I am sitting on a problem, where I have a complex vector space of dimension $D$ and a set of normalized vectors $\{v_k\}$, $k\in\{1,2,\dots,N\}$ that are supposed to satisfy

$$\lvert\langle v_j\vert v_k\rangle\rvert \le \epsilon$$

for all $j$ and $k$. Question: for a given $D$ and $\epsilon$, what is the maximum number $N$ of such vectors? Remark: I'd be happy with estimates/approximations for large $D$ and/or small $\epsilon$ (**addendum:** this remark is made more precise below in response to some answers).

Now, if everything were in a real Euclidean vector space, I would estimate $N$ by dividing half the area of the hypersphere $\mathbb{S}^{D-1}$ by the area of a spherical cap with polar angle $\theta = \arccos(\epsilon)/2$. I am not sure whether this result would be optimal. A search in the internet revealed that people much more clever than I thought about this under the headline spherical codes and sphere packing….

But in any case, what I am interested in is a **complex** vector space, for which I couldn't find anything in the web so far. The difficulty is, of course, that only the real part of the scalar product of two complex vectors can be identified with an angle between two real vectors in $\mathbb{S}^{2D-1}$, whereas the imaginary part has something to do with the area of the parallelogram they span (I've read). Unfortunately, I have no idea how to include this in the calculation.

Any ideas? Many thanks!

**For completeness, here is an updated answer based on the helpful answer of Mikhail Katz:**

The ratio of the volumes of the complex plane $\mathbb{C}P^{D-1}$ to a spherical "cap" $C(\theta)$ with angle $\theta$ around vector $v$, defined as the set of all vectors $w$ that satisfy $|\langle v|w\rangle|^2\le\cos(\theta)^2$, is $$\DeclareMathOperator\vol{vol}\frac{\vol(\mathbb{C}P^{D-1})}{\vol[C(\theta)]} = \frac{1}{\sin^{2D-2}(\theta)}.$$ This can be computed using, e.g., equations from the book "The Geometry of Quantum States" by Bengtsson and Zyczkowski. Note that this result tells us how often the volume of the cap fits into the complex projective plane, but not how many caps (without deforming them or ripping them apart) fit into it.

Based on this, we can obtain lower and upper bounds on the number $N$ of non-orthogonal vectors that fit into a complex vector space. An upper bound is given by assuming that the caps remain intact and the center of the $j$'th cap belongs to vector $v_j$. In this case the centers are an angle $2\theta$ apart, so we can set $\epsilon = \cos(2\theta)$ to satisfy $|\langle v_j|v_k\rangle| \le \epsilon$ for all $j,k$. A lower bound is given by setting $\cos(\theta) = \epsilon$. In this case, starting from an intact cap $C_1$ around $v_1$, we can "glue" $v_2$ to its boundary to define a new cap $C_2$ around $v_2$ (while we keep the overlap of $C_1$ and $C_2$ and fit it into the complex plane at the end). Continuing like that distributes the vectors $v_1,v_2,\dots,v_N$ in the complex plane and ensures they are at least an angle $\theta = \arccos(\epsilon)$ apart.

Thus, to summarize, we can estimate $N$ by the upper and lower bound $$\frac{1}{\sin^{2D-2}[\arccos(\epsilon)]} \le N \le \frac{1}{\sin^{2D-2}[\arccos(\epsilon)/2]}.$$ Now, performing some Taylor expansion, and using $(1+x)^n \approx e^{nx}$ for $|x|\ll 1$, we obtain the neat estimates $$\exp[(D-1)\epsilon^2]\le N \le \exp[(D-1)(2\epsilon+\ln2)].$$

Even though these estimates are not meaningful for $\epsilon=0$, they seem useful for finite but small $\epsilon$, as they clearly show that exponentially more almost orthogonal vectors fit into a $D$ dimensional complex vector space compared to the number $D$ of orthogonal vectors that fit into it.

**Update of the remark in response to the answers of Jan Nienhaus and Dustin G. Mixon:** With $\epsilon$ "small" I do not mean something like $\epsilon < 1/D$ or $\epsilon < 1/\sqrt{D}$. For instance, the numbers I am interested in are more like $D = {\cal O}(10^{10^{23}})$ and $\epsilon = {\cal O}(10^{-20})$ to give you an idea. In any case, I like a result where both $\epsilon$ and $D$ can be freely varied.

nearlyorthogonal, notnon-orthogonal, vectors? $\endgroup$