From Physics to Information Theory and Back

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Myrvold, Wayne
preprint description
Quantum information theory has given rise to a renewed interest in, and a new perspective on, the old issue of understanding the ways in which quantum mechanics differs from classical mechanics. The task of distinguishing between quantum and classical theory is facilitated by neutral frameworks that embrace both classical and quantum theory. In this paper, I discuss two approaches to this endeavour, the algebraic approach, and the convex set approach, with an eye to the strengths of each, and the relations between the two. I end with a discussion of one particular model, the toy theory devised by Rob Spekkens, which, with minor modifications, fits neatly within the convex sets framework, and which displays in an elegant manner some of the similarities and differences between classical and quantum theories. The conclusion suggested by this investigation is that Schrödinger was right to find the essential difference between classical and quantum theory in their handling of composite systems, though Schrödinger's contention that it is entanglement that is the distinctive feature of quantum mechanics needs to be modified.