The Reduction of the State Vector and Limitations on Measurement in the Quantum Mechanics of Closed Systems
Measurement is a fundamental notion in the usual approximate quantum mechanics of measured subsystems. Probabilities are predicted for the outcomes of measurements. State vectors evolve unitarily in between measurements and by reduction of the state vector at measurements. Probabilities are computed by summing the squares of amplitudes over alternatives which could have been measured but weren't. Measurements are limited by uncertainty principles and by other restrictions arising from the principles of quantum mechanics. This essay examines the extent to which those features of the quantum mechanics of measured subsystems that are explicitly tied to measurement situations are incorporated or modified in the more general quantum mechanics of closed systems in which measurement is not a fundamental notion. There, probabilities are predicted for decohering sets of alternative time histories of the closed system, whether or not they represent a measurement situation. Reduction of the state vector is a necessary part of the description of such histories. Uncertainty principles limit the possible alternatives at one time from which histories may be constructed. Models of measurement situations are exhibited within the quantum mechanics of the closed system containing both measured subsystem and measuring apparatus. Limitations are derived on the existence of records for the outcomes of measurements when the initial density matrix of the closed system is highly impure. (Festschrift for Dieter Brill).
Directions in General Relativity: Papers in Honor of Dieter Brill, Volume 2
- Pub Date:
- General Relativity and Quantum Cosmology;
- High Energy Physics - Theory;
- Quantum Physics
- 25pages. in Directions in Relativity, vol 2, ed-by B.-L. Hu and T.A. Jacobson, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1993)