Weak Discernibility for Quanta, the Right Way

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The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, ISSN: 0007-0882, Vol: 65, Issue: 1, Page: 39-58

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Huggett, Nick; Norton, Joshua
Oxford University Press (OUP)
Arts and Humanities
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article description
Muller and Saunders ([2008]) purport to demonstrate that, surprisingly, bosons and fermions are discernible; this article disputes their arguments, then derives a similar conclusion in a more satisfactory fashion. After briefly explicating their proof and indicating how it escapes earlier indiscernibility results, we note that the observables which Muller and Saunders argue discern particles are (i) non-symmetric in the case of bosons and (ii) trivial multiples of the identity in the case of fermions. Both problems undermine the claim that they have shown particles to be physically discernible. We then prove two results concerning observables that are truly physical: one showing when particles are discernible and one showing when they are not (categorically) discernible. Along the way we clarify some frequently misunderstood issues concerning the interpretation of quantum observables. © The Author 2013.