Past events :: 2014

Free Will and Retrocausality in a Quantum World

July 2014
A Conference held under the auspices of the JTF-funded project, New Agendas for the Study of Time

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Why retrocausality - and why free will?

The classic motivation for retrocausal models in QM stems from Bell's Theorem, and the nonlocality to seems to entail.

Nonlocality is often felt to be counterintuitive in itself, and the source of an unresolved tension between quantum theory and special relativity. As Bell himself described the implications of his famous result “It's a deep dilemma, and the resolution of it will not be trivial ... he cheapest resolution is something like going back to relativity as it was before Einstein, when people like Lorentz and Poincaré thought that there was an aether a preferred frame of reference but that our measuring instruments were distorted by motion in such a way that we could not detect motion through the aether.

As Bell was well aware, the dilemma can be avoided if the properties of quantum systems are allowed to depend on what happens to them in the future, as well as in the past. Like most researchers interested in these issues, however, Bell felt that the cure would be worse than the disease he thought that this kind of “retrocausality” would conflict with free will, and with assumptions fundamental to the practice of science. He said that when he tried to think about retrocausality, he “lapsed into fatalism”.If this objection to retrocausality in QM is well founded, it raises interesting issues about the nature and origins of this "free will", that turns out to play such a surprising role in the foundations of physics. If the objection is not well founded, then it is high time it is moved aside, so that the retrocausal approach can be given the attention it otherwise seems to deserve. Moreover, there are other motivations for exploring retrocausal models in QM, some the focus of considerable current research. Examples include:

* The proposed retrocausal explanation of the results of the 'weak measurement' by Aharonov, Vaidman and others.
* The relevance of retrocauslity to the issue of the viability of an 'epistemic' interpretation of the quantum state, especially in the light of recent results such as the PBR Theorem.
* Recent work throwing new light on the relation between retrocasuality in QM, on the one hand, and the time-symmetry and other symmetries, on the other.

For these reasons, too, there is a pressing need for a better understanding of notions of free will and causality, and of their relevance to the retrocausal The papproach to the quantum world. This conference brought together many of the leading writers and researchers on these topics, to discuss these issues.

Lars Boenke, Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology

Thursday 7th August 2014

Spontaneous oscillatory dynamics in α and β-band power during a spatialized auditory and visual temporal order judgment task - a challenge for the “gating through inhibition” framework?

Probabilty and Time Travel :: Alastair Wilson

Thursday 20th November, 2014

If time travel is possible, what are the chances of it taking place? How likely to occur are casual loops - such as your travelling back into the past to give your earlier self the blueprints for a time machine? Is there any chance of you killing your own grandfather and thereby preventing your own existence? Drawing from both physics and philosophy,the project will mount two inter-disciplinary workshops on these issues: The first in Sydney and one in Birmingham