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- Why the quantum? Insights from classical theories with a statistical restriction

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08020051

It is common to assert that the discovery of quantum theory overthrew our classical conception of nature. But what, precisely, was overthrown? Providing a rigorous answer to this question is of practical concern, as it helps to identify quantum technologies that outperform their classical counterparts, and of significance for modern physics, where progress may be slowed by poor physical intuitions and where the ability to apply quantum theory in a new realm or to move beyond quantum theory necessitates a deep understanding of the principles upon which it is based. In this talk, I demonstrate that a large part of quantum theory can be obtained from a single innovation relative to classical theories, namely, that there is a fundamental restriction on the sorts of statistical distributions over classical states that can be prepared. This restriction implies a fundamental limit on the amount of knowledge that any observer can have about the classical state. I will also discuss the quantum phenomena that are not captured by this principle, and I will end with a few speculations on what conceptual innovations might underlie the latter set and what might be the origin of the statistical restriction.

©2012 Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics