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Identical quantum particles as distinguishable objects

Dieks, Dennis and Lubberdink, Andrea (2019) Identical quantum particles as distinguishable objects. [Preprint]

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Abstract

According to classical physics particles are basic building blocks of the world. Classical particles are distinguishable objects, individuated by physical characteristics. By contrast, in quantum mechanics the standard view is that particles of the same kind (``identical particles'') are in all circumstances indistinguishable from each other. This indistinguishability doctrine is motivated by the (anti)symmetrization postulates together with the assumption (``factorism'') that each single particle is represented in exactly one factor space in the tensor product Hilbert space of a many-particles system.

Although the factorist assumption is standard in the literature, it is conceptually problematic. Particle indistinguishability is incompatible with the everyday meaning of ``particle'', and also with how this term is used both in classical physics and in the experimental practice of physics. The standard view requires quantum particles of the same kind to remain indistinguishable even in the classical limit, so that a transition to the classical picture of the world seems impossible.

Earlier we have proposed an alternative conception of quantum particles that does not rely on factorism and that avoids these and other problems. We further explain and develop this proposal here. In our view, particles in quantum theory are not fundamental but emergent. However, in those situations where the particle concept is applicable, quantum particles---identical or not---are distinguishable in the same way as classical particles.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Dieks, Dennisd.dieks@uu.nl0000-0003-4755-3430
Lubberdink, Andreaandrealubberdink@gmail.com
Additional Information: Contribution to a planned Special Issue on Identical Particles in Quantum Mechanics, Journal for General Philosophy of Science
Keywords: identical particles, (in)distinguishability, factorism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Depositing User: Dennis Dieks
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2019 14:45
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2019 14:45
Item ID: 15768
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Fields and Particles
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Mechanics
Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
Date: 27 January 2019
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15768

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