Pointer states via decoherence in a quantum measurement
Abstract
We consider the interaction of a quantum system (spin12) with a macroscopic quantum apparatus (harmonic oscillator) which in turn is coupled to a bath of harmonic oscillators. Exact solutions of the Markovian master equation show that the reduced density matrix of the systemapparatus combination decoheres to a statistical mixture where up and down spins eventually correlate with pointer states of the apparatus (harmonic oscillator), with associated probabilities in accordance with quantum principles. For the zerotemperature bath these pointer states turn out to be coherent states of the harmonic oscillator (apparatus) for arbitrary initial states of the apparatus. Further, we see that the decoherence time is inversely proportional to the square of the separation between the two coherent states with which the spins correlate. For a hightemperature bath, pointer states no longer remain coherent states but are Gaussian distributions (generalized coherent states). Spin up and down states of the system now correlate with nearly diagonal distributions in position of these generalized coherent states. The diagonalization in position increases with the temperature of the bath. The offdiagonal elements in spin space decohere over a time scale which goes inversely as the square of the separation between the peaks of the two position distributions that correlate with the spin states. Zurek's earlier approximate result for the decoherence time is consistent with our exact results. Our analysis brings out the importance of looking at a measurementlike scenario where definite correlations are established between the system and apparatus to determine the nature of the pointer basis of the apparatus. Further, our exact results demonstrate in an unambiguous way that the pointer states in this measurement model emerge independent of the initial state of the apparatus.
 Publication:

Physical Review A
 Pub Date:
 December 1999
 DOI:
 10.1103/PhysRevA.61.012102
 arXiv:
 arXiv:quantph/9909005
 Bibcode:
 1999PhRvA..61a2102V
 Keywords:

 03.65.Bz;
 Quantum Physics
 EPrint:
 9 pages, LaTex, communicated to Physical Review A