Time, symmetry and structure: a study in the foundations of quantum theory

Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh (2012)
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This dissertation is about the sense in which the laws of quantum theory distinguish between the past and the future. I begin with an account of what it means for quantum theory to make such a distinction, by providing a novel derivation of the meaning of "time reversal." I then show that if Galilei invariant quantum theory does distinguish a preferred direction in time, then this has consequences for the ontology of the theory. In particular, it requires matter to admit "internal" degrees of freedom, in that the position observable generates a maximal abelian algebra. I proceed to show that this is not a purely quantum phenomenon, but can be expressed in classical mechanics as well. I then illustrate three routes for generating quantum systems that distinguish a preferred temporal direction in this way.



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Bryan W. Roberts
London School of Economics

Citations of this work

Time Reversal.Bryan W. Roberts - 2022 - In Eleanor Knox & Alastair Wilson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Physics. London, UK: Routledge.
Three myths about time reversal in quantum theory.Bryan W. Roberts - 2017 - Philosophy of Science 84 (2):315-334.
Prospects for a new account of time reversal.Daniel J. Peterson - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 49:42-56.

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