Where does quantum mechanics part ways with classical mechanics? How does quantum randomness differ fundamentally from classical randomness? We cannot fully explain how the theories differ until we can derive them within a single axiomatic framework, allowing an unambiguous account of how one theory is the limit of the other. Here we derive non-relativistic quantum mechanics and classical statistical mechanics within a common framework. The common axioms include conservation of average energy and conservation of probability current. But two axioms distinguish quantum mechanics from classical statistical mechanics: an "ontic extension" defines a nonseparable (global) random variable that generates physical correlations, and an "epistemic restriction" constrains allowed phase space distributions. The ontic extension and epistemic restriction, with strength on the order of Planck's constant, imply quantum entanglement and uncertainty relations. This framework suggests that the wave function is epistemic, yet it does not provide an ontic dynamics for individual systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemistry (all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (all)
- Physics and Astronomy (all)