The Page-Wootters formalism: Where are we now?
General relativity does not distinguish a preferred reference frame, and conservatively one ought to expect that its quantization does not necessitate such background structure. However, this desire stands in contrast to orthodox formulations of quantum theory which rely on a background time parameter external to the theory, and in the case of quantum field theory a spacetime foliation. Such considerations have led to the development of the Page-Wootters formalism, which seeks to describe motion relative to a reference frame internal to a quantum theory that encompasses both the system of interest and employed reference frame. I will begin by reviewing a modern formulation of the Page-Wootters formalism in terms of Hamiltonian constraints, generalized coherent states, and covariant time observables. I will then present Kuchar’s criticisms of the Page-Wootters formalism, and discuss their resolution by showing the equivalence between the formalism and relational Dirac observables. These Dirac observables will then be used to introduce a gauge-invariant, relational notion of subsystems and entanglement. Finally, a field-theoretic extension of the Page-Wootters formalism will be introduced and used to recover the Schwinger-Tomonaga equation.