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Interpreting Quantum Theories$
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Laura Ruetsche

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199535408

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199535408.001.0001

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Symmetry Breaking in Qsm

(p.291) 13 Interlude
Interpreting Quantum Theories

Laura Ruetsche

Oxford University Press

This chapter and the next explore a response to a natural objection to the conclusion of Chapter 12. The natural objection is, based on models of steaming tea cups that idealize them as infinite in volume, the conclusion cuts no interpretive ice. The strategy underlying the response is to find in the physics of honestly infinite systems, like quantum fields, explanatory structures sharing the features of Chapter 12's model of phase structure on which that chapter's argument relied. Broken symmetry in quantum field theory could be such a structure. This chapter offers a bridge to that topic, in the form of an account of broken symmetry in quantum statistical mechanics, an account which, the chapter argues, shares the features which stymie rigid interpretation.

Keywords:   broken symmetry, quantum statistical mechanics, unitary inequivalence, ferromagnetism, superconductivity

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