Quantum fields and local measurements

Chris Fewster, Rainer Verch

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The process of quantum measurement is considered in the algebraic framework of quantum field theory on curved spacetimes. Measurements are carried out on one quantum field theory, the "system", using another, the "probe". The measurement process involves a dynamical coupling of "system" and "probe" within a bounded spacetime region. The resulting "coupled theory" determines
a scattering map on the uncoupled combination of the "system" and "probe" by reference to natural "in" and "out" spacetime regions. No specific interaction is assumed and all constructions are local and covariant.

Given any initial state of the probe in the "in" region, the scattering map
determines a completely positive map from "probe" observables in the "out" region to "induced system observables", thus providing a measurement scheme for the latter. It is shown that the induced system observables may be localized in the causal hull
of the interaction coupling region and are typically less sharp than the probe observable, but more sharp than the actual measurement on the coupled theory.
Post-selected states conditioned on measurement outcomes are obtained using Davies-Lewis instruments that depend on the initial probe state. Composite measurements involving causally ordered coupling regions are also considered. Provided that the scattering map obeys a causal factorization property, the causally ordered composition of the individual instruments coincides with the composite instrument;
in particular, the instruments may be combined in either order if the coupling regions are causally disjoint. This is the central consistency property of the proposed framework.

The general concepts and results are illustrated by an example in which both "system" and "probe" are quantized linear scalar fields, coupled by a quadratic interaction term with compact spacetime support. System observables induced by simple probe observables are calculated exactly, for sufficiently weak coupling, and compared with first order perturbation theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851–889
Number of pages39
JournalCommunications in Mathematical Physics
Issue number2
Early online date27 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

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