A Priori Probability and Localized Observers

Foundations of Physics, Volume 22, pages 1111-1172 (1992).

Abstract A physical and mathematical framework for the analysis of probabilities in quantum theory is proposed and developed. One purpose is to surmount the problem, crucial to any reconciliation between quantum theory and space-time physics, of requiring instantaneous “wave-packet collapse” across the entire universe. The physical starting point is the idea of an observer as an entity, localized in space-time, for whom any physical system can be described at any moment, by a set of (not necessarily pure) quantum states compatible with his observations of the system at that moment. The mathematical starting point is the theory of local algebras from axiomatic relativistic quantum field theory. A function defining the a priori probability of mistaking one local state for another is analysed. This function is shown to possess a broad range of appropriate properties and to be uniquely defined by a selection of them. Through a general model for observations, it is argued that the probabilities defined here are as compatible with experiment as the probabilities of conventional interpretations of quantum mechanics but are more likely to be compatible, not only with modern developments in mathematical physics, but also with a complete and consistent theory of measurement.

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Matthew J. Donald

The Cavendish Laboratory, JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge CB3 0HE, Great Britain.

e-mail : mjd1014@cam.ac.uk

home page: http://people.bss.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mjd1014