, Volume 113, Issue 3, pp 323-346

Can the Decoherence Approach Help to Solve the Measurement Problem?

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Abstract

This work examines whether the environmentally-induced decoherence approach in quantum mechanics brings us any closer to solving the measurement problem, and whether it contributes to the elimination of subjectivism in quantum theory. A distinction is made between ,collapse, and ,decoherence,, so that an explanation for decoherence does not imply an explanation for collapse. After an overview of the measurement problem and of the open-systems paradigm, we argue that taking a partial trace is equivalent to applying the projection postulate. A criticism of Zurek's decoherence approach to measurements is also made, based on the restriction that he must impose on the interaction between apparatus and environment. We then analyze the element of subjectivity involved in establishing the boundary between system and environment, and criticize the incorporation of Everett's branching of memory records into the decoherence research program. Sticking to this program, we end by sketching a proposal for ‘environmentally-induced collapse’.

This revised version was published online in June 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.