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1 Introduction

[page 89, §1]
[89.1.1] A large number of problems in theoretical physics, including Schrödingers, Maxwell and Newtons equations, can be formulated as initial value problems for dynamical evolution equations of the form

 dd⁢t⁢f⁢t=B⁢f⁢t (1)

where tR denotes time and B is an operator on a Banach space. [89.1.2] Depending on the initial data f0=f0 describing the state or observable of the system at time t=0 the problem is to find the state or observable ft of the system at later times t>0. a (This is a footnote:) a In classical mechanics the states are points in phase space, the observables are functions on phase space, and the operator B is specified by a vector field and Poisson brackets. In quantum mechanics (with finitely many degrees of freedom) the states correspond to rays in a Hilbert space, the observables to operators on this space, and the operator B to the Hamiltonian. In field theories the states are normalized positive functionals on an algebra of operators or observables, and then B becomes a derivation on the algebra of observables. The equations (1) need not be first order in time. An example is the initial-value problem for the wave equation for gt,x

 ∂2⁡g∂⁡t2=c2⁢∂2⁡g∂⁡x2
in one dimension. It can be recast into the form of eq. (1) by introducing a second variable h and defining
 f=gh⁢    and    B=0110⁢c⁢∂∂⁡x

[89.2.1] Many authors, mostly driven by the needs of applied problems, have considered generalizations of equation (1) of the form

 "⁢dα⁢"d⁢tα⁢f⁢t=B⁢f⁢t (2)

in which the first order time derivative d/dt is replaced with a certain fractional time derivative ‘‘dα/dtα’’ of order α>0 (see e.g.  [1][24] and the Chapters IV–VIII  in this book). [89.2.2] A number of fundamental questions are raised by such a replacement. [89.2.3] In order to appreciate these it is useful to recall that the appearance of d/dt in eq. (1) reflects not only a basic symmetry of nature but also the basic principle of locality. [89.2.4] Of course, the symmetry in question is time translation invariance. [89.2.5] Remember that

 dd⁢s⁢f⁢s=limt→0⁡f⁢s-f⁢s-tt=-limt→0⁡T⁢t⁢f⁢s-f⁢st (3)

[page 90, §0]    identifies -d/dt as the infinitesimal generator of time translations b (This is a footnote:) b A simple translation with unit "speed" reflects the idea of time "flowing" uniformly with constant velocity. This idea is embodied in measuring time by comparison with periodic processes (clocks). A competing idea, related to the flow of time represented by eq. (5), is to measure time by comparison with nonperiodic clocks such as decay or aging processes. defined by

 T⁢t⁢f⁢s=f⁢s-t. (4)

[90.0.1] Equation (2) abandons Tt as the general time evolution, and this raises the question what replaces eq. (4), and how a fractional derivative can arise as the generator of a physical time evolution. [90.0.2] Most workers in fractional calculus have avoided these questions, and my purpose in this chapter is to review and discuss an answer provided recently in [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11].

[90.1.1] Derivatives of fractional order 0<α1 were found to emerge quite generally as the infinitesimal generators of coarse grained macroscopic time evolutions given by [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]

 Tα⁢t⁢f⁢t0=∫0∞T⁢s⁢f⁢t0⁢hα⁢st⁢d⁢st (5)

where t0 and 0<α1. [90.1.2] Explicit expressions for the kernels hαx for all 0<α1 are given in eq. (69) below. [90.1.3] It is the main objective of this chapter to show that (in a certain sense) all macroscopic time evolutions have the form of eq. (5), and that fractional time derivatives are their infinitesimal generators.

[90.2.1] Given the great difference between Tαt in eq. (5) and T1t=Tt in eq. (4) it becomes clear that basic issues, such as irreversibility, translation symmetry, or the meaning of stationarity are inevitably involved when proposing fractional dynamics. [90.2.2] Let me therefore advance the basic postulate that all time evolutions of physical systems are irreversible. [90.2.3] Obviously this law of irreversibility must be considered to be an empirical law of nature equal in rank to the law of energy conservation. [90.2.4] Reversible behaviour is an idealization. [90.2.5] Its validity or applicability in physical experiments depends on the degree to which the system can be isolated (or decoupled) from its past history and its environment. [90.2.6] According to this view the irreversible flow of time is more fundamental than the time reversal symmetry of Newtons or other equations. [90.2.7] My starting point is therefore that for a general time evolution operator Tt the evolution parameter t is not a time instant (which could be positive or negative), but a duration, which cannot be negative.

[90.3.1] An immediate consequence of the postulated law of irreversibility is that the classical irreversibility problem of theoretical physics becomes reversed.

[page 91, §0]    [91.0.1] Now the theoretical task is not to explain how irreversibility arises from reversible evolution equations, but how seemingly reversible equations arise as idealizations from an underlying irreversible time evolution. [91.0.2] A possible explanation is provided by the present theory based on eq. (5). [91.0.3] It turns out that the case α=1 in eq. (5) is of predominant mathematical and physical importance, because it is in a quantifiable sense a strong universal attractor. [91.0.4] In this case the kernel h1x becomes

 h1⁢x=limα→1-⁡hα⁢x=δ⁢x-1, (6)

and the time evolution T1t=Tt in (5) reduces to a simple translation as in eq.(4). [91.0.5] T1t with t0 is a representation of the time semigroup (R+,+). [91.0.6] It can be extended to one of the full group (R,+). [91.0.7] This is not possible for Tα with 0<α<1. [91.0.8] The physical interpretation of α is seen from supphα=R+ for α1 and supph1=1 for α=1. [91.0.9] Hence the parameter α classifies and quantifies the influence of the past history. [91.0.10] Small values of α correspond to a strong influence of the past history. [91.0.11] For α=1 the influence of the past history is minimal in the sense that it enters only through the present state.

[91.1.1] The basic result in eq. (5) was given in [6] and subsequently rationalized within ergodic theory by investigating the recurrence properties of induced automorphisms on subsets of measure zero [9, 10, 11]. [91.1.2] In these investigations the existence of a recurrent subset of measure zero had to be assumed. [91.1.3] Such an assumption becomes plausible from observations in low dimensional chaotic systems (see e.g. [25, 26] and Chapter V). [91.1.4] A rigorous proof for any given dynamical system, however, appears difficult, and it is therefore of interest to rederive the emergence of Tαt from a different, and more general, approach.