Roughly speaking, in mathematics, specifically in the areas of combinatorics and special functions, a q-analog of a theorem, identity or expression is a generalization involving a new parameter q that returns the original theorem, identity or expression in the limit as q → 1. Typically, mathematicians are interested in q-analogues that arise naturally, rather than in arbitrarily contriving q-analogues of known results. The earliest q-analog studied in detail is the basic hypergeometric series, which was introduced in the 19th century.
q-analogs find applications in a number of areas, including the study of fractals and multi-fractal measures, and expressions for the entropy of chaotic dynamical systems. The relationship to fractals and dynamical systems results from the fact that many fractal patterns have the symmetries of Fuchsian groups in general (see, for example Indra's pearls and the Apollonian gasket) and the modular group in particular. The connection passes through hyperbolic geometry and ergodic theory, where the elliptic integrals and modular forms play a prominent role; the q-series themselves are closely related to elliptic integrals.
q-analogs also appear in the study of quantum groups and in q-deformed superalgebras. The connection here is similar, in that much of string theory is set in the language of Riemann surfaces, resulting in connections to elliptic curves, which in turn relate to q-series.
There are two main groups of q-analogs, the "classical" q-analogs, with beginnings in the work of Leonhard Euler and extended by F. H. Jackson and others.