Virtual Seminars

Bob Wald
University of Chicago

Quantum Superposition of Massive Bodies

We analyse a gedankenexperiment previously considered by Mari et al. that involves quantum superpositions of charged and/or massive bodies (“particles”) under the control of the observers, Alice and Bob. In the electromagnetic case, we show that the quantization of electromagnetic radiation (which causes decoherence of Alice’s particle) and vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field (which limits Bob’s ability to localize his particle to better than a charge-radius) both are essential for avoiding apparent paradoxes with causality and complementarity. We then analyze the gravitational version of this gedankenexperiment. We show that the analysis of the gravitational case is in complete parallel with the electromagnetic case provided that gravitational radiation is quantized and that vacuum fluctuations limit the localization of a particle to no better than a Planck length. This provides support for the view that (linearized) gravity should have a quantum field description.

Marcus Aspelmeyer
University of Vienna

On the role of gravity in table-top quantum experiments

I will discuss the challenges and prospects for isolating and exploring gravity as a relevant coupling mechanism in table-top quantum experiments. This includes quantum states of the metric generated by a quantum source mass and possible schemes to measure it. Experimentally, a central role is played by the possibility to achieve quantum control over motional states of levitated solid-state particles.

Aleks Kissinger
University of Oxford

Extending the logic of influence and causation

Abstract: I will talk about some recent developments in the framework of “black box causal reasoning”. In this minimal setting, we assume access to some abstract process and attempt to describe, quantify, or prove properties about the causal relationships between its inputs and outputs. This works both for first-order processes, which can capture e.g. a device shared by multiple agents, or higher-order processes, which captures the universe in which those agents live. This higher-order picture leads naturally to a particular categorical structure that has long been studied in theoretical computer science called a *-autonomous category. Whereas first order processes (e.g. quantum gates) only have two natural notions of composition (in series and in parallel), higher-order processes have an extremely rich and multi-faceted notion of composition guided by the “internal logic” of a *-autonomous category. In this talk, I will highlight some aspects of this logic, show how they can be used for causal reasoning, and discuss some recent extensions and open problems.

Markus aspelmeyer

Lee Smolin
Perimeter Institute

The quantum universe as a collection of partial views of itself

Abstract: I describe a recent proposal for a simultaneous completion of quantum mechanics and general relativity, called the causal theory of views (CTV). Among its postulates are that time, in the sense of causal relations amongst events, is fundamental, and that space is emergent-along with everything that depends on space, such as distances, derivatives, fields, locality, non-locality etc.   Also assumed real and fundamental are energy and momentum.  Each event than has a view of the rest of the universe, which is made  by the energy and momentum transferred to it by its causal precedents. To define dynamics we must introduce a measure of distance on the space of views.  The idea is that differences of views substitutes for spacial distances and derivatives. The potential energy is then postulated to be a measure of the total diversity of views in the universe, called the variety.   The kinetic energy is then related to the variety’s rate of change under causal evolution.   The dynamics is defined by a sum over causal histories, from which space and spacetime emerge at the semiclassical approximation.  N body nonrelativistic quantum mechanics is also derived, due to the variety reducing to Bohm’s quantum potential. Further steps are sketched. Based on papers: arXiv:1712.04799.  with Marina Cortes: arXiv:1307.6167,   arXiv:1407.0032, arXiv:1703.09696 , arXiv:1902.05082,
arXiv:1104.2822, arXiv:1506.02938,  arXiv:1205.3707

Richard Healey
University of Arizona

Are facts relative in a quantum wold?

Abstract: Recent arguments purport to show that if quantum theory is universally applicable then there is no objective fact about the outcome of a quantum measurement in certain extended Wigner’s friend Gedankenexperimenten. This calls for an examination of the notions of fact and objectivity. If quantum theory is universally applicable then the facts about the physical world include a fact about each quantum measurement outcome. I will argue that these and other physical facts lack an ideal kind of objectivity but their more modest objectivity is all that science needs.

Robert Oeckl
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

What is Quantum Theory?

Abstract: The invention of quantum theory in the 1920s represented a paradigm shift in our approach to describing the natural world. The focus on the object as a primitive shifted to the observation as a primitive. At the time, the first applications of interest came with a classical description in the language of Hamiltonian evolution, canonical variables and states. Staying close to this particular language lead to the development of the quantum formalism of Hilbert spaces, operators, Schrödinger equation and Born rule. Somewhat unfortunately, this standard formulation has come to dominate our understanding of what quantum theory is. While it was successfully employed in describing the micro-structure of matter and its relevant interactions, describing the dynamics of spacetime itself is outside of its scope. With the present talk I want to promote the idea that quantum theory is much more general than this standard formulation. I aim to clarify the essence of the paradigm shift that lies at the heart of the transition from classical to quantum theory. On this basis I then review the derivation from first principles of a more fundamental formulation of quantum theory, the positive formalism, and the recovery of the standard formulation as a special case.

Časlav Brukner
University of Vienna

Quantum superposition of processes with opposing thermodynamic arrows of time

Abstract: Fundamental laws of physics are generally time-symmetric. The directionality of time is then often explained with the thermodynamic arrow of time: the entropy of an isolated system increases during a process, and it is constant only if the process is reversible. In this talk, I will consider a quantum superposition between two processes with opposing thermodynamic arrows of time. How is a definite arrow of time established for such a superposition? I will show that a quantum measurement of entropy change (for values larger than the thermal fluctuations) can be accountable for this. In particular, while the individual result of the measurement is random, once the value of the entropy variation has been observed, the system continues its evolution according to a definite arrow of time. Furthermore, for entropy variations lower than (or of the order of) the thermal fluctuations, interference effects can cause entropy changes describing more or less (ir)reversible processes than either of the two constituents, or any classical mixture therefrom.

Lucien Hardy
Perimeter Institute

A Time Symmetry in Operational Theories

Abstract: The standard framework for probabilistic operational theories is time asymmetric. The fact that future choices cannot affect the probability of earlier outcomes is mathematised by the statement that the deterministic effect is unique. However, deterministic preparations are not unique and, correspondingly, earlier choices can influence later probabilities of outcomes. This time asymmetry is rather strange because abstract probability theory knows nothing of time. Furthermore, the Schoedinger equation is time symmetric and, additionally, measurement situations can be treated by very simple models (without invoking the Second Law at all). In this talk I will outline how it is possible to give a time symmetric treatment of operational probabilistic theories with particular application to Quantum Theory. In so doing, we will see that the usual formulation of operational quantum theory is, in some sense, missing half of the picture.

Anna Pearson with Natalia Ares
Oxford University

Testing gravitational decoherence through the heating of a mechanical resonator

Abstract: The theory of classical channel gravity models gravitational interactions as classical measurement channels. These channels are a source of decoherence even if the results of the measurements are never recorded in a lab and thus the gravitational interaction can be thought of as having the same effect as an observer. This leads to two potentially observable effects – decoherence in the position basis and a density dependent heating effect. We have set up an experiment to test for the latter, using a cavity optomechanical setup at cryogenic temperatures to measure the mode heating of a silicon nitride membrane.