Monash University
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The computable universe: from prespace metaphysics to discrete quantum mechanics

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posted on 2017-01-05, 03:46 authored by Leckey, Martin
The central motivating idea behind the development of this work is the concept of prespace, a hypothetical structure that is postulated by some physicists to underlie the fabric of space or space-time. I consider how such a structure could relate to space and space-time, and the rest of reality as we know it, and the implications of the existence of this structure for quantum theory. Understanding how this structure could relate to space and to the rest of reality requires, I believe, that we consider how space itself relates to reality, and how other so-called “spaces” used in physics relate to reality. In the first chapter I compare space and space-time to other spaces used in physics, such as configuration space, phase space and Hilbert space. I support what is known as the “property view” of space, opposing both the traditional views of space and space-time, substantivalism and relationism. I argue that all these spaces are property spaces. After examining the relationships of these spaces to causality, I argue that configuration space has, due to its role in quantum mechanics, a special status in the microscopic world similar to the status of position space in the macroscopic world. In chapter two prespace itself is considered. One way of approaching this structure is through the comparison of the prespace structure with a computational system, in particular to a cellular automaton, in which space or space-time and all other physical quantities are broken down into discrete units. I suggest that one way open for a prespace metaphysics can be found if physics is made fully discrete in this way. I suggest as a heuristic principle that the physical laws of our world are such that the computational cost of implementing those laws on an arbitrary computational system is minimized, adapting a heuristic principle of this type proposed by Feynman (1982). In the final chapter some of the ideas of the previous chapters are applied in an examination of the physics and metaphysics of quantum theory. I first discuss the “measurement problem” of quantum mechanics: this problem and its proposed solution are the primary subjects of the final chapter. It turns out that considering how quantum theory could be made fully discrete leads naturally to a suggestion of how standard linear quantum mechanics could be modified to give rise to a solution to the measurement problem. The computational heuristic principle reinforces the same solution. I call the modified quantum mechanics Critical Complexity Quantum Mechanics (CCQM). I compare CCQM with some of the other proposed solutions to the measurement problem, in particular the spontaneous localization model of Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber (1986). Finally I argue that the measure of complexity of quantum mechanical states I introduce in CCQM also provides a new definition of entropy for quantum mechanics, and suggests a solution to the problem of providing an objective foundation for statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, and the arrow of time.


Principal supervisor

John Bigelow

Additional supervisor 1

Graham Oppy

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts