Spacetime Quantum Reference Frames and superpositions of proper times

Flaminia Giacomini

Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, 31 Caroline St. N, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 2Y5, Canada

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Abstract

In general relativity, the description of spacetime relies on idealised rods and clocks, which identify a reference frame. In any concrete scenario, reference frames are associated to physical systems, which are ultimately quantum in nature. A relativistic description of the laws of physics hence needs to take into account such quantum reference frames (QRFs), through which spacetime can be given an operational meaning.

Here, we introduce the notion of a spacetime quantum reference frame, associated to a quantum particle in spacetime. Such formulation has the advantage of treating space and time on equal footing, and of allowing us to describe the dynamical evolution of a set of quantum systems from the perspective of another quantum system, where the parameter in which the rest of the physical systems evolves coincides with the proper time of the particle taken as the QRF. Crucially, the proper times in two different QRFs are not related by a standard transformation, but they might be in a quantum superposition one with respect to the other.

Concretely, we consider a system of $N$ relativistic quantum particles in a weak gravitational field, and introduce a timeless formulation in which the global state of the $N$ particles appears "frozen", but the dynamical evolution is recovered in terms of relational quantities. The position and momentum Hilbert space of the particles is used to fix the QRF via a transformation to the local frame of the particle such that the metric is locally inertial at the origin of the QRF. The internal Hilbert space corresponds to the clock space, which keeps the proper time in the local frame of the particle. Thanks to this fully relational construction we show how the remaining particles evolve dynamically in the relational variables from the perspective of the QRF. The construction proposed here includes the Page-Wootters mechanism for non interacting clocks when the external degrees of freedom are neglected. Finally, we find that a quantum superposition of gravitational redshifts and a quantum superposition of special-relativistic time dilations can be observed in the QRF.

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Cited by

[1] Philipp A. Hoehn, Maximilian P. E. Lock, Shadi Ali Ahmad, Alexander R. H. Smith, and Thomas D. Galley, "Quantum Relativity of Subsystems", arXiv:2103.01232.

[2] Philipp A. Hoehn, Marius Krumm, and Markus P. Mueller, "Internal quantum reference frames for finite Abelian groups", arXiv:2107.07545.

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