, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 143-163

ON THE APPLICABILITY OF THE QUANTUM MEASUREMENT FORMALISM

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Abstract

Customary discussions of quantum measurements are unrealistic, in the sense that they do not reflect what happens in most actual measurements even under ideal circumstances. Even theories of measurement which discard the projection postulate tend to retain two unrealistic assumptions of the von Neumann theory: that a measurement consists of a single physical interaction, and that the topic of every measurement is information wholly contained in the quantum state of the object of measurement. I suggest that these unrealistic assumptions originate from an overly literal interpretation of the operator formalism of quantum mechanics. I also suggest, following Park, that some issues can be clarified by distinguishing the sense of the term ''measurement'' occurring in the quantum-mechanical operator formalism, and the sense of ''measurement'' that refers to actual processes of gaining information about the physical world.