Self-adjoint Operators as Functions I

Research paper by Andreas Döring, Barry Dewitt

Indexed on: 12 Apr '14Published on: 12 Apr '14Published in: Communications in Mathematical Physics


Observables of a quantum system, described by self-adjoint operators in a von Neumann algebra or affiliated with it in the unbounded case, form a conditionally complete lattice when equipped with the spectral order. Using this order-theoretic structure, we develop a new perspective on quantum observables.In this first paper (of two), we show that self-adjoint operators affiliated with a von Neumann algebra \({\mathcal{N}}\) can equivalently be described as certain real-valued functions on the projection lattice \({\mathcal{P}(\mathcal{N}})\) of the algebra, which we call q-observable functions. Bounded self-adjoint operators correspond to q-observable functions with compact image on non-zero projections. These functions, originally defined in a similar form by de Groote (Observables II: quantum observables, 2005), are most naturally seen as adjoints (in the categorical sense) of spectral families. We show how they relate to the daseinisation mapping from the topos approach to quantum theory (Döring and Isham , New Structures for Physics, Springer, Heidelberg, 2011). Moreover, the q-observable functions form a conditionally complete lattice which is shown to be order-isomorphic to the lattice of self-adjoint operators with respect to the spectral order.In a subsequent paper (Döring and Dewitt, 2012, preprint), we will give an interpretation of q-observable functions in terms of quantum probability theory, and using results from the topos approach to quantum theory, we will provide a joint sample space for all quantum observables.