Physics Without Physics: The Power of Information-theoretical Principles
- Citation data:
International Journal of Theoretical Physics, ISSN: 0020-7748, Vol: 56, Issue: 1, Page: 97-128
- Publication Year:
- Mathematics; Physics and Astronomy
David Finkelstein was very fond of the new information-theoretic paradigm of physics advocated by John Archibald Wheeler and Richard Feynman. Only recently, however, the paradigm has concretely shown its full power, with the derivation of quantum theory (Chiribella et al., Phys. Rev. A 84:012311, 2011; D’Ariano et al., 2017) and of free quantum field theory (D’Ariano and Perinotti, Phys. Rev. A 90:062106, 2014; Bisio et al., Phys. Rev. A 88:032301, 2013; Bisio et al., Ann. Phys. 354:244, 2015; Bisio et al., Ann. Phys. 368:177, 2016) from informational principles. The paradigm has opened for the first time the possibility of avoiding physical primitives in the axioms of the physical theory, allowing a re-foundation of the whole physics over logically solid grounds. In addition to such methodological value, the new information-theoretic derivation of quantum field theory is particularly interesting for establishing a theoretical framework for quantum gravity, with the idea of obtaining gravity itself as emergent from the quantum information processing, as also suggested by the role played by information in the holographic principle (Susskind, J. Math. Phys. 36:6377, 1995; Bousso, Rev. Mod. Phys. 74:825, 2002). In this paper I review how free quantum field theory is derived without using mechanical primitives, including space-time, special relativity, Hamiltonians, and quantization rules. The theory is simply provided by the simplest quantum algorithm encompassing a countable set of quantum systems whose network of interactions satisfies the three following simple principles: homogeneity, locality, and isotropy. The inherent discrete nature of the informational derivation leads to an extension of quantum field theory in terms of a quantum cellular automata and quantum walks. A simple heuristic argument sets the scale to the Planck one, and the currently observed regime where discreteness is not visible is the so-called “relativistic regime” of small wavevectors, which holds for all energies ever tested (and even much larger), where the usual free quantum field theory is perfectly recovered. In the present quantum discrete theory Einstein relativity principle can be restated without using space-time in terms of invariance of the eigenvalue equation of the automaton/walk under change of representations. Distortions of the Poincaré group emerge at the Planck scale, whereas special relativity is perfectly recovered in the relativistic regime. Discreteness, on the other hand, has some plus compared to the continuum theory: 1) it contains it as a special regime; 2) it leads to some additional features with GR flavor: the existence of an upper bound for the particle mass (with physical interpretation as the Planck mass), and a global De Sitter invariance; 3) it provides its own physical standards for space, time, and mass within a purely mathematical adimensional context. The paper ends with the future perspectives of this project, and with an Appendix containing biographic notes about my friendship with David Finkelstein, to whom this paper is dedicated.