Quantum to classical transitions via weak measurements and post-selection

Eliahu Cohen*, Yakir Aharonov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Alongside its immense empirical success, the quantum mechanical account of physical systems imposes a myriad of divergences from our thoroughly ingrained classical ways of thinking. These divergences, while striking, would have been acceptable if only a continuous transition to the classical domain was at hand. Strangely, this is not quite the case. The difficulties involved in reconciling the quantum with the classical have given rise to different interpretations, each with its own shortcomings. Traditionally, the two domains are sewed together by invoking an ad hoc theory of measurement, which has been incorporated in the axiomatic foundations of quantum theory. This work will incorporate a few related tools for addressing the above conceptual difficulties: deterministic operators, weak measurements, and post-selection. Weak Measurement, based on a very weak von Neumann coupling, is a unique kind of quantum measurement with numerous theoretical and practical applications. In contrast to other measurement techniques, it allows to gather a small amount of information regarding the quantum system, with only a negligible probability of collapsing it onto an eigenstate of the measured observable. A single weak measurement yields an almost random outcome, but when performed repeatedly over a large ensemble, the averaged outcome becomes increasingly robust and accurate. Importantly, a long sequence of weak measurements can be thought of as a single projective measurement. We claim in this work that classical variables appearing in the macro-world, such as center of mass, moment of inertia, pressure, and average forces, result from a multitude of quantum weak measurements performed in the micro-world. Here again, the quantum outcomes are highly uncertain, but the law of large numbers obliges their convergence to the definite quantities we know from our everyday lives. By augmenting this description with a final boundary condition and employing the notion of "classical robustness under time-reversal", we will draw a quantitative borderline between the classical and quantum regimes. We will conclude by analyzing the role of macroscopic systems in amplifying and recording quantum outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQuantum Structural Studies
Subtitle of host publicationClassical Emergence from the Quantum Level
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781786341419
ISBN (Print)1786341409, 9781786341402
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


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