New Directions in the Foundations of Physics Conference in Washington DC 2013 (part 5)
“Lagrangian-Only Quantum Theory” by Ken Wharton
What I liked about Ken’s talk was the novelty of his idea. Working in the quantum mechanics reconstruction area I always ask the “what if” questions: what if the universe would obey different kinds of mathematical relationships? So what if there are no dynamical equations, not even stochastic ones? This is the premise of Ken’s approach in arXiv:1301.7012.
As an inspiration one can pick the example of statistical mechanics and work out along the following lines:
1. Consider all possible microstates
2. Eliminate inconsistent states
3. Assign an equal a priori probably
4. Calculate probabilities as Bayesian updates
Now in nature there are distinguished mathematical structures, including the existence of Hamiltonian equations of motion. If we do not consider the dynamics, we can open the door for all kinds of other kinds of ontologies, like for example simulated virtual realities. By killing the dynamics Ken is basically going outside the realm of physics in hope to discover new insights. If I understood him well in a private conversation after the talk, Ken’s approach is basically opposite that of t`Hoofts: start with a chaotic system in the IR domain and arrive at quantum mechanics in the UV area. In the process Ken claims he recovers something that asymptotically becomes Born’s rule. If correct, this would represent a genuine new insight into the origin of Born’s rule besides the ones from Gleason theorem or Zurek’s program.
One may object that going outside physics is a fool’s errand, but then we are reminded by the unphysical PR-boxes which proved fruitful into better understanding quantum mechanics. Will Ken’s approach prove as fruitful? Only time will tell and I wish him luck.
One last word about this series of posts from the conference. Here is the link to the conference page http://carnap.umd.edu/philphysics/conference.html where one can find all the brief descriptions of the talks.