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Objective classical branch structure in a many-body wavefunction from spatial redundancy



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PIRSA Number: 
16110079

Abstract

When the wavefunction of a macroscopic system unitarily evolves from a low-entropy initial state, there is good circumstantial evidence it develops "branches", i.e., a decomposition into orthogonal components that can't be distinguished from the corresponding incoherent mixture by feasible observations, with each component a simultaneous eigenstate of preferred macroscopic observables. Is this decomposition unique? Can the number of branches decrease in time?

Answering these questions is hard because branches are defined only intuitively, much like early investigations of algorithms prior to the Church–Turing thesis. A rigorous definition could give a speed up to certain non-stationary matrix-product state numerical simulations, as well as solve Kent's Set Selection problem in the consistent histories formalism, a 20-year-old open challenge in the foundations of quantum mechanics. I introduce some tentative definitions based on the idea of redundant information, and establishing a uniqueness theorems. A key counterexample is provided by the Shor error-correction code, which demonstrates that branch structure with robust, redundant records on macroscopic scales can hide incompatible (noncommuting) structure on microscopic scales.