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Title: The regular histories formulation of quantum theory
Author: Priebe, Roman
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 8222
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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A measurement-independent formulation of quantum mechanics called ‘regular histories’ (RH) is presented, able to reproduce the predictions of the standard formalism without the need to for a quantum-classical divide or the presence of an observer. It applies to closed systems and features no wave-function collapse. Weights are assigned only to histories satisfying a criterion called ‘regularity’. As the set of regular histories is not closed under the Boolean operations this requires a new con- cept of weight, called ‘likelihood’. Remarkably, this single change is enough to overcome many of the well-known obstacles to a sensible interpretation of quantum mechanics. For example, Bell’s theorem, which makes essential use of probabilities, places no constraints on the locality properties of a theory based on likelihoods. Indeed, RH is both counter- factually definite and free from action-at-a-distance. Moreover, in RH the meaningful histories are exactly those that can be witnessed at least in principle. Since it is especially difficult to make sense of the concept of probability for histories whose occurrence is intrinsically indeterminable, this makes likelihoods easier to justify than probabilities. Interaction with the environment causes the kinds of histories relevant at the macroscopic scale of human experience to be witnessable and indeed to generate Boolean algebras of witnessable histories, on which likelihoods reduce to ordinary probabilities. Further- more, a formal notion of inference defined on regular histories satisfies, when restricted to such Boolean algebras, the classical axioms of implication, explaining our perception of a largely classical world. Even in the context of general quantum histories the rules of reasoning in RH are remark- ably intuitive. Classical logic must only be amended to reflect the fundamental premise that one cannot meaningfully talk about the occurrence of unwitnessable histories. Crucially, different histories with the same ‘physical content’ can be interpreted in the same way and independently of the family in which they are expressed. RH thereby rectifies a critical flaw of its inspiration, the consistent histories (CH) approach, which requires either an as yet unknown set selection rule or a paradigm shift towards an un- conventional picture of reality whose elements are histories-with-respect-to-a-framework. It can be argued that RH compares favourably with other proposed interpretations of quantum mechanics in that it resolves the measurement problem while retaining an essentially classical worldview without parallel universes, a framework-dependent reality or action-at-a-distance.
Supervisor: Abramsky, Samson Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mathematics ; Computer science (mathematics) ; Quantum theory (mathematics) ; Physics ; Theoretical physics ; regular histories ; interpretation ; quantum mechanics ; quantum theory ; consistent histories ; histories