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Zenith Grant Awardee

Dr. Paul Davies

Arizona State University


Yakir Aharonov, <i>George Mason University</i><br>Jeff Tollaksen, <i>George Mason University</i>

Project Title

Cosmological and Astrophysical Implications of Quantum Post-Selection

Project Summary

This project focuses on new aspects of quantum mechanics (QM), the weird theory that governs the micro-world of atoms. The key development is that QM has no in-built directionality in time: it works just as well from past-to-future as from future-to-past. QM seemingly cannot be used to send information back-in-time, but it does link future-to-past in subtle and significant ways, due to uncertainty and indeterminism. Contrary to everyday assumptions about reality, there is no unique historical sequence of events leading up to the present state, but rather an amalgam, or superposition, of contending realities. When an observation is made, it may select out a subset of histories from the superposition. The same observation will also serve to partly determine future states of the universe. This has implications for the passage-of-time, perhaps the most fundamental of all human experiences. In physics, time does not pass, it simply is. There are temporal durations, but no flux of. Again, the reformulation of QM provides a very different picture of the nature of time, suggesting that a reconciliation of subjective temporal passage and the static, or block time, of orthodox physics might lie with the linkage between future and past states.

Technical Abstract

Aharonov, Bergmann, and Lebowitz first explored the fundamental relationship between initial and final boundary conditions in quantum mechanics (QM). Subsequently, Aharonov's group reformulated QM in terms of the most refined quantum ensemble: Pre-and-Post-Selected-ensembles, leading to the Time-Symmetric re-formulation of QM (TSQM). TSQM has predicted surprising effects that were overlooked in standard quantum mechanics (e.g. quantum-random-walk, super-oscillations, weak-values). These experimentally confirmed effects have suggested new insights into the nature of quantum reality. There is no decisive experimental discriminator between TQSM and QM in the current formulation. However, because the conceptual framework of TSQM is radically new, it offers the possibility of novel generalizations leading to experimental discrimination between the two formulations. The core of our proposal is to explore such generalizations, and the experimental tests thereof. One generalization puts states and operators on an equal footing and promises a completely new understanding of the nature of time. Another utilizes final boundary conditions to select the outcome of specific individual measurements. These generalizations also have cosmological implications, examples include strange weak-values of energetic cosmic rays, of magnetic fields of galaxies, of dark energy, and of negative pressure. We also consider their implications for anthropic and fine-tuning issues, etc.

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