This series consists of talks in the area of Foundations of Quantum Theory. Seminar and group meetings will alternate.
We know the mathematical laws of quantum mechanics, but as yet we are not so sure why those laws should be inevitable. In the simpler but related environment of classical inference, we also know the laws (of probability). With better understanding of quantum mechanics as the eventual goal, Kevin Knuth and I have been probing the foundations of inference. The world we wish to infer is a partially-ordered set ('poset') of states, which may as often supposed be exclusive, but need not be (e.g. A might be a requirement for B).
Eugene Wigner and Hermann Weyl led the way in applying the theory of group representations to the newly formulated theory of quantum mechanics starting in 1927. My talk will focus, first, on two aspects of this early work. Physicists had long exploited symmetries as a way of simplifying problems within classical physics.
Quantum foundations in the light of gauge theories We will present the conjecture according to which the fact that q and p cannot be both ``observables'' of the same quantum system indicates that there is a remnant universal symmetry acting on classical states. In order to unpack this claim we will generalize to unconstrained systems the gauge correspondence between properties defined by first-class constraints and gauge symmetries generated by these constraints.
Quantum mechanics is a non-classical probability theory, but hardly the most general one imaginable: any compact convex set can serve as the state space for an abstract probabilistic model (classical models corresponding to simplices). From this altitude, one sees that many phenomena commonly regarded as ``characteristically quantum' are in fact generically ``non-classical'. In this talk, I'll show that almost any non-classical probabilistic theory shares with quantum mechanics a notion of entanglement and, with this, a version of the so-called measurement problem.
A standard canonical quantization of general relativity yields a time-independent Schroedinger equation whose solutions are static wavefunctions on configuration space. Naively this is in contradiction with the real world where things do change. Broadly speaking, the problem how to reconcile a theory which contains no concept of time with a changing world is called 'the problem of time'.
The essential ingredients of a quantum theory are usually a Hilbert space of states and an algebra of operators encoding observables. The mathematical operations available with these structures translate fairly well into physical operations (preparation, measurement etc.) in a non-relativistic world. This correspondence weakens in quantum field theory, where the direct operational meaning of the observable algebra structure (encoded usually through commutators) is lost.
Both classical probability theory and quantum theory lend themselves to a Bayesian interpretation where probabilities represent degrees of belief, and where the various rules for combining and updating probabilities are but algorithms for plausible reasoning in the face of uncertainty. I elucidate the differences and commonalities of these two theories, and argue that they are in fact the only two algorithms to satisfy certain basic consistency requirements.
Lee Smolin has argued that one of the barriers to understanding time in a quantum world is our tendency to spatialize time. The question is whether there is anything in physics that could lead us to mathematically characterize time so that it is not just another funny spatial dimension. I will explore the possibility(already considered by Smolin and others) that time may be distinguished from space by what I will call a measure of Booleanity.
Quantum entanglement has two remarkable properties. First, according to Bell\'s theorem, the statistical correlations between entangled quantum systems are inconsistent with any theory of local hidden variables. Second, entanglement is monogamous -- that is, to the degree that A and B are entangled with each other, they cannot be entangled with any other systems. It turns out that these properties are intimately related.
We all know that the EPR argument fails, and we can all provide proofs of one sort or another that it can\'t work. But in spite of this, there\'s something curiously tempting about the reasoning, and the temptation sometimes leads to needless perplexity about other issues. This paper will do two things. It will offer a diagnosis of where the EPR argument goes wrong that shows why we should be suspicious long before we get to Bell-type results, and then use the thought behind this diagnosis to suggest an orientation toward thinking about quantum states.