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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Matthew Leifer
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Project Title

Quantum Theory in the Block Universe

Project Summary

Relativity theory radically changes our notions of space and time. There is no unique notion of "now" and "elsewhere in time" is analogous to "elsewhere in space". This is known as the block universe view. Our other fundamental theory of physics, quantum theory, employs a conventional notion of time, wherein systems evolve in a background time from past to future. There are many obstacles to achieving a proper understanding of quantum theory, e.g. it seems to entail faster-than-light influences, even though these cannot be used to send a message. Perhaps these obstacles arise from using a conventional approach to time, rather than incorporating the revisions implied by relativity theory. In this project, I will develop block universe accounts of quantum theory in which elementary observable events are pieced together in spacetime like a jigsaw puzzle. Placing a jigsaw piece somewhere on a table puts constraints on which other pieces can be added on either side of it. In a similar way, our choices can place constraints on what happens in the apparent past to the same extent that they do for the future. This can resolve the quantum paradoxes, by allowing apparently nonlocal influences to travel locally via the past.

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