Lessons for Quantum Foundations from the Minimal Modal Interpretation

Speaker: Jacob Barandes, Department of Physics, Harvard University
Collaborator: David Kagan, Department of Physics, UMass-Dartmouth
Date: Tuesday, February 23
Time: 4:10-6:00 pm
Location: Room 716, Department of Philosophy, Columbia University

Abstract: The language of random variables makes possible a formal analogy between classical probability theory and quantum theory that better highlights their key similarities and differences. I’ll use this formulation to clarify the underlying problems that have long obstructed the development of a satisfactory interpretation of quantum theory, suggest changes in how we introduce students to quantum theory, discuss important new requirements for future work on quantum foundations, provide a helpful classification scheme for the various prominent interpretations, and motivate a novel “minimal” modal interpretation. This new interpretation is minimal in the sense that its fundamental ingredients are only those that either have clear counterparts in classical physics or are familiar from the traditional formulation of quantum theory. I’ll explain how the minimal modal interpretation provides every quantum system with both a definite ontology as well as approximate ontological dynamics ensuring the stability of that ontology through time, whether the system is closed or open and whether the system is in a pure state or in a highly entangled improper mixture. The rules governing the ontological dynamics are based on a class of newly discovered quantum conditional probabilities whose detailed properties I will discuss in depth. I’ll conclude with a summary of open questions and implications for issues of importance to the philosophy of physics.

There will be a dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to nyphilsci@gmail.com as soon as possible so that I can make the reservation for the appropriate number of people (please note that all faculty and grad students are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email eddy.chen@rutgers.edu

Upcoming talks at Metro Area Philosophy of Science:

  • (TBA). 4:30-6:30pm @ NYU. Laura Franklin-Hall (NYU). Topic: TBA.
  • Apr 26. 4:30-6:30pm @ NYU. Lev Vaidman (Tel Aviv). Topic: Many-Worlds QM.
  • May 3. 4:10-6:00pm @ Columbia. Collin Rice (Lycoming). Topic: TBA.
  • May 12. 3:00-6:30pm @ NYU. Mini Workshop on Philosophy of Physics: (1) Elizabeth Miller (Yale) & Ned Hall (Harvard), and (2) Angelo Bassi (Trieste). Topics: TBA.
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