Date of Award

December 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Physics and Astronomy

Committee Member

Murray S. Daw

Committee Member

Dieter Hartmann

Committee Member

Sumanta Tewari

Committee Member

Antony Valentini


Quantum mechanics is a highly successful fundamental theory which has passed every experimental test to date. Yet standard quantum mechanics fails to provide an adequate description of measurement processes, which has long been rationalized with operationalist and positivist philosophical arguments but is nevertheless a serious shortfall in a fundamental theory. In this dissertation we introduce quantum mechanics with a discussion of the measurement problem. We then review the de Broglie-Bohm pilot-wave formulation, a nonlocal hidden-variables theory where the state of a quantum system is described by a configuration (independent of measurements) in addition to the wave function, and we apply it to fundamental problems concerning black holes and the early universe.

In de Broglie-Bohm theory, general initial conditions allow for deviations from the statistical predictions of standard quantum mechanics. We review how the Born rule can be understood as the result of an equilibration process for systems with sufficient mixing before proceeding to study the implications of quantum nonequilibrium in various physical contexts.

In this work we show that small perturbations to a system are themselves insufficient to drive relaxation to quantum equilibrium even over very long timescales. This has implications for the potential survival of nonequilibrium in relic particles, and renders it unlikely that field perturbations can be driven to equilibrium by small corrections to the Bunch-Davies vacuum during inflation, allowing for the possible detection of imprints of nonequilibrium in the cosmic microwave background. Using a simple model we also demonstrate how quantum nonequilibrium can propagate nonlocally through entanglement, providing a mechanism for information flow from black holes. This opens up a possible path to the resolution of the black hole information paradox by allowing for information to be released in hidden variable degrees of freedom during black hole evaporation. Finally, we consider whether features in the angular power spectrum of temperature anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background radiation could arise from quantum nonequilibrium initial conditions. Preliminary results indicate that this approach can provide a natural explanation for the power deficit anomaly at large angular scales, as well as oscillatory features in the same regime.



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