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The 'Decoherence' Approach to the Measurement Problem in Quantum Mechanics

Andrew Elby
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1994, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1994), pp. 355-365
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/193040
Page Count: 11
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The 'Decoherence' Approach to the Measurement Problem in Quantum Mechanics
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Abstract

Decoherence results from the dissipative interaction between a quantum system and its environment. As the system and environment become entangled, the reduced density operator describing the system "decoheres" into a mixture (with the interference terms damped out). This formal result prompts some to exclaim that the measurement problem is solved. I will scrutinize this claim by examining how modal and relative-state interpretations can use decoherence. Although decoherence cannot rescue these interpretations from general metaphysical difficulties, decoherence may help these interpretations to pick out a preferred basis. I will explore whether decoherence solves nagging technical problems associated with selecting a preferred basis.

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