Journal Article

Are Rindler Quanta Real? Inequivalent Particle Concepts in Quantum Field Theory

Rob Clifton and Hans Halvorson

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 52, issue 3, pages 417-470
Published in print September 2001 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2001 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/52.3.417
Are Rindler Quanta Real? Inequivalent Particle Concepts in Quantum Field Theory

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Philosophical reflection on quantum field theory has tended to focus on how it revises our conception of what a particle is. However, there has been relatively little discussion of the threat to the ‘reality’ of particles posed by the possibility of inequivalent quantizations of a classical field theory, i.e. inequivalent representations of the algebra of observables of the field in terms of operators on a Hilbert space. The threat is that each representation embodies its own distinctive conception of what a particle is, and how a ‘particle’ will respond to a suitably operated detector. Our main goal is to clarify the subtle relationship between inequivalent representations of a field theory and their associated particle concepts. We also have a particular interest in the Minkowski versus Rindler quantizations of a free Boson field, because they respectively entail two radically different descriptions of the particle content of the field in the very same region of spacetime. We shall defend the idea that these representations provide complementary descriptions of the same state of the field against the claim that they embody completely incommensurable theories of the field.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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