Some notes on counterfactuals in quantum mechanics

Avshalom C. Elitzur, Eliahu Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Counterfactuals, i.e., events that could have occurred but eventually did not, play a unique role in quantum mechanics in that they exert causal e?ects despite their non-occurrence. They are therefore vital for a better understanding of quantum mechanics (QM) and possibly the universe as a whole. In earlier works, we have studied counterfactuals both conceptually and experimentally. A fruitful framework termed quantum oblivion has emerged, referring to situations where one particle seems to "forget" its interaction with other particles despite the latter being visibly affected. This framework proved to have signi?cant explanatory power, which we now extend to tackle additional riddles. The time-symmetric causality employed by the Two State-Vector Formalism (TSVF) reveals a subtle realm ruled by "weak values," already demonstrated by numerous experiments. They offer a realistic, simple and intuitively appealing explanation to the unique role of quantum non-events, as well as to the foundations of QM. In this spirit, we performed a weak value analysis of quantum oblivion and suggest some new avenues for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number266
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020

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