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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Quantum time Oppenheim, Jonathan A.


In quantum mechanics, time plays a role unlike any other observable. We find that measuring whether an event happened, and measuring when an event happened are fundamentally different - the two measurements do not correspond to compatible observables and interfere with each other. We also propose a basic limitation on measurements of the arrival time of a free particle given by 1/Ek where Ek is the particle's kinetic energy. The temporal order of events is also an ambiguous concept in quantum mechanics. It is not always possible to determine whether one event lies in the future or past of another event. One cannot measure whether one particle arrives to a particular location before or after another particle if they arrive within a time of 1/E of each other, where E is the total kinetic energy of the two particles. These new inaccuracy limitations are dynamical in nature, and fundamentally different from the Heisenberg uncertainty relations. They refer to individual measurements of a single quantity. It is hoped that by understanding the role of time in quantum mechanics, we may gain new insight into the role of time in a quantum theory of gravity.

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