The Wentaculus: Density Matrix Realism Meets the Arrow of Time

Abstract

Two of the most difficult problems in the foundations of physics are (1) what gives rise to the arrow of time and (2) what the ontology of quantum mechanics is. They are difficult because the fundamental dynamical laws of physics do not privilege an arrow of time, and the quantum-mechanical wave function describes a high-dimensional reality that is radically different from our ordinary experiences. In this paper, I characterize and elaborate on the ``Wentaculus” theory, a new approach to time’s arrow in a quantum universe that offers a unified solution to both problems. Central to the Wentaculus are (i) Density Matrix Realism, the idea that the quantum state of the universe is objective but can be impure, and (ii) the Initial Projection Hypothesis, a new law of nature that selects a unique initial quantum state. On the Wentaculus, the quantum state of the universe is sufficiently simple to be a law, and the arrow of time can be traced back to an exact boundary condition. It removes the intrinsic vagueness of the Past Hypothesis, eliminates the Statistical Postulate, provides a higher degree of theoretical unity, and contains a natural realization of “strong determinism." I end by responding to four recent objections. In a companion paper, I elaborate on Density Matrix Realism.

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Eddy Keming Chen
University of California, San Diego

References found in this work

The World in the Wave Function: A Metaphysics for Quantum Physics.Alyssa Ney - 2021 - New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press.
The Past Hypothesis and the Nature of Physical Laws.Eddy Keming Chen - 2023 - In Barry Loewer, Brad Weslake & Eric B. Winsberg (eds.), The Probability Map of the Universe: Essays on David Albert’s _time and Chance_. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 204-248.
Determinism and Chance.Barry Loewer - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 32 (4):609-620.

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