The concept of measurement and time symmetry in quantum mechanics

Philosophy of Science 55 (3):349-375 (1988)
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Abstract

The formal time symmetry of the quantum measurement process is extensively discussed. Then, the origin of the alleged association between a fixed temporal direction and quantum measurements is investigated. It is shown that some features of such an association might arise from epistemological rather than purely physical assumptions. In particular, it is brought out that a sequence of statements bearing on quantum measurements may display intrinsic asymmetric properties, irrespective of the location of corresponding measurements in time t of the Schrodinger equation. The situation of an observer performing two measurements in two opposite directions of t is eventually investigated. Essential differences are found between two descriptions of this situation: the internal one (taking only into account what is recorded in the observer's memory) and the external one (whereby the observer is considered as a quantum system ruled by the Schrodinger equation). Finally, a method allowing several observers to establish a correspondence between their memory sizes is analyzed. The most important facts that usually lead to the associating of a preferential temporal direction with quantum measurements may be inferred from this correspondence

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Michel Bitbol
University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne