On Unitary Evolution and Collapse in Quantum Mechanics

Francesco Giacosa


In the framework of an interference setup in which only two outcomes are possible (such as in the case of a Mach–Zehnder interferometer), we discuss in a simple and pedagogical way the difference between a standard, unitary quantum mechanical evolution and the existence of a real collapse of the wavefunction. This is a central and not-yet resolved question of quantum mechanics and indeed of quantum field theory as well. Moreover, we also present the Elitzur–Vaidman bomb, the delayed choice experiment, and the effect of decoherence. In the end, we propose two simple experiments to visualize decoherence and to test the role of an entangled particle.

Quanta 2014; 3: 156–170.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.12743/quanta.v3i1.26

ISSN: 1314-7374