Del Seta, Marco
(1998)
Quantum measurement as theory: Its structure and problems.
PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Abstract
This thesis deals with the set of issues commonly known as the 'measurement problem' in quantum mechanics. The main thesis is that the problems are best understood as typically theoretical problems, in the sense that they are not problems directly concerned with the ability of the quantum theory to account for, or represent, actual measurements. This is contrary to the standard view that the quantum measurement problem is in fact about how to fit theory to experiment. I explain how I characterise a theoretical problem and argue against claims that quantum measurement theory is unrealistic or ineffective because it bears so little relation to actual measurement practice: I argue that the quantum theory's analysis of measurement need not be committed to doing for the experimenter what Henry Margenau and other critics think it should do. Its principal aim is to answer two questions. First, it tells us what properties are to be associated to quantum states; secondly, it tells us what, in the theory, a measurement must be if these properties are to emerge. I then discuss some of the specific aspects of the problem of measurement, in particular the results known as insolubility proofs of the quantum measurement problem and the characterisation of the quantum measurement interactions satisfying standard probabilistic constraints. I prove several results here, amongst them characterisations of all interactions jointly satisfying the conditions of unitarity and, first, objectification, then secondly, probability reproducibility conditions. These are the standard conditions which capture our intuitions about quantum measurement. I show how the results lead to negative consequences with respect to the interpretive questions in quantum mechanics. The discussion of these specific aspects of quantum measurements does, on the other hand, suggest a particular strategy for solving the problems. This is found in Arthur Fine's solution to the measurement problem, which is based on the idea of a selective interaction. The discussion of Fine's solution emphasises in general how simply implementing technical strategies is not sufficient to solve the measurement problem in quantum mechanics: further arguments must be given for why the strategy is appropriate, rather than just mathematically satisfactory. I claim that the arguments given by Fine are far from sufficient. The thesis concludes that, although the quantum theory of measurement is immune from Margenau's critique, and retains a theoretical autonomy, it is still plagued by numerous problems: the thesis identifies clearly what some of these problems are and considers some solutions, most of which, however, raise serious philosophical questions about the interpretation of quantum mechanics.
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