David Albert's Time and Chance (2000) provides a fresh and interesting perspective on the problem of the direction of time. Unfortunately, the book opens with a highly non-standard exposition of timereversalinvariance that distorts the subsequent discussion. The present article not only has the remedial goal of setting the record straight about the meaning of timereversalinvariance, but it also aims to show how the niceties of this symmetry concept matter (...) to the problem of the direction of time and to related foundation issues in physics. (shrink)
David Albert claims that classical electromagnetic theory is not timereversal invariant. He acknowledges that all physics books say that it is, but claims they are ``simply wrong" because they rely on an incorrect account of how the timereversal operator acts on magnetic fields. On that account, electric fields are left intact by the operator, but magnetic fields are inverted. Albert sees no reason for the asymmetric treatment, and insists that neither field should be inverted. (...) I argue, to the contrary, that the inversion of magnetic fields makes good sense and is, in fact, forced by elementary geometric considerations. I also suggest a way of thinking about the timereversalinvariance of classical electromagnetic theory -- one that makes use of the invariant (four-dimensional) formulation of the theory -- that makes no reference to magnetic fields at all. It is my hope that it will be of interest in its own right, Albert aside. It has the advantage that it allows for arbitrary curvature in the background spacetime structure, and is therefore suitable for the framework of general relativity. (The only assumption one needs is temporal orientability.). (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the recent discussion on the time - reversalinvariance of classical electrodynamics (see (Albert 2000: ch.1), (Arntzenius 2004), (Earman 2002), (Malament 2004),(Horwich 1987: ch.3)) can be best understood assuming that the disagreement among the various authors is actually a disagreement about the metaphysics of classical electrodynamics. If so, the controversy will not be resolved until we have established which alternative is the most natural. It turns out that we have a paradox, (...) namely that the following three claims are incompatible: the electromagnetic fields are real, classical electrodynamics is time-reversal invariant, and the content of the state of affairs of the world does not depend on whether it belongs to a forward or a backward sequence of states of the world. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to analyze the concepts of time-reversalinvariance and irreversibility in the so-called 'time-asymmetric quantum mechanics'. We begin with pointing out the difference between these two concepts. On this basis, we show that irreversibility is not as tightly linked to the semigroup evolution laws of the theory -which lead to its non time-reversalinvariance- as usually suggested. In turn, we argue that the irreversible evolutions described by the theory (...) are coarse-grained processes. (shrink)
David Albert has recently argued that classical electromagnetic theory (EM) is not timereversal invariant (non-TRI), while David Malament rejects this argument and maintains the orthodox result, that EM is TRI. Both Albert's and Malament's arguments are analysed, and both are found wanting in certain respects. It is argued here that the result really depends on the choice of theoretical ontology choosen to interpret EM theory, and there is more than one plausible choice. Albert and Malament have choosen (...) different plausible ontologies; but neither shows that their choice of interpretation is definitive. Deeper principles about this choice are examined. The extension to EM theory with magnetic monopoles is also examined. It is concluded that, despite certain flaws in his account, Albert's analysis does reveal serious problems in the orthodox account, which Malament's response does not adequately address. (shrink)
What would it be for a process to happen backwards in time? Would such a process involve different causal relations? It is common to understand the time-reversalinvariance of a physical theory in causal terms, such that whatever can happen forwards in time can also happen backwards in time. This has led many to hold that time-reversal symmetry is incompatible with the asymmetry of cause and effect. This article critiques the causal reading (...) of timereversal. First, I argue that the causal reading requires time-reversal-related models to be understood as representing distinct possible worlds and, on such a reading, causal relations are compatible with time-reversal symmetry. Second, I argue that the former approach does, however, raise serious sceptical problems regarding the causal relations of paradigm causal processes and as a consequence there are overwhelming reasons to prefer a non-causal reading of timereversal, whereby timereversal leaves causal relations invariant. On the non-causal reading, time-reversal symmetry poses no significant conceptual nor epistemological problems for causation. _1_ Introduction _1.1_ The directionality argument _1.2_ Timereversal _2_ What Does TimeReversal Reverse? _2.1_ The B- and C-theory of time _2.2_ Timereversal on the C-theory _2.3_ Answers _3_ Does TimeReversal Reverse Causal Relations? _3.1_ Causation, billiards, and snooker _3.2_ The epistemology of causal direction _3.3_ Answers _4_ Is Time-Reversal Symmetry Compatible with Causation? _4.1_ Incompatibilism _4.2_ Compatibilism _4.3_ Answers _5_ Outlook. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that there is some tension between the second law of thermodynam- ics and the timereversalinvariance of the microdynamics. Recently, however, Jos Uffink has argued that the origin of timereversal non-invariance in thermodynamics is not in the second law. Uffink argues that the relationship between the second law and timereversalinvariance depends on the formulation of the second law. He claims that a recent version (...) of the second law due to Lieb and Yngvason allows irreversible processes, yet is timereversal invariant. In this paper, I attempt to spell out the traditional argument for incompatibility between the second law and timereversal invariant dynamics, making the assumptions on which it depends explicit. I argue that this argument does not vary with different versions of the second law and can be formulated for Lieb and Yngvason's version as for other versions. Uffink's argument regarding timereversalinvariance in Lieb and Yngvason is based on a certain symmetry of some of their axioms. However, these axioms do not constitute the full expression of the second law in their system. (shrink)
A new interpretation of the time-reversalinvariance principle is given. As a result, it is shown that microscopic dynamic reversibility has no basis in physics. The existing contradiction between one-way time and two-way time is reconciled. It is also pointed out that the common notion that clocks run backwards when time is reversed is wrong.
Bertrand Russell famously argued that causation is not part of the fundamental physical description of the world, describing the notion of cause as “a relic of a bygone age”. This paper assesses one of Russell’s arguments for this conclusion: the ‘Directionality Argument’, which holds that the time symmetry of fundamental physics is inconsistent with the time asymmetry of causation. We claim that the coherence and success of the Directionality Argument crucially depends on the proper interpretation of the ‘ (...)time symmetry’ of fundamental physics as it appears in the argument, and offer two alternative interpretations. We argue that: if ‘ time symmetry’ is understood as the time -reversalinvariance of physical theories, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument should be rejected; and if ‘ time symmetry’ is understood as the temporally bidirectional nomic dependence relations of physical laws, then the crucial premise of the Directionality Argument is far more plausible. We defend the second reading as continuous with Russell’s writings, and consider the consequences of the bidirectionality of nomic dependence relations in physics for the metaphysics of causation. (shrink)
Against what is commonly accepted in many contexts, it has been recently suggested that both deterministic and indeterministic quantum theories are not time‐reversal invariant, and thus time is handed in a quantum world. In this paper, I analyze these arguments and evaluate possible reactions to them. In the context of deterministic theories, first I show that this conclusion depends on the controversial assumption that the wave‐function is a physically real scalar field in configuration space. Then I argue (...) that answers which restore invariance by assuming the wave‐function is a ray in Hilbert space fall short. Instead, I propose that one should deny that the wave‐function represents physical systems, along the lines proposed by the so‐called primitive ontology approach. Moreover, in the context of indeterministic theories, I argue that time‐reversalinvariance can be restored suitably redefining its meaning. (shrink)
It has been a longstanding problem to show how the irreversible behaviour of macroscopic systems can be reconciled with the time-reversalinvariance of these same systems when considered from a microscopic point of view. A result by Lanford shows that, under certain conditions, the famous Boltzmann equation, describing the irreversible behaviour of a dilute gas, can be obtained from the time-reversal invariant Hamiltonian equations of motion for the hard spheres model. Here, we examine how and (...) in what sense Lanford’s theorem succeeds in deriving this remarkable result. Many authors have expressed different views on the question which of the ingredients in Lanford’s theorem is responsible for the emergence of irreversibility. We claim that these interpretations miss the target. In fact, we argue that there is no time-asymmetric ingredient at all. (shrink)
This paper considers the possibility that nonrelativistic quantum mechanics tells us that Nature cares about timereversal. In a classical world we have a fundamentally reversible world that appears irreversible at higher levels, e.g., the thermodynamic level. But in a quantum world we see, if I am correct, a fundamentally irreversible world that appears reversible at higher levels, e.g., the level of classical mechanics. I consider two related symmetries, timereversalinvariance and what I call (...) ‘Wigner reversalinvariance.’ Violation of the first is interesting, for not only would it fly in the face of the usual story about temporal symmetry, but it also appears to imply (as I’ll explain) that time is ‘handed’, or as some have misleadingly said in the literature, ‘anisotropic’. Violation of the second is, as I hope to show, even more interesting. The paper also contains a discussion of two mostly neglected topics: what it means to say time is handed and what warrants such an attribution to time. (shrink)
Testable predictions of quantum mechanics are invariant under timereversal. But the evolution of the quantum state in time is not so, neither in the collapse nor in the no-collapse interpretations of the theory. This is a fact that challenges any realistic interpretation of the quantum state. On the other hand, this fact raises no difficulty if we interpret the quantum state as a mere calculation device, bookkeeping past real quantum events.
The aim of this paper is to analyze time-asymmetric quantum mechanics with respect to the problems of irreversibility and of time's arrow. We begin with arguing that both problems are conceptually different. Then, we show that, contrary to a common opinion, the theory's ability to describe irreversible quantum processes is not a consequence of the semigroup evolution laws expressing the non-time-reversalinvariance of the theory. Finally, we argue that time-asymmetric quantum mechanics, either in Prigogine's (...) version or in Bohm's version, does not solve the problem of the arrow of time because it does not supply a substantial and theoretically founded criterion for distinguishing between the two directions of time. (shrink)
I point out that some common folk wisdom about timereversalinvariance in classical mechanics is strictly incorrect, by showing some explicit examples in which classical timereversalinvariance fails, even among conservative systems. I then show that there is nevertheless a broad class of familiar classical systems that are timereversal invariant.
It is argued that time's arrow is present in all equations of motion. But it is absent in the point particle approximations commonly made. In particular, the Lorentz-Abraham-Dirac equation is time-reversal invariant only because it approximates the charged particle by a point. But since classical electrodynamics is valid only for finite size particles, the equations of motion for particles of finite size must be considered. Those equations are indeed found to lack time-reversalinvariance, thus (...) ensuring an arrow of time. Similarly, more careful considerations of the equations of motion for gravitational interactions also show an arrow of time. The existence of arrows of time in quantum dynamics is also emphasized. (shrink)
An increasing number of experiments at the Belle, BNL, CERN, DAΦNE and SLAC accelerators are confirming the violation of timereversalinvariance (T). The violation signifies a fundamental asymmetry between the past and future and calls for a major shift in the way we think about time. Here we show that processes which violate T symmetry induce destructive interference between different paths that the universe can take through time. The interference eliminates all paths except for (...) two that represent continuously forwards and continuously backwards time evolution. Evidence from the accelerator experiments indicates which path the universe is effectively following. This work may provide fresh insight into the long-standing problem of modeling the dynamics of T violation processes. It suggests that T violation has previously unknown, large-scale physical effects and that these effects underlie the origin of the unidirectionality of time. It may have implications for the Wheeler-DeWitt equation of canonical quantum gravity. Finally it provides a view of the quantum nature of time itself. (shrink)
In a classical mechanical world, the fundamental laws of nature are reversible. The laws of nature treat the past and future as mirror images of each other. Temporally asymmetric phenomena are ultimately said to arise from initial conditions. But are the laws of nature also reversible in a quantum world? This paper argues that they are not, that time in a quantum world prefers a particular 'hand' or ordering. I argue, first, that the probabilistic algorithm used in the theory (...) picks out a preferred direction of time for almost all interpretations of the theory, and second, that contrary to the received wisdom the Schr?dinger evolution is also irreversible. The status of Wigner reversalinvariance is then discussed. I conclude that the quantum world is fundamentally irreversible, but manages to appear (thanks to Wigner reversalinvariance) reversible at the classical level. (shrink)
In a classical mechanical world, the fundamental laws of nature are reversible. The laws of nature treat the past and future as mirror images of each other. Temporally asymmetric phenomena are ultimately said to arise from initial conditions. But are the laws of nature also reversible in a quantum world? This paper argues that they are not, that time in a quantum world prefers a particular 'hand' or ordering. I argue, first, that the probabilistic algorithm used in the theory (...) picks out a preferred direction of time for almost all interpretations of the theory, and second, that contrary to the received wisdom the Schr?dinger evolution is also irreversible. The status of Wigner reversalinvariance is then discussed. I conclude that the quantum world is fundamentally irreversible, but manages to appear reversible at the classical level. (shrink)
Richard Feynman has claimed that anti-particles are nothing but particles `propagating backwards in time'; that time reversing a particle state always turns it into the corresponding anti-particle state. According to standard quantum field theory textbooks this is not so: timereversal does not turn particles into anti-particles. Feynman's view is interesting because, in particular, it suggests a nonstandard, and possibly illuminating, interpretation of the CPT theorem. In this paper, we explore a classical analog of Feynman's view, (...) in the context of the recent debate between David Albert and David Malament over timereversal in classical electromagnetism. (shrink)
Many have suggested that the transformation standardly referred to as `timereversal' in quantum theory is not deserving of the name. I argue on the contrary that the standard definition is perfectly appropriate, and is indeed forced by basic considerations about the nature of time in the quantum formalism.
This article deals with the question of what timereversal means. It begins with a presentation of the standard account of timereversal, with plenty of examples, followed by a popular non-standard account. I argue that, in spite of recent commentary to the contrary, the standard approach to the meaning of timereversal is the only one that is philosophically and physically viable. The article concludes with a few open research problems about time (...)reversal. (shrink)
A theory is usually said to be time reversible if whenever a sequence of states S 1 , S 2 , S 3 is possible according to that theory, then the reverse sequence of time reversed states S 3 T , S 2 T , S 1 T is also possible according to that theory; i.e., one normally not only inverts the sequence of states, but also operates on the states with a timereversal operator T (...) . David Albert and Paul Horwich have suggested that one should not allow such timereversal operations T on states. I will argue that timereversal operations on fundamental states should be allowed. I will furthermore argue that the form that timereversal operations take is determined by the type of fundamental geometric quantities that occur in nature and that we have good reason to believe that the fundamental geometric quantities that occur in nature correspond to irreducible representations of the Lorentz transformations. Finally, I will argue that we have good reason to believe that space-time has a temporal orientation. (shrink)
The problem of the direction of time is reconsidered in the light of a generalized version of the theory of abstract deterministic dynamical systems, thanks to which the mathematical model of time can be provided with an internal dynamics, solely depending on its algebraic structure. This result calls for a reinterpretation of the directional properties of physical time, which have been typically understood in a strictly topological sense, as well as for a reexamination of the theoretical meaning (...) of the widespread time-reversalinvariance of classical physical processes. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to analyze time-asymmetric quantum mechanics with respect of its validity as a non time-reversal invariant, time-asymmetric theory as well as of its ability to determine an arrow of time.
A theory is usually said to be time reversible if whenever a sequence of states S 1, S 2, S 3 is possible according to that theory, then the reverse sequence of time reversed states S 3 T, S 2 T, S 1 T is also possible according to that theory; i.e., one normally not only inverts the sequence of states, but also operates on the states with a timereversal operator T. David Albert and Paul (...) Horwich have suggested that one should not allow such timereversal operations T on states. I will argue that timereversal operations on fundamental states should be allowed. I will furthermore argue that the form that timereversal operations take is determined by the type of fundamental geometric quantities that occur in nature and that we have good reason to believe that the fundamental geometric quantities that occur in nature correspond to irreducible representations of the Lorentz transformations. Finally, I will argue that we have good reason to believe that space-time has a temporal orientation. (shrink)
The principle of Information Conservation or Determinism is a governing assumption of physical theory. Determinism has counterfactual consequences. It entails that if the present were different, then the future would be different. But determinism is temporally symmetric: it entails that if the present were different, the past would also have to be different. This runs contrary to our commonsense intuition that what has happened in the future depends on the past in a way the past does not depend on the (...) future. To understand how this can be so we observe that while the truth of some counterfactuals is guaranteed by the laws of logic or the laws of nature, some are not. It is among the latter contingent, counterfactuals that we find temporal asymmetry. It is this asymmetry that gives causation a temporal direction. The temporal asymmetry of these counterfactuals is explained by the fact that the dynamical laws of nature are logically irreversible functions from partial states of the world onto other partial states. (Logical reversibility is not to be confused, though it too often is, with time-reversalinvariance). Though these irreversible laws are locally indeterministic, they can sum to give a globally deterministic description of the world. This combination of global determinism and local indeterminism gives rise to contingent counterfactual dependence and gives that dependence a direction. That direction is independent of the direction of entropy. The direction of contingent counterfactual dependence is time's arrow. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Malament (2004) employs a timereversal transformation that differs from the standard one, without explicitly arguing for it. This is a new and important understanding of timereversal that deserves arguing for in its own right. I argue that it improves upon the standard one. Recent discussion has focused on whether velocities should undergo a timereversal operation. I address a prior question: What is the proper notion of time (...)reversal? This is important, for it will affect our conclusion as to whether our best theories are time-reversal symmetric, and hence whether our spacetime is temporally oriented. *Received February 2007; revised March 2008. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Yale University, P.O. Box 208306, New Haven, CT 06520-8306; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
This article discusses some philosophical theories of causation and their application to several areas of science. Topics addressed include regularity, counterfactual, and causal process theories of causation; the causal interpretation of structural equation models and directed graphs; independence assumptions in causal reasoning; and the role of causal concepts in physics. In connection with this last topic, this article focuses on the relationship between causal asymmetries, the time-reversalinvariance of most fundamental physical laws, and the significance of differences (...) among varieties of differential equations in causal interpretation. It concludes with some remarks about “grounding” special science causal generalizations in physics. (shrink)
The analysis of the reversibility of quantum mechanics depends upon the choice of the timereversal operator for quantum mechanical states. The orthodox choice for the timereversal operator on QM states is known as the Wigner operator, T*, where * performs complex conjugation. The peculiarity is that this is not simply the unitary timereversal operation, but an anti-unitary operator, involving complex conjugation in addition to ordinary timereversal. The alternative choice (...) is the Racah operator, which is simply ordinary timereversal, T. Orthodox treatments hold that it is either logically or empirically necessary to adopt the Wigner operator, and the Racah operator has received little attention. The basis for this choice is analysed in detail, and it is concluded that all the conventional arguments for rejecting the Racah operator and adopting the Wigner operator are mistaken. The additional problem of whether the deterministic part of quantum mechanics should be judged to be reversible or not is also considered. The adoption of the Racah operator for timereversal appears prima facie to entail that quantum mechanics is irreversible. However, it is concluded that the real answer to question depends upon the choice of interpretation of the theory. In any case, the conventional reasons for claiming that quantum mechanics is reversible are incorrect. (shrink)
Wigner timereversal implemented by antiunitary transformations on the wavefunctions is to be refined if we are to deal with systems with internal symmetry. The necessary refinements are formulated. Application to a number of physical problems is made with some unexpected revelations about some popular models.
Dynamical collapse models embody the idea of a physical collapse of the wave function in a mathematically well-defined way. They involve modifications to the standard rules of quantum theory in order to describe collapse as a physical process. This appears to introduce a timereversal asymmetry into the dynamics since the state at any given time depends on collapses in the past but not in the future. Here we challenge this conclusion by demonstrating that, subject to specified (...) model constraints, collapse models can be given a structurally time symmetric formulation in which the collapse events are the primitive objects of the theory. Three different examples of time asymmetries associated with collapse models are then examined and in each case it is shown that the same dynamical rule determining the collapse events works in both the forward and backward in time directions. Any physically observed time asymmetries that arise in such models are due to the asymmetric imposition of initial or final time boundary conditions, rather than from an inherent asymmetry in the dynamical law. This is the standard explanation of time asymmetric behaviour resulting from time symmetric laws. (shrink)
In this paper I draw the distinction between intuitive and theory-relative accounts of the timereversal symmetry and identify problems with each. I then propose an alternative to these two types of accounts that steers a middle course between them and minimizes each account’s problems. This new account of timereversal requires that, when dealing with sets of physical theories that satisfy certain constraints, we determine all of the discrete symmetries of the physical laws we are (...) interested in and look for involutions that leave spatial coordinates unaffected and that act consistently across our physical laws. This new account of timereversal has the interesting feature that it makes the nature of the timereversal symmetry an empirical feature of the world without requiring us to assume that any particular physical theory is timereversal invariant from the start. Finally, I provide an analysis of several toy cases that reveals differences between my new account of timereversal and its competitors. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to analyse the relation between the second law of thermodynamics and the so-called arrow of time. For this purpose, a number of different aspects in this arrow of time are distinguished, in particular those of time-reversal (non-)invariance and of (ir)reversibility. Next I review versions of the second law in the work of Carnot, Clausius, Kelvin, Planck, Gibbs, Caratheodory and Lieb and Yngvason, and investigate their connection with these aspects of (...) the arrow of time. It is shown that this connection varies a great deal along with these formulations of the second law. According to the famous formulation by Planck, the second law expresses the irreversibility of natural processes. But in many other formulations irreversibility or even time-reversal non-invariance plays no role. I therefore argue for the view that the second law has nothing to do with the arrow of time. (shrink)
It was repeatedly underlined in literature that quantum mechanics cannot be considered a closed theory if the Born Rule is postulated rather than derived from the first principles. In this work the Born Rule is derived from the time-reversal symmetry of quantum equations of motion. The derivation is based on a simple functional equation that takes into account properties of probability, as well as the linearity and time-reversal symmetry of quantum equations of motion. The derivation presented (...) in this work also allows to determine certain limits to applicability of the Born Rule. (shrink)
Active timereversal in the sense of “object reversal” and passive timereversal in the sense of a frame reversal of time are discussed separately and then together so as to bring out their dual nature. An understanding of that duality makes it unavoidable to contrast symmetry properties of matter with symmetry properties to be assigned to antimatter. Only frame reversal of time can “see” all conceivable active time reversals relevant (...) to physical objects. Only frame reversal of time can be used for a meaningful extension of the Neumann principle to the time domain. (shrink)
Relativistic quantum theories are equipped with a background Minkowski spacetime and non-relativistic quantum theories with a Galilean space-time. Traditional investigations have distinguished their distinct space-time structures and have examined ways in which relativistic theories become sufficiently like Galilean theories in a low velocity approximation or limit. A different way to look at their relationship is to see that both kinds of theories are special cases of a certain five-dimensional generalization involving no limiting procedures or approximations. When one compares (...) them, striking features emerge that bear on philosophical questions, including the ontological status of the wave function and timereversalinvariance. (shrink)
Two approaches toward the arrow of time for scattering processes have been proposed in rigged Hilbert space quantum mechanics. One, due to Arno Bohm, involves preparations and registrations in laboratory operations and results in two semigroups oriented in the forward direction of time. The other, employed by the Brussels-Austin group, is more general, involving excitations and de-excitations of systems, and apparently results in two semigroups oriented in opposite directions of time. It turns out that these two (...) class='Hi'>time arrows can be related to each other via Wigner's extensions of the spacetime symmetry group. Furthermore, their are subtle differences in causality as well as the possibilities for the existence and creation of time-reversed states depending on which time arrow is chosen. (shrink)
We present a Gedankenexperiment that leads to a violation of detailed balance if quantum mechanical transition probabilities are treated in the usual way by applying Fermi’s “golden rule”. This Gedankenexperiment introduces a collection of two-level systems that absorb and emit radiation randomly through non-reciprocal coupling to a waveguide, as realized in specific chiral quantum optical systems. The non-reciprocal coupling is modeled by a hermitean Hamiltonian and is compatible with the time-reversalinvariance of unitary quantum dynamics. Surprisingly, the (...) combination of non-reciprocity with probabilistic radiation processes entails negative entropy production. Although the considered system appears to fulfill all conditions for Markovian stochastic dynamics, such a dynamics violates the Clausius inequality, a formulation of the second law of thermodynamics. Several implications concerning the interpretation of the quantum mechanical formalism are discussed. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to argue that a temporal asymmetry may be established within the framework of quantum field theory, independently of any violation of CP, and thereby T, in weak interactions, and independently of the property of timereversalinvariance that its dynamical equations instantiate. Particularly, I shall argue that the temporal asymmetry can be stemmed from assessing the links between the proper group of symmetries of the theory and the ontology of the theory: (...) arguments applied to establish which elements and magnitudes remain invariants under group transformations can also be used to establish a temporal asymmetry. (shrink)