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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2011

15 - Quantum erasing the nature of reality: or, perhaps, the reality of nature?

from Part IV - Quantum reality: experiment

Summary

Introduction

WHY must I treat the measuring device classically? What will happen to me if I don't?!

Eugene Wigner

The quantum measurement problem – how does an apparently “classical” definite world arise out of the random world of quantum superpositions – was and continues to be one of the fundamental philosophical issues in quantum mechanics. What we mean by a classical world, for example, is one in which macroscopic objects are not in superposition states of being simultaneously in several locations at once, and cats are never in coherent superpositions of being alive and dead. This lack of coherence is actually a loss of the coherence that exists at the level of the isolated quanta, but somehow does not survive the transition to the classical level of measuring apparatus. Such incoherent states are known as mixed states. Therefore, to study the quantum–classical interface, or even to investigate whether such an interface exists at all other than in the minds of “classical sympathizers,” one should look carefully at mixed states, how they arise and how they behave. Here we describe a set of experiments, both real and gedanken, investigating the subtleties of quantum interference when mixed states are involved. We start by describing the well-known double-slit experiment, and the loss of interference when which-path information can be had.