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Decoherence of macroscopic closed systems within Newtonian quantum gravity

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Publication details

JournalClassical and Quantum Gravity
DatePublished - Dec 1998
Issue number12
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)L89-L98
Original languageEnglish


A theory recently proposed by the author aims to explain decoherence and the thermodynamical behaviour of closed systems within a conservative, unitary framework for quantum gravity by assuming that the operators tied to the gravitational degrees of freedom are unobservable and equating physical entropy with matter - gravity entanglement entropy. Here we obtain preliminary results on the extent of decoherence this theory predicts. We treat first a static state which, if one were to ignore quantum gravitational effects, would be a quantum superposition of two spatially displaced states of a single classically well describable ball of uniform mass density in empty space. Estimating the quantum gravitational effects on this system within a simple Newtonian approximation, we obtain formulae which predict, for example, that as long as the mass of the ball is considerably larger than the Planck mass, such a would-be-coherent static superposition will actually be decohered whenever the separation of the centres of mass of the two ball-states exceeds a small fraction (which decreases as the mass of the ball increases) of the ball radius. We then obtain a formula for the quantum-gravitational correction to the would-be-pure density matrix of a non-relativistic many-body Schrödinger wavefunction and argue that this formula predicts decoherence between configurations which differ (at least) in the `relocation' of a cluster of particles of Planck mass. We estimate the entropy of some simple model closed systems, finding a tendency for it to increase with `matter-clumping' suggestive of a link with existing phenomenological discussions of cosmological entropy increase.

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