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Harmonic analysis is a branch of mathematics concerned with the representation of functions or signals as the superposition of basic waves, and the study of and generalization of the notions of Fourier series and Fourier transforms (i.e. an extended form of Fourier analysis). In the past two centuries, it has become a vast subject with applications in areas as diverse as signal processing, quantum mechanics, tidal analysis and neuroscience.

The term "harmonics" originated as the ancient Greek word, "harmonikos," meaning "skilled in music."[1] In physical eigenvalue problems it began to mean waves whose frequencies are integer multiples of one another, as are the frequencies of the harmonics of music notes, but the term has been generalized beyond its original meaning.

The classical Fourier transform on Rn is still an area of ongoing research, particularly concerning Fourier transformation on more general objects such as tempered distributions. For instance, if we impose some requirements on a distribution f, we can attempt to translate these requirements in terms of the Fourier transform of f. The Paley–Wiener theorem is an example of this. The Paley–Wiener theorem immediately implies that if f is a nonzero distribution of compact support (these include functions of compact support), then its Fourier transform is never compactly supported. This is a very elementary form of an uncertainty principle in a harmonic analysis setting. See also: Convergence of Fourier series.

Fourier series can be conveniently studied in the context of Hilbert spaces, which provides a connection between harmonic analysis and functional analysis.

Abstract harmonic analysis

One of the most modern branches of harmonic analysis, having its roots in the mid-twentieth century, is analysis on topological groups. The core motivating ideas are the various Fourier transforms, which can be generalized to a transform of functions defined on Hausdorff locally compact topological groups.

The theory for abelian locally compact groups is called Pontryagin duality.

Harmonic analysis studies the properties of that duality and Fourier transform, and attempts to extend those features to different settings, for instance to the case of non-abelian Lie groups.

For general non-abelian locally compact groups, harmonic analysis is closely related to the theory of unitary group representations. For compact groups, the Peter–Weyl theorem explains how one may get harmonics by choosing one irreducible representation out of each equivalence class of representations. This choice of harmonics enjoys some of the useful properties of the classical Fourier transform in terms of carrying convolutions to pointwise products, or otherwise showing a certain understanding of the underlying group structure. See also: Non-commutative harmonic analysis.

If the group is neither abelian nor compact, no general satisfactory theory is currently known. ("Satisfactory" means at least as strong as the Plancherel theorem.) However, many specific cases have been analyzed, for example SLn. In this case, representations in infinite dimensions play a crucial role.
Other branches

Study of the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of the Laplacian on domains, manifolds, and (to a lesser extent) graphs is also considered a branch of harmonic analysis. See e.g., hearing the shape of a drum.
Harmonic analysis on Euclidean spaces deals with properties of the Fourier transform on Rn that have no analog on general groups. For example, the fact that the Fourier transform is rotation invariant. Decomposing the Fourier transform into its radial and spherical components leads to topics such as Bessel functions and spherical harmonics.
Harmonic analysis on tube domains is concerned with generalizing properties of Hardy spaces to higher dimensions.

See also

Harmonic (mathematics)
Spectral density estimation


Elias Stein and Guido Weiss, Introduction to Fourier Analysis on Euclidean Spaces, Princeton University Press, 1971. ISBN 0-691-08078-X
Elias Stein with Timothy S. Murphy, Harmonic Analysis: Real-Variable Methods, Orthogonality, and Oscillatory Integrals, Princeton University Press, 1993.
Elias Stein, Topics in Harmonic Analysis Related to the Littlewood-Paley Theory, Princeton University Press, 1970.
Yitzhak Katznelson, An introduction to harmonic analysis, Third edition. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-521-83829-0; 0-521-54359-2
Terence Tao, Fourier Transform. (Introduces the decomposition of functions into odd + even parts as a harmonic decomposition over ℤ₂.)
Yurii I. Lyubich. Introduction to the Theory of Banach Representations of Groups. Translated from the 1985 Russian-language edition (Kharkov, Ukraine). Birkhäuser Verlag. 1988.

Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics

Graduate Texts in Mathematics

Graduate Studies in Mathematics

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