Quantum Non-Booleanity, Simultaneity and the Despatialization of Time

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PIRSA Number: 
08120021

Abstract

Lee Smolin has argued that one of the barriers to understanding time in a quantum world is our tendency to spatialize time. The question is whether there is anything in physics that could lead us to mathematically characterize time so that it is not just another funny spatial dimension. I will explore the possibility(already considered by Smolin and others) that time may be distinguished from space by what I will call a measure of Booleanity. The Bell-Kochen-Specker Theorem shows that the statistics of quantum systems (unlike that of classical systems) do not in general permit of a Boolean substructure. I will outline reasons for thinking that time is the dimension in which the Booleanity of spacetime (considered as a quantum system) varies, while space is characterized by constant Booleanity. I will not be able to give a mathematically complete characterization of the Booleanity of a region of spacetime, since that would require nothing less than knowing how to quantize spacetime; however, I will argue that something like this is needed if one is to make any sense of an ontological distinction between past, present, and future in terms of modern physics. I will also briefly consider possible objections to this view arising from the relativity of simultaneity, which (on its usual interpretation) apparently places all events on an equal ontological footing. In order to get around this we need a generalized conception of simultaneity that treats Einstein's notion of simultaneity as a special case, and which allows for equivalence classes of spacelike separate events distinguished by covariant quantities such as action, phase, and (as I will argue) any reasonable measure of Booleanity.