The Framework of Effects

Recording Details

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PIRSA Number: 
08050043

Abstract

The focus of this talk is a particular feature of the statistical behavior of elementary particles, simple composite systems of them and the quantum probability theory to which this behavior gives rise. The standard interpretation of a generalized probability theory of the sort found in quantum mechanics is that its probabilities are probabilities of propositions belonging to particles, where a proposition belongs to a particle if its constituent dynamical property is a possible property of the particle. The feature of interest is the fact that there exist simple systems and finite combinations of propositions belonging to them for which no two-valued measures are possible. I will argue that quantum probabilities are not satisfactorily interpretable as probabilities of propositions belonging to particles, and that such an interpretation is possible only when the propositions to which probabilities are assigned form (an algebraic structure which is homomorphic to) a Boolean algebra. The idea I will develop is that the probabilities of quantum mechanics are probabilities of “effects,” probabilities of the traces of particleinteractions with objects and processes that are epistemically accessible to us. I hope to make it clear that such a view is not committed to any kind of anti-realism about the micro-world, that its mildly instrumentalist flavor is not a defect but a strength, and that it illuminates at least one otherwise paradoxical feature of quantum mechanics.