Foundations of Physics

Markovian and Non-Markovian Quantum Measurements

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Consecutive measurements performed on the same quantum system can reveal fundamental insights into quantum theory’s causal structure, and probe different aspects of the quantum measurement problem. According to the Copenhagen interpretation, measurements affect the quantum system in such a way that the quantum superposition collapses after each measurement, erasing any memory of the prior state. We show here that counter to this view, un-amplified measurements (measurements where all variables comprising a pointer are in principle controllable) have coherent ancilla density matrices that encode the memory of the entire set of (un-amplified) quantum measurements that came before, and that the chain of this entire set is therefore non-Markovian. In contrast, sequences of amplified measurements (measurements where at least one pointer variable has been lost) are equivalent to a quantum Markov chain. We argue that the non-Markovian nature of quantum measurement has empirical consequences that are incompatible with the assumption of wave function collapse, thus elevating the collapse assumption into a testable hypothesis. Finally, we find that all of the information necessary to reconstruct an arbitrary non-Markovian quantum chain of measurements is encoded on the boundary of that chain (the first and the final measurement), reminiscent of the holographic principle.


22 Jul 2020


Foundations of Physics