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Foundations and Interpretation of Quantum Theory (Winter 2010)
Code: AMATH 900/AMATH 495/PHYS 490 Semester/Year Offered: Winter 2010
Instructors:Joseph Emerson and Raymond Laflamme
Location: PI and RAC Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30-3:50
Calendar Description:
Lecture times and locations: Tuesdays 2:30-3:50 p.m. at Perimeter Institute, Bob Room, Thursdays 2:30-3:50 p.m. at RAC 2009

First lecture: Tuesday, January 12, 2010.

Prerequisite: For undergraduates: permission of the instructor, or AMATH 473/PHYS 454. There are no prerequisites for graduate students.

Motivation: From a practical point of view, quantum theory has been an enormously successful theory. It correctly predicts both non-relativistic and relativistic phenomena to extraordinary precision and has driven major technological developments such as the laser, superconductivity and micro-circuitry. More recently, we have seen the coherence and entanglement of single quantum systems veri ed routinely in todays labs and these distinctive quantum phenomena are now being directly exploited as the basis for emerging quantum technologies. And yet, in spite of these successes, there are questions and controversy surrounding very basic issues about the physical nature of the theory. While such questions are sometimes dismissed as mere philosophy, the study of these foundational issues has played a critical role in conceptual breakthroughs in areas ranging from quantum computation and quantum cryptography to the nature of quantum chaos and the quantum-classical transition.

Description: After a review of the axiomatic formulation of quantum theory, the generalized operational structure of the theory will be introduced (including POVM measurements, sequential measurements, and CP maps). There will be an introduction to the orthodox (sometimes called Copenhagen) interpretation of quantum mechanics and the historical problems/issues/debates regarding that interpretation, in particular, the measurement problem and the EPR paradox, and a discussion of contemporary views on these topics. The majority of the course lectures will consist of guest lectures from international experts covering the various approaches to the interpretation of quantum theory (in particular, many-worlds, de Broglie-Bohm, consistent/decoherent histories, and statistical/epistemic interpretations, as time permits) and fundamental properties and tests of quantum theory (such as entanglement and experimental tests of Bell inequalities, contextuality, macroscopic quantum phenomena, and the problem of quantum gravity, as time permits).

Video lectures and lecture notes from the previous course offering are available here.


Lecturer Tentative Lecture Title Date
Joseph Emerson Axioms for quantum mechanics Week of January 11, 2009
Joseph Emerson Basic problems of interpretation Week of January 18, 2009
Joseph Emerson Constraints on hidden variable models Week of January 25, 2009
Robin Blume-Kohout Probability and its interpretation Week of February 1, 2009
Gregor Weihs Experimental tests of Bell inequality Week of February 8, 2009
Reading week-no lectures Reading week-no lectures Week of February 15, 2009
Alex Wilce Convex sets framework for probabilistic theories Week of February 22, 2009
Roderich Tumulka deBroglie-Bohm interpretation Week of March 1, 2009
Chris Fuchs Quantum Bayesian view Week of March 8, 2009
Lev Vaidman The many-worlds interpretation Week of March 15, 2009
Tony Leggett Fundamental tests of quantum mechanics Week of March 22, 2009
Michel Devoret Macroscopic quantum coherence Week of March 29, 2009

Transportation: Shuttle transportation to/from PI and RAC is available as follows. Priority will be given to students registered in the course. Pick up at EIT will be at the entrace facing DC. The shuttle driver can be reached at the following number: 519-572-4198.

2:05 EIT to PI
2:25 EIT to PI (this trip is reserved for those who have class on main campus until 2:20)
3:55 PI to EIT

2:05 EIT to RAC
2:25 EIT to RAC (this trip is reserved for those who have class on main campus until 2:20)
3:55 RAC to EIT

You can find the complete PI Video Archives at:

Topic Hours Notes

Axioms for quantum mechanics
Joseph Emerson
Video for Lecture 1
Video for Lecture 2

6QFI Lectures 1 and 2 - Axioms.pdf

Historical Perspectives
Joseph Emerson
Video for Lecture 3
Video for Lecture 4

6QFI Lectures 3 and 4 - Historical Perspectives.pdf

Assignment 1
Assignment 1 Contents

0Assignment 1.pdf

Hidden Variables and their Constraints
Video for Lecture 5

6QFI Lecture 5 - Hidden variables and their contraints.pdf

Probability and its interpretation
Robin Blume-Kohout
Video for Lecture 6.1
Video for Lecture 6.2
Video for Lecture 7.1
Video for Lecture 7.2


Experimental Tests of Bell's Inequality (I)
Gregor Weihs
Video for Lecture 8

3Foundations Course Weihs 1.pdf

Experimental Tests of Bell's Inequality (II)
Gregor Weihs
Video for Lecture 9

3Foundations Course Weihs 2.pdf

Convex sets framework for probabilistic theories
Alex Wilce
Video for Lecture 10
Video for Lecture 11


deBroglie-Bohm Interpretation (I)
Roderich Tumulka
Video for Lecture 12

3RT lecture1.pdf

deBroglie-Bohm interpretation (II)
Roderich Tumulka
Video for Lecture 13

3RT lecture2.pdf

Quantum Bayesian View Reading
Chris Fuchs
Quantum Bayesian View Reading
(associated with Lectures 14 and 15)

0Big QBism.pdf

Quantum Bayesian View
Chris Fuchs
Video for Lecture 14
Video for Lecture 15

6Big QBism.pdf

The many-worlds interpretation
Lee Vaidman
Video for Lecture 16
Video for Lecture 17


Fundamental tests of quantum mechanics
Tony Leggett
Video for Lecture 18
Video for Lecture 19


Macroscopic quantum coherence
Michel Devoret
Video for Lecture 20
Video for Lecture 21