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Wojciech Zurek
Wojciech Zurek is a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory best known for his contributions to the theory of quantum decoherence, the loss of coherence between the various states in a superposition of quantum states.
The principle of superposition of states, the axiom of measurement, and the projection postulate (the "collapse" of the wave function or "reduction of the wave packet") are the three main assumptions of P.A.M. Dirac's standard formulation of quantum mechanics. Zurek and his colleagues, notably H. Dieter Zeh, deny Dirac's projection postulate. They are a special case of many theorists who look for reasons to deny indeterministic and discrete discontinuous processes (e.g., quantum jumps), in order to restore a continuous and deterministic physics and explain the transition from microscopic quantum physics to macroscopic classical physics. Zurek and Zeh explain the loss of quantum coherence and the "appearance" of quantum jumping as the consequence of interactions of the quantum system with the environment. They describe decoherence as the loss of information from a quantum system to its environment. To be sure, maintaining coherence (for example the phase information between states in a superposition of states that produces wavelike interference effects) is an essential part of the time evolution of a quantum system according to the Schrödinger wave equation. Coherent time evolution is an idealization that is only approximately realizable, in a system that is nearly isolated from its environment. But without the projection into a single state (the "collapse" into an "eigenstate" with an observable "eigenvalue") there would be no particlelike behavior. Decoherence theorists replace the "collapse" with the loss of information. This is instructive, because every interaction of a quantum system with other systems (either quantum or approximately classical) can result in either a loss of information (a gain in positive entropy) or a gain in information locally (at the expense of even greater positive entropy transferred away from the quantum system and the local environment. The problem of measurement is best analyzed as a gain in information. The new knowledge acquired by the observer must first be newly created information that is a stable enough record to be available for observation. This requires an irreversible thermodynamic process and decoherence theorists agree that the dynamics of the quantum system (viewed in isolation from the environment) are nonunitary and irreversible. But they demur from an attempted explanation of measurement and they deny that decoherence generates an actual wave function collapse. Decoherence only provides an explanation for the "observance" of wave function collapse. They replace collapse with the "leakage" of information into the environment as components of the wave function are decoupled from a coherent system, and acquire new phases from their immediate surroundings. Decoherence theorists believe that the total superposition of a global or "universal" wavefunction follows a unitary time evolution according to the Schrödinger equation, which commits them to something like Everett's "manyworlds" or Zeh's "manyminds" interpretations of quantum mechanics. Zurek's insight about the importance of information is very powerful. As he wrote in his 2003 revisited version of the 1991 foundational paper on decoherence in Physics Today: ...if there is one lesson to be learned from what we already know about such matters, it is that information and its transfer play a key role in the quantum universe.
References
Decoherence and the Transition from Quantum to Classical—Revisited
Quantum Darwinism, Nature Physics, vol. 5, pp. 181188 (2009)
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