Stochasticity, decoherence and an arrow of time from the discretization of time?
Certain intriguing consequences of the discreteness of time on the time evolution of dynamical systems are discussed. In the discrete-time classical mechanics proposed here, there is an arrow of time that follows from the fact that the replacement of the time derivative by the backward difference operator alone can preserve the non-negativity of the phase space density. It is seen that, even for free particles, all the degrees of freedom are correlated in principle. The forward evolution of functions of phase space variables by a finite number of time steps, in this discrete-time mechanics, depends on the entire continuous-time history in the interval [0, ∞]. In this sense, discrete time evolution is nonlocal in time from a continuous-time point of view. A corresponding quantum mechanical treatment is possible via the density matrix approach. The interference between nondegenerate quantum mechanical states decays exponentially. This decoherence is present, in principle, for all systems; however, it is of practical importance only in macroscopic systems, or in processes involving large energy changes.
Volume 93 | Issue 6
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