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The Union of Quantum Field Theory and Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics


Bartolotta, Anthony Leo (2018) The Union of Quantum Field Theory and Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/F7VT-7X41.


Quantum field theory is the language used to describe nature at its most fundamental scales; while thermodynamics is a framework to describe the collective behavior of macroscopic systems. Recent advances in non-equilibrium thermodynamics have enabled this framework to be applied to smaller systems operating out of thermal equilibrium. This thesis is concerned with both quantum field theory and non-equilibrium thermodynamics independently and with their intersection.

First, a purely phenomenological application of quantum field theory is explored in the context of the upcoming Mu2E experiment. This experiment will look for rare decays which would indicate the presence of physics beyond the Standard Model. Using the language of effective field theories, a next-to-leading order analysis of the conversion rate is performed.

The focus then shifts to an apparent paradox in the Bayesian interpretation of statistical mechanics. For a Bayesian observer making measurements of an open system, the Shannon entropy decreases, in apparent violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It is shown that rather than utilizing the entropy, which can decrease under Bayesian updates, the Second Law for a Bayesian observer can be rephrased in terms of a cross-entropy which is always non-negative.

Finally, the intersection of quantum field theory and non-equilibrium thermodynamics is examined. Using quantum work fluctuation theorems, an investigation of how these frameworks can be applied to a driven quantum field theory is performed. For a time-dependent variant of λφ4 , analytic expressions for the work distribution functions at one-loop order are derived. These expressions are shown to satisfy the quantum Jarzynski equality and Crooks fluctuation theorem.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Quantum Field Theory; Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics; Fluctuation Theorems; Flavor Changing Neutral Currents; Statistical Mechanics
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy
Major Option:Physics
Awards:R. Bruce Stewart Prize for Excellence in Teaching, 2018.
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Wise, Mark B. (co-advisor)
  • Carroll, Sean M. (co-advisor)
Group:Caltech Theory, Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics
Thesis Committee:
  • Wise, Mark B. (chair)
  • Carroll, Sean M.
  • Preskill, John P.
  • Schwab, Keith C.
Defense Date:24 May 2018
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)DE-SC0011632
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:05312018-124004005
Persistent URL:
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription version of article adapted for Ch. 2 version of article adapted for Ch. 3 version of article adapted for Ch. 4
Bartolotta, Anthony Leo0000-0003-4971-9545
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:10981
Deposited By: Anthony Bartolotta
Deposited On:01 Jun 2018 20:06
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 00:21

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