What is quantum mechanics about? The most natural way to interpret quantum mechanics realistically as a theory about the world might seem to be what is called wave function ontology: the view according to which the wave function mathematically represents in a complete way fundamentally all there is in the world. Erwin Schroedinger was one of the first proponents of such a view, but he dismissed it after he realized it led to macroscopic superpositions (if the wave function evolves in (...) time according to the equations that has his name). The Many-Worlds interpretation1 accepts the existence of such macroscopic superpositions but takes it that they can never be observed. Superposed objects and superposed observers split together in different worlds of the type of the one we appear to live in. For these who, like Schroedinger, think that macroscopic superpositions are a problem, the common wisdom is that there are two alternative views: "Either the wave function, as given by the Schroedinger equation, is not everything, or is not right" [Bell 1987]. The deBroglie-Bohm theory, now commonly known as Bohmian Mechanics, takes the first option: the description provided by a Schroedinger-evolving wave function is supplemented by the information provided by the configuration of the particles. The second possibility consists in assuming that, while the wave function provides the complete description of the system, its temporal evolution is not given by the Schroedinger equation. Rather, the usual Schroedinger evolution is interrupted by random and sudden "collapses". The most promising theory of this kind is the GRW theory, named after the scientists that developed it: Gian Carlo Ghirardi, Alberto Rimini and Tullio Weber.. It seems tempting to think that in GRW we can take the wave function ontologically seriously and avoid the problem of macroscopic superpositions just allowing for quantum jumps. In this paper we will argue that such "bare" wave function ontology is not possible, neither for GRW nor for any other quantum theory: quantum mechanics cannot be about the wave function simpliciter. That is, we need more structure than the one provided by the wave function. As a response, quantum theories about the wave function can be supplemented with structure, without taking it as an additional ontology. We argue in reply that such "dressed-up" versions of wave function ontology are not sensible, since they compromise the acceptability of the theory as a satisfactory fundamental physical theory. Therefore we maintain that: 1- Strictly speaking, it is not possible to interpret quantum theories as theories about the wave function; 2- Even if the wave function is supplemented by additional non-ontological structures, there are reasons not to take the resulting theory seriously. Moreover, we will argue that any of the traditional responses to the measurement problem of quantum mechanics (Bohmian mechanics, GRW and Many-Worlds), contrarily to what commonly believed, share a common structure. That is, we maintain that: 3- All quantum theories should be regarded as theories in which physical objects are constituted by a primitive ontology. The primitive ontology is mathematically represented in the theory by a mathematical entity in three-dimensional space, or space-time. (shrink)
For a long time it was believed that it was impossible to be realist about quantum mechanics. It took quite a while for the researchers in the foundations of physics, beginning with John Stuart Bell [Bell 1987], to convince others that such an alleged impossibility had no foundation. Nowadays there are several quantum theories that can be interpreted realistically, among which Bohmian mechanics, the GRW theory, and the many-worlds theory. The debate, though, is far from being over: in what respect (...) should we be realist regarding these theories? Two different proposals have been made: on the one hand, there are those who insist on a direct ontological interpretation of the wave function as representing physical bodies, and on the other hand there are those who claim that quantum mechanics is not really about the wave function. In this paper we will present and discuss one proposal of the latter kind that focuses on the notion of primitive ontology. (shrink)
A major disagreement between different views about the foundations of quantum mechanics concerns whether for a theory to be intelligible as a fundamental physical theory it must involve a “primitive ontology” (PO), i.e., variables describing the distribution of matter in 4-dimensional space-time. In this paper, we illustrate the value of having a PO. We do so by focusing on the role that the PO plays for extracting predictions from a given theory and discuss valid and invalid derivations of predictions. To (...) this end, we investigate a number of examples based on toy models built from the elements of familiar interpretations of quantum theory. (shrink)
Bohmian mechanics and the Ghirardi–Rimini–Weber theory provide opposite resolutions of the quantum measurement problem: the former postulates additional variables (the particle positions) besides the wave function, whereas the latter implements spontaneous collapses of the wave function by a nonlinear and stochastic modification of Schrödinger's equation. Still, both theories, when understood appropriately, share the following structure: They are ultimately not about wave functions but about matter moving in space, represented by either particle trajectories, fields on space-time, or a discrete set of (...) space-time points. The role of the wave function then is to govern the motion of the matter. Introduction Bohmian Mechanics Ghirardi, Rimini, and Weber 3.1 GRWm 3.2 GRWf 3.3 Empirical equivalence between GRWm and GRWf Primitive Ontology 4.1 Primitive ontology and physical equivalence 4.2 Primitive ontology and symmetry 4.3 Without primitive ontology 4.4 Primitive ontology and quantum state Differences between BM and GRW 5.1 Primitive ontology and quadratic functionals 5.2 Primitive ontology and equivariance A Plethora of Theories 6.1 Particles, fields, and flashes 6.2 Schrödinger wave functions and many-worlds The Flexible Wave Function 7.1 GRWf without collapse 7.2 Bohmian mechanics with collapse 7.3 Empirical equivalence and equivariance What is a Quantum Theory without Observers? CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Bohmian mechanics and the Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber theory provide opposite resolutions of the quantum measurement problem: the former postulates additional variables (the particle positions) besides the wave function, whereas the latter implements spontaneous collapses of the wave function by a nonlinear and stochastic modification of Schrödinger's equation. Still, both theories, when understood appropriately, share the following structure: They are ultimately not about wave functions but about 'matter' moving in space, represented by either particle trajectories, fields on space-time, or a discrete set of (...) space-time points. The role of the wave function then is to govern the motion of the matter. (shrink)
Contrary to the widespread belief, the problem of the emergence of classical mechanics from quantum mechanics is still open. In spite of many results on the ¯h → 0 asymptotics, it is not yet clear how to explain within standard quantum mechanics the classical motion of macroscopic bodies. In this paper we shall analyze special cases of classical behavior in the framework of a precise formulation of quantum mechanics, Bohmian mechanics, which contains in its own structure the possibility of describing (...) real objects in an observer-independent way. (shrink)
Bohmian mechanics is a quantum theory with a clear ontology. To make clear what we mean by this, we shall proceed by recalling first what are the problems of quantum mechanics. We shall then briefly sketch the basics of Bohmian mechanics and indicate how Bohmian mechanics solves these problems and clarifies the status and the role of of the quantum formalism.
Classical physics is about real objects, like apples falling from trees, whose motion is governed by Newtonian laws. In standard quantum mechanics only the wave function or the results of measurements exist, and to answer the question of how the classical world can be part of the quantum world is a rather formidable task. However, this is not the case for Bohmian mechanics, which, like classical mechanics, is a theory about real objects. In Bohmian terms, the problem of the classical (...) limit becomes very simple: when do the Bohmian trajectories look Newtonian? (shrink)