Does quantum electrodynamics have an arrow of time? Atkinson, David

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Atkinson, David
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Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Quantum electrodynamics -- Analysis; Symmetry (Physics) -- Analysis; Radiometers
To link to full-text access for this article, visit this link: Byline: David Atkinson Abstract: Quantum electrodynamics is a time-symmetric theory that is part of the electroweak interaction, which is invariant under a generalized form of this symmetry, the PCT transformation. The thesis is defended that the arrow of time in electrodynamics is a consequence of the assumption of an initial state of high order, together with the quantum version of the equiprobability postulate. Author Affiliation: University of Groningen, Centre for Theoretical Physics, Nijenborgh 4, 9747 AG Groningen, c/o Faculty of Philosophy, Oude Boteringestraat 52, 9712 GL Groningen, The Netherlands Article Note: (footnote) [star] The gestation period of this paper began when I was visiting The Centre for Time at Sydney University in 2002, and I am particularly indebted to Huw Price and to Mathias Frisch, with whom I discussed the problem of time's arrow in electromagnetic radiation. The original plan for all three of us to collaborate in writing one paper came to naught, due to disagreements about how to solve that problem; but we did manage to agree to write three separate papers, a decision that received further stimulus when we were all three invited by Michel Ghins to take part in a workshop, 'The Arrow of Time: Physics and Philosophy', in Louvain-la-Neuve in 2004. I am in agreement with Price, against Frisch, that the genesis of the radiation arrow is to be sought in a temporal asymmetry of sources, a fact-like initial condition. On the other hand, I think that a purely classical treatment, of the kind that Price gives, runs into trouble on close scrutiny, because a consistent classical energy distribution function does not exist for the electromagnetic field, and so the statistical arguments concerning entropy increase cannot get off the ground.
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