Date of Award

12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Physics

Committee Member

Dr. Antony Valentini, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Murray Daw

Committee Member

Dr. Dieter Hartmann

Committee Member

Dr. Bradley Meyer

Abstract

Despite decades of inquiry an adequate theory of 'quantum gravity' has remained elusive, in part due to the absence of data that would guide the search and in part due to technical difficulties, prominently among them the 'problem of time'. The problem is a result of the attempt to quantise a classical theory with temporal reparameterisation and refoliation invariance such as general relativity. One way forward is therefore the breaking of this invariance via the identification of a preferred foliation of spacetime into parameterised spatial slices. In this thesis we argue that a foliation into slices of constant extrinsic curvature, parameterised by 'York time', is a viable contender. We argue that the role of York time in the initial-value problem of general relativity as well as a number of the parameter's other properties make it the most promising candidate for a physically preferred notion of time. A Hamiltonian theory describing gravity in the York-time picture may be derived from general relativity by 'Hamiltonian reduction', a procedure that eliminates certain degrees of freedom --- specifically the local scale and its rate of change --- in favour of an explicit time parameter and a functional expression for the associated Hamiltonian. In full generality this procedure is impossible to carry out since the equation that determines the Hamiltonian cannot be solved using known methods. However, it is possible to derive explicit Hamiltonian functions for cosmological scenarios (where matter and geometry is treated as spatially homogeneous). Using a perturbative expansion of the unsolvable equation enables us to derive a quantisable Hamiltonian for cosmological perturbations on such a homogeneous background. We analyse the (classical) theories derived in this manner and look at the York-time description of a number of cosmological processes. We then proceed to apply the canonical quantisation procedure to these systems and analyse the resulting quantum theories. We discuss a number of conceptual and technical points, such as the notion of volume eigenfunctions and the absence of a momentum representation as a result of the non-canonical commutator structure. While not problematic in a technical sense, the conceptual problems with canonical quantisation are particularly apparent when the procedure is applied in cosmological contexts. In the final part of this thesis we develop a new quantisation method based on configuration-space trajectories and a dynamical configuration-space Weyl geometry. There is no wavefunction in this type of quantum theory and so many of the conceptual issues do not arise. We outline the application of this quantisation procedure to gravity and discuss some technical points. The actual technical developments are however left for future work. We conclude by reviewing how the York-time Hamiltonian-reduced theory deals with the problem of time. We place it in the wider context of a search for a theory of quantum gravity and briefly discuss the future of physics if and when such a theory is found.

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