General relativity is a deterministic theory with non-fixed causal structure. Quantum theory is a probabilistic theory with fixed causal structure. In this paper, we build a framework for probabilistic theories with non-fixed causal structure. This combines the radical elements of general relativity and quantum theory. We adopt an operational methodology for the purposes of theory construction (though without committing to operationalism as a fundamental philosophy). The key idea in the construction is physical compression. A physical theory relates quantities. Thus, if we specify a sufficiently large set of quantities (this is the compressed set), we can calculate all the others. We apply three levels of physical compression. First, we apply it locally to quantities (actually probabilities) that might be measured in a particular region of spacetime. Then we consider composite regions. We find that there is a second level of physical compression for a composite region over and above the first level physical compression for the component regions. Each application of first and second level physical compression is quantified by a matrix. We find that these matrices themselves are related by the physical theory and can therefore be subject to compression. This is the third level of physical compression. The third level of physical compression gives rise to a new mathematical object which we call the causaloid. From the causaloid for a particular physical theory we can calculate everything the physical theory can calculate. This approach allows us to set up a framework for calculating probabilistic correlations in data without imposing a fixed causal structure (such as a background time). We show how to put quantum theory in this framework (thus providing a new formulation of this theory). We indicate how general relativity might be put into this framework and how the framework might be used to construct a theory of quantum gravity.
Journal of Physics A Mathematical General
- Pub Date:
- March 2007
- General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology;
- High Energy Physics - Theory;
- Quantum Physics
- 23 pages. For special issue of Journal of Physics A entitled "The quantum universe" in honour of Giancarlo Ghirardi