Information at the Quantum Physics/Statistical Mechanics Nexus
TWCF Number
Project Duration
January 1 / 2014
- December 31 / 2016
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

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Chris Timpson
Institution University of Oxford

This project will begin with a puzzling problem regarding the role of probability at the nexus of quantum information and statistical mechanics. Statistical mechanics explains the behaviour of everyday objects by averaging over many atoms. Quantum information is a new field, studying systems with very few atoms, but needs statistical mechanics to solve theoretical and technological problems. The link between them is vital, but poorly understood. How can statistical mechanics be fruitful in quantum information, far from its original domain?

Our guiding question will be: What is the role of information in the foundations of statistical mechanics and how should statistical mechanics in quantum information processing be understood? The project will proceed through an interdisciplinary cross-fertilisation of ideas, bringing together techniques and expertise from physics, philosophy of science and metaphysics. By applying the latest conceptual developments in each discipline to this problem, we will demonstrate novel resolutions of longstanding issues regarding causality, perspective, the arrow of time and the nature and role of information in the foundations of modern physics. We hope this project will help clarify the theoretical and practical needs to construct realistic quantum computing technology; contribute towards significant changes in the research direction of the foundations of thermal physics, of work on time-asymmetry and work on the physical nature of information. 

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