Unitarity and clock dependence in quantum cosmology

The problem of time is often discussed as an obstacle in canonical quantisation of gravity: general covariance means there is no preferred time parameter with respect to which evolution could be defined. We can instead characterise dynamics in relational terms by defining one degree of freedom to play the role of an internal clock for the other variables; this leads to a “multiple choice problem”. I will review recent results obtained in a quantum cosmological model with three dynamical degrees of freedom: a volume or scale factor variable for the geometry, a massless scalar matter field, and a perfect fluid. Each of these variables can be used as a clock for the other two. We obtain three different theories which, if we require them to have unitary time evolution with respect to the given clock, make very different statements about the fate of the Universe. Only one resolves the classical singularity, and only one leads to a quantum recollapse of the Universe at large volume. Nonclassical behaviour arises whenever a classical solution terminates in finite time so that reflecting boundary conditions are needed to make the theory unitary.

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