Articles written in Pramana – Journal of Physics
Volume 76 Issue 1 January 2011 pp 67-91 Research Articles
Nonlinear quantum mechanics, the superposition principle, and the quantum measurement problem
There are four reasons why our present knowledge and understanding of quantum mechanics can be regarded as incomplete. (1) The principle of linear superposition has not been experimentally tested for position eigenstates of objects having more than about a thousand atoms. (2) There is no universally agreed upon explanation for the process of quantum measurement. (3) There is no universally agreed upon explanation for the observed fact that macroscopic objects are not found in superposition of position eigenstates. (4) Most importantly, the concept of time is classical and hence external to quantum mechanics: there should exist an equivalent reformulation of the theory which does not refer to an external classical time. In this paper we argue that such a reformulation is the limiting case of a nonlinear quantum theory, with the nonlinearity becoming important at the Planck mass scale. Such a nonlinearity can provide insights into the aforesaid problems. We use a physically motivated model for a nonlinear Schr ¨odinger equation to show that nonlinearity can help in understanding quantum measurement. We also show that while the principle of linear superposition holds to a very high accuracy for atomic systems, the lifetime of a quantum superposition becomes progressively smaller, as one goes from microscopic to macroscopic objects. This can explain the observed absence of position superpositions in macroscopic objects (lifetime is too small). It also suggests that ongoing laboratory experiments may be able to detect the ﬁnite superposition lifetime for mesoscopic objects in the near future.
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