Relativity and quantum field theory

In V. Petkov (ed.), Space, Time and Spacetime (2010)
Relativistic quantum field theories (RQFTs) are invariant under the action of the Poincaré group, the symmetry group of Minkowski spacetime. Non-relativistic quantum field theories (NQFTs) are invariant under the action of the symmetry group of a classical spacetime; i.e., a spacetime that minimally admits absolute spatial and temporal metrics. This essay is concerned with cashing out two implications of this basic difference. First, under a Received View, RQFTs do not admit particle interpretations. I will argue that the concept of particle that informs this view is motivated by nonrelativistic intuitions associated with the structure of classical spacetimes, and hence should be abandoned. Second, the relations between RQFTs and NQFTs also suggest that routes to quantum gravity are more varied than is typically acknowledged. The second half of this essay is concerned with mapping out some of this conceptual space.
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