Decoherence, einselection, and the quantum origins of the classical

24 May 2001  ·  Wojciech H. Zurek ·

Decoherence is caused by the interaction with the environment. Environment monitors certain observables of the system, destroying interference between the pointer states corresponding to their eigenvalues. This leads to environment-induced superselection or einselection, a quantum process associated with selective loss of information. Einselected pointer states are stable. They can retain correlations with the rest of the Universe in spite of the environment. Einselection enforces classicality by imposing an effective ban on the vast majority of the Hilbert space, eliminating especially the flagrantly non-local "Schr\"odinger cat" states. Classical structure of phase space emerges from the quantum Hilbert space in the appropriate macroscopic limit: Combination of einselection with dynamics leads to the idealizations of a point and of a classical trajectory. In measurements, einselection replaces quantum entanglement between the apparatus and the measured system with the classical correlation.

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Quantum Physics