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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
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2015 The Physics of What Happens
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2013 Physics of Information
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2010 The Nature of Time
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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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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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