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Title: Aspects of time in quantum theory
Author: Yearsley, James M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2713 3882
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2011
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We consider a number of aspects of the problem of defining time observables in quantum theory. Time observables are interesting quantities in quantum theory because they often cannot be associated with self-adjoint operators. Their definition therefore touches on foundational issues in quantum theory. Various operational approaches to defining time observables have been proposed in the past. Two of the most common are those based on pulsed measurements in the form of strings of projection operators and continuous measurements in the form of complex potentials. One of the major achievements of this thesis is to prove that these two operational approaches are equivalent. However operational approaches are somewhat unsatisfying by themselves. To provide a definition of time observables which is not linked to a particular measurement scheme we employ the decoherent, or consistent, histories approach to quantum theory. We focus on the arrival time, one particular example of a time observable, and we use the relationship between pulsed and continuous measurements to relate the decoherent histories approach to one based on complex potentials. This lets us compute the arrival time probability distribution in decoherent histories and we show that it agrees with semiclassical expectations in the right limit. We do this both for a free particle and for a particle coupled to an environment. Finally, we consider how the results discussed in this thesis relate to those derived by coupling a particle to a model clock. We show that for a general class of clock models the probabilities thus measured can be simply related to the ideal ones computed via decoherent histories.
Supervisor: Halliwell, Jonathan Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral