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Quantum mechanics as a statistical theory

  • J. E. Moyal (a1)

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An attempt is made to interpret quantum mechanics as a statistical theory, or more exactly as a form of non-deterministic statistical dynamics. The paper falls into three parts. In the first, the distribution functions of the complete set of dynamical variables specifying a mechanical system (phase-space distributions), which are fundamental in any form of statistical dynamics, are expressed in terms of the wave vectors of quantum theory. This is shown to be equivalent to specifying a theory of functions of non-commuting operators, and may hence be considered as an interpretation of quantum kinematics. In the second part, the laws governing the transformation with time of these phase-space distributions are derived from the equations of motion of quantum dynamics and found to be of the required form for a dynamical stochastic process. It is shown that these phase-space transformation equations can be used as an alternative to the Schrödinger equation in the solution of quantum mechanical problems, such as the evolution with time of wave packets, collision problems and the calculation of transition probabilities in perturbed systems; an approximation method is derived for this purpose. The third part, quantum statistics, deals with the phase-space distribution of members of large assemblies, with a view to applications of quantum mechanics to kinetic theories of matter. Finally, the limitations of the theory, its uniqueness and the possibilities of experimental verification are discussed.

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