2pm - 3pm BST
Tuesday 19 July 2022

Manifest time and the laws of physics

Professor Milburn is a theoretical quantum physicist and world expert in the fields of quantum information theory, quantum foundations, quantum optics, quantum control and measurement theory. His talk will be of interest to anyone interested in the role of time in physical models and will focus on the conflict between time as we experience it and time as it appears in physical laws.


In-person and online
Physics seminar room, room 30, Alan Turing building, floor 3 (30BB03)
University of Surrey

This seminar is by invitation only. A Zoom link will be sent to participants attending online before the event.


There is an apparent conflict between time, as we experience it, “manifest time”, and time as it appears in physical law. In this talk Gerard Milburn will argue that there is no conflict: Manifest time is physical time. For manifest time, the present is special, time flows and that the past is fundamentally different from the future, but no physical theory has ever required the properties of manifest time.

Gerard will argue that this apparent conflict is based on a widespread confusion in physics and philosophy regarding the operation of clocks. Clocks are, in principle, irreversible devices, and the better the clock the more irreversible it is. Examples will be provided, drawn from both classical and quantum physics, to illustrate this point. This approach illuminates the so-called problem of time in quantum gravity and provides a new perspective on the Cohn-Rovelli thermal time hypothesis. Gerard will end with a discussion of the crucial role of clocks in physical learning machines such as biological agents.


Gerard Milburn

Professor Milburn (b. 1958) conducts research in the fields of quantum information theory, quantum foundations, quantum optics, quantum control and measurement theory. He obtained his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Waikato (New Zealand) in 1982 for work on squeezed states of light and quantum nondemolition measurements. In the following years he worked in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London (1983) and was awarded a Royal Society Fellowship in the group of Peter Knight at Imperial (1984). He has spent periods doing research at the Australian National University (Lecturer, 1985) and the University of Queensland (Reader, 1988). Since 1994, he is Professor of Physics at the University of Queensland.

Gerard Milburn is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a fellow of The Royal Society of London and The American Physical Society. His awards include the Moyal Medal for Mathematical Physics (2001) and Boas medal (2003).

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