Max Tegmark's quantum mechanics library: radon

Figure 1: The wavefunction measurement apparatus.
Figure 2: How phase-space tomography works.

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Measuring quantum states:
an experimental setup for measuring the spatial density matrix


Max Tegmark


To quantify the effect of decoherence in quantum measurements, it is desirable to measure not merely the square modulus of the spatial wavefunction, but the entire density matrix, whose phases carry information about momentum and how pure the state is. An experimental setup is presented which can measure the density matrix (or equivalently, the Wigner function) of a beam of identically prepared charged particles to an arbitrary accuracy, limited only by count statistics and detector resolution. The particles enter into an electric field causing simple harmonic oscillation in the transverse direction. This corresponds to rotating the Wigner function in phase space. With a slidable detector, the marginal distribution of the Wigner function can be measured from all angles. Thus the phase-space tomography formalism can be used to recover the Wigner function by the standard inversion of the Radon transform. By applying this technique to for instance double-slit experiments with various degrees of environment-induced decoherence, it should be possible to make our understanding of decoherence and apparent wave-function collapse less qualitative and more quantitative.

Reference info:

Phys. Rev. A., 54, 2703-2706 (1996)

Online references:

This site also contains the latest versions of some other recent quantum mechanics papers of mine; a paper on decoherence, one on how this produces coherent states, one on quantum heat baths and one about the . information content of the Universe.

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This page was last modified July 1, 1998.