Baker, David John and Halvorson, Hans
How is spontaneous symmetry breaking possible?
We pose and resolve a seeming paradox about spontaneous symmetry breaking in the quantum theory of infinite systems. For a symmetry to be spontaneously broken, it must not be implementable by a unitary operator. But Wigner's theorem guarantees that every symmetry is implemented by a unitary operator that preserves transition probabilities between pure states. We show how it is possible for a unitary operator of this sort to connect the folia of unitarily inequivalent representations. This result undermines interpretations of quantum theory that hold unitary equivalence to be necessary for physical equivalence.
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How is spontaneous symmetry breaking possible? (deposited 14 Mar 2011 10:54)
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