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Negative Probabilities, Fine's Theorem and Quantum Histories

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Many situations in quantum theory and other areas of physics lead to quasi-probabilities which seem to be physically useful but can be negative. The interpretation of such objects is not at all clear. In this paper, we show that quasi-probabilities naturally fall into two qualitatively different types, according to whether their non-negative marginals can or cannot be matched to a non-negative probability. The former type, which we call viable, are qualitatively similar to true probabilities, but the latter type, which we call non-viable, may not have a sensible interpretation. Determining the existence of a probability matching given marginals is a non-trivial question in general. In simple examples, Fine’s theorem indicates that inequalities of the Bell and CHSH type provide criteria for its existence. A simple proof of Fine’s theorem is given. Our results have consequences for the linear positivity condition of Goldstein and Page in the context of the histories approach to quantum theory. Although it is a very weak condition for the assignment of probabilities it fails in some important cases where our results indicate that probabilities clearly exist. Some implications for the histories approach to quantum theory are discussed.

This talk is part of the CQIF Seminar series.

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