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      Decoherence and thermalization of a pure quantum state in quantum field theory

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          Abstract

          We study the real-time evolution of a self-interacting O(N) scalar field initially prepared in a pure quantum state. We present a complete solution of the nonequilibrium quantum dynamics from a 1/N-expansion of the two-particle-irreducible effective action at next-to-leading order, which includes scattering and memory effects. Restricting one's attention (or ability to measure) to a subset of the infinite hierarchy of correlation functions, the system is described by an effective (reduced) density matrix which, unlike the full density matrix, has a nontrivial time evolution. In particular, starting from a pure quantum state, we observe the loss of putity/coherence and, on longer time scales, thermalization of the reduced density matrix. We point out that the physics of decoherence is well described by classical statistical field theory.

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          Decoherence, einselection, and the quantum origins of the classical

            (2001)
          Decoherence is caused by the interaction with the environment. Environment monitors certain observables of the system, destroying interference between the pointer states corresponding to their eigenvalues. This leads to environment-induced superselection or einselection, a quantum process associated with selective loss of information. Einselected pointer states are stable. They can retain correlations with the rest of the Universe in spite of the environment. Einselection enforces classicality by imposing an effective ban on the vast majority of the Hilbert space, eliminating especially the flagrantly non-local "Schr\"odinger cat" states. Classical structure of phase space emerges from the quantum Hilbert space in the appropriate macroscopic limit: Combination of einselection with dynamics leads to the idealizations of a point and of a classical trajectory. In measurements, einselection replaces quantum entanglement between the apparatus and the measured system with the classical correlation.
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            Effective action for composite operators

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              Classical aspects of quantum fields far from equilibrium

               ,   (2010)
              We consider the time evolution of nonequilibrium quantum scalar fields in the O(N) model, using the next-to-leading order 1/N expansion of the 2PI effective action. A comparison with exact numerical simulations in 1+1 dimensions in the classical limit shows that the 1/N expansion gives quantitatively precise results already for moderate values of N. For sufficiently high initial occupation numbers the time evolution of quantum fields is shown to be accurately described by classical physics. Eventually the correspondence breaks down due to the difference between classical and quantum thermal equilibrium.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                14 October 2009
                2010-05-30
                Article
                10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.230405
                0910.2570

                http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

                Custom metadata
                Phys.Rev.Lett.104:230405,2010
                4 pages, 3 figures. To appear in Phys. Rev. Lett
                hep-ph cond-mat.other hep-th nucl-th

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