Chapter

How the Measurement Problem Is an Artefact of the Mathematics

Nancy Cartwright

in How the Laws of Physics Lie

Published in print June 1983 | ISBN: 9780198247043
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191597152 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198247044.003.0010
 How the Measurement Problem Is an Artefact of the Mathematics

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Precursing now popular ‘spontaneous reduction’ views, this chapter argues that the measurement problem in quantum mechanics is not a problem of measurement at all. Reductions happen in a variety of circumstances and are particularly important in the preparation of quantum states. But there is no reason to think there is any simple physical characterization of situations in which reduction of the wave packet occurs from when it does not. There is a difference in the mathematical characteristics of the evolution operator between the two (unitary operators versus non‐unitary), but this mathematical difference need mark no interesting physical difference distinguishing the situations to which operators apply.

Keywords: measurement problem; preparation of quantum states; reduction of the wave packet; spontaneous reduction; unitary operator

Chapter.  19761 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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