go from the top sheet back to the bottom sheet.


  Spiegel. Complex Variables (Schaum)

  Hauser. Complex Variables with Physical Applications


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