This article suggests a fresh look at gauge symmetries, with the aim of drawing a clear line between the a priori theoretical considerations involved, and some methodological and empirical non-deductive aspects that are often overlooked. The gauge argument is primarily based on a general symmetry principle expressing the idea that a change of mathematical representation should not change the form of the dynamical law. In addition, the ampliative part of the argument is based on the introduction of new degrees of (...) freedom into the theory according to a methodological principle that is formulated here in terms of correspondence between passive and active transformations. To demonstrate how the two kinds of considerations work together in a concrete context, I begin by considering spatial symmetries in mechanics. I suggest understanding Mach's principle as a similar combination of theoretical, methodological and empirical considerations, and demonstrate the claim with a simple toy model. I then examine gauge symmetries as a manifestation of the two principles in a quantum context. I further show that in all of these cases the relational nature of physically significant quantities can explain the relevance of the symmetry principle and the way the methodology is applied. In the quantum context, the relevant relational variables are quantum phases. (shrink)
I address the recent debate between Meehan and Vaidman concerning the claim made by the former for a new problem to quantum mechanics. I argue that while Meehan's incompatibility claim does hold in the situation he presents, it does not genuinely involve considerations that can limit quantum state preparation, nor does it introduce new constrains over possible interpretations of quantum theory.
Protective measurements illustrate how Yakir Aharonov's fundamental insights into quantum theory yield new experimental paradigms that allow us to test quantum mechanics in ways that were not possible before. As for quantum theory itself, protective measurements demonstrate that a quantum state describes a single system, not only an ensemble of systems, and reveal a rich ontology in the quantum state of a single system. We discuss in what sense protective measurements anticipate the theorem of Pusey, Barrett, and Rudolph (PBR), stating (...) that, if quantum predictions are correct, then two distinct quantum states cannot represent the same physical reality. (shrink)
This paper formulates generalized versions of the general principle of relativity and of the principle of equivalence that can be applied to general abstract spaces. It is shown that when the principles are applied to the Hilbert space of a quantum particle, its law of coupling to electromagnetic fields is obtained. It is suggested to understand the Aharonov-Bohm effect in light of these principles, and the implications for some related foundational controversies are discussed.
Gauge symmetries provide one of the most puzzling examples of the applicability of mathematics in physics. The presented work focuses on the role of analogical reasoning in the gauge argument, motivated by Mark Steiner’s claim that the application of the gauge principle relies on a Pythagorean analogy whose success undermines naturalist philosophy. In this paper, we present two different views concerning the analogy between gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear interactions, each providing a different philosophical response to the problem of the applicability (...) of mathematics in the natural sciences. The first is based on an account of Weyl’s original work, which first gave rise to the gauge principle. Drawing on his later philosophical writings, we develop an idealist reading of the mathematical analogies in the gauge argument. On this view, mathematical analogies serve to ensure a conceptual harmony in our scientific account of nature. We further discuss the construction of Yang and Mills’s gauge theory in light of this idealist reading. The second account presents a naturalist alternative, formulated in terms of John Norton’s account of a material analogy, according to which the analogy succeeds in virtue of a physical similarity between the different interactions. This account is based on the methodological equivalence principle, a simple conceptual extension of the gauge principle that allows us to understand the relation between coordinate transformations and gravity as a manifestation of the same method. The physical similarity between the different cases is based on attributing the success of this method to the dependence of the coupling on relational physical quantities. We conclude by reflecting on the advantages and limits of the idealist, naturalist, and anthropocentric Pythagorean views, as three alternative ways to understand the puzzling relation between mathematics and physics. (shrink)
The paper portrays the influence of major philosophical ideas on the 1935 debates on quantum theory that reached their climax in the paper by Einstein, Podosky and Rosen, and describes the relevance of these ideas to the vast impact of the paper. I claim that the focus on realism in many common descriptions of the debate misses important aspects both of Einstein's and Bohr's thinking. I suggest an alternative understanding of Einstein's criticism of quantum mechanics as a manifestation of the (...) same methodological principles that served him in the construction of the special and the general theories of relativity. These principles address, in a very specific way, the relation of the theoretical mathematical representations to the represented physical systems. These ideas, I claim, played a key role in the influence of the paper on later works that changed our understanding of quantum theory despite the rejection of EPR's central conclusion. (shrink)
Gauge symmetries play a central role, both in the mathematical foundations as well as the conceptual construction of modern (particle) physics theories. However, it is yet unclear whether they form a necessary component of theories, or whether they can be eliminated. It is also unclear whether they are merely an auxiliary tool to simplify (and possibly localize) calculations or whether they contain independent information. Therefore their status, both in physics and philosophy of physics, remains to be fully clarified. In this (...) overview we review the current state of affairs on both the philosophy and the physics side. In particular, we focus on the circumstances in which the restriction of gauge theories to gauge invariant information on an observable level is warranted, using the Brout-Englert-Higgs theory as an example of particular current importance. Finally, we determine a set of yet to be answered questions to clarify the status of gauge symmetries. (shrink)
We review an argument that bipartite "PR-box" correlations, though designed to respect relativistic causality, in fact violate relativistic causality in the classical limit. As a test of this argument, we consider Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger (GHZ) correlations as a tripartite version of PR-box correlations, and ask whether the argument extends to GHZ correlations. If it does-i.e., if it shows that GHZ correlations violate relativistic causality in the classical limit-then the argument must be incorrect (since GHZ correlations do respect relativistic causality in the classical (...) limit.) However, we find that the argument does not extend to GHZ correlations. We also show that both PR-box correlations and GHZ correlations can be retrocausal, but the retrocausality of PR-box correlations leads to self-contradictory causal loops, while the retrocausality of GHZ correlations does not. (shrink)