We pose and resolve a seeming paradox about spontaneous symmetry breaking in the quantum theory of infinite systems. For a symmetry to be spontaneously broken, it must not be implementable by a unitary operator. But Wigner's theorem guarantees that every symmetry is implemented by a unitary operator that preserves transition probabilities between pure states. We show how it is possible for a unitary operator of this sort to connect the folia of unitarily inequivalent representations. This result undermines interpretations of quantum (...) theory that hold unitary equivalence to be necessary for physical equivalence. (shrink)
Nature seems to be such that we can describe it accurately with quantum theories of bosons and fermions alone, without resort to parastatistics. This has been seen as a deep mystery: paraparticles make perfect physical sense, so why don't we see them in nature? We consider one potential answer: every paraparticle theory is physically equivalent to some theory of bosons or fermions, making the absence of paraparticles in our theories a matter of convention rather than a mysterious empirical discovery. We (...) argue that this equivalence thesis holds in all physically admissible quantum field theories falling under the domain of the rigorous Doplicher-Haag-Roberts approach to superselection rules. Inadmissible parastatistical theories are ruled out by a locality-inspired principle we call Charge Recombination. (shrink)
The permutation symmetry of quantum mechanics is widely thought to imply a sort of metaphysical underdetermination about the identity of particles. Despite claims to the contrary, this implication does not hold in the more fundamental quantum field theory, where an ontology of particles is not generally available. Although permutations are often defined as acting on particles, a more general account of permutation symmetry can be formulated using superselection theory. As a result, permutation symmetry applies even in field theories with no (...) particle interpretation. The quantum mechanical account of permutations acting on particles is recovered as a special case. (shrink)
I consider an argument, due to Geoffrey Lee, that we can know a priori from the left-right asymmetrical character of experience that our brains are left-right asymmetrical. Lee's argument assumes a premise he calls relationism, which I show is well-supported by the best philosophical picture of spacetime. I explain why Lee's relationism is compatible with left-right asymmetrical laws. I then show that the conclusion of Lee's argument is not as strong or surprising as he makes it out to be.
The phenomenon of broken spacetime symmetry in the quantum theory of infinite systems forces us to adopt an unorthodox ontology. We must abandon the standard conception of the physical meaning of these symmetries, or else deny the attractive “liberal” notion of which physical quantities are significant. A third option, more attractive but less well understood, is to abandon the existing (Halvorson-Clifton) notion of intertranslatability for quantum theories.
Next SectionThe nature of antimatter is examined in the context of algebraic quantum field theory. It is shown that the notion of antimatter is more general than that of antiparticles. Properly speaking, then, antimatter is not matter made up of antiparticles—rather, antiparticles are particles made up of antimatter. We go on to discuss whether the notion of antimatter is itself completely general in quantum field theory. Does the matter–antimatter distinction apply to all field theoretic systems? The answer depends on which (...) of several possible criteria we should impose on the space of physical states. 1. Introduction 2. Antiparticles on the Naive Picture 3. The Incompleteness of the Naive Picture 4. Group Representation Magic 5. What Makes the Magic Work? 5.1 Superselection rules 5.2 DHR representations 5.3 Gauge groups and the Doplicher–Roberts reconstruction 6. A Quite General Notion of Antimatter 7. Conclusions. (shrink)
I examine some problems standing in the way of a successful `field interpretation' of quantum field theory. The most popular extant proposal depends on the Hilbert space of `wavefunctionals.' But since wavefunctional space is unitarily equivalent to many-particle Fock space, two of the most powerful arguments against particle interpretations also undermine this form of field interpretation. IntroductionField Interpretations and Field OperatorsThe Wavefunctional InterpretationFields and Inequivalent Representations 4.1. The Rindler representation 4.2. Spontaneous symmetry breaking 4.3. Coherent representations The Fate of Fields (...) in Interacting QFTConclusions. (shrink)
The decision-theoretic account of probability in the Everett or many-worlds interpretation, advanced by David Deutsch and David Wallace, is shown to be circular. Talk of probability in Everett presumes the existence of a preferred basis to identify measurement outcomes for the probabilities to range over. But the existence of a preferred basis can only be established by the process of decoherence, which is itself probabilistic.
I offer a novel argument for spacetime substantivalism: We should take the spacetime of general relativity to be a substance because of its active role in gravitational causation. As a clear example of this causal behavior I offer the cosmological constant, a term in the most general form of the Einstein field equations which causes free floating objects to accelerate apart. This acceleration cannot, I claim, be causally explained except by reference to spacetime itself.