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Emergence of time in quantum gravity: is time necessarily flowing?

By Pierre Martinetti


To be published in Kronoscope. We discuss the emergence of time in quantum gravity, and ask whether time is always “something that flows”. We first recall that this is indeed the case in both relativity and quantum mechanics, although in very different manners: time flows geometrically in relativity (i.e. as a flow of proper time in the four dimensional space-time), time flows abstractly in quantum mechanics (i.e. as a flow in the space of observables of the system). We then ask the same question in quantum gravity, in the light of the thermal time hypothesis of Connes and Rovelli. The latter proposes to answer the question of time in quantum gravity (or at least one of its many aspects), by postulating that time is a state dependent notion. This means that one is able to make a notion of time-as-an-abstract-flow- that we call the thermal time- emerge from the knowledge of both:- the algebra of observables of the physical system under investigation,- a state of thermal equilibrium of this system. Formally, this thermal time is similar to the abstract flow of time in quantum mechanics, but we show in various examples that it may have a concrete implementation either as a geometrical flow, or as a geometrical flow combined with a non-geometric action. This indicates that in quantum gravity, time may well still be “something that flows ” at some abstract algebraic level, but this does not necessarily imply that time is always and only “something that flows ” at the geometric level.

Year: 2016
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