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Continuous Position Measurements and the Quantum Zeno Effect

By M. J. Gagen, H. M. Wiseman and G. J. Milburn


We present a model of continuous (in time) position measurements on a quantum system using a single pseudoclassical meter. The nonselective evolution of the system is described by a master equation which is identical to that obtained from previous models. The selective evolution is described by a stochastic nonlinear Schrödinger equation. The significance of this equation is that the stochastic term has a physical interpretaion. By carefully choosing the parameters which define the meter and the system-meter coupling, we obtain a meter pointer with well-defined position which undergoes fluctuations. This ‘‘jitter’’ in the pointer position gives rise to the stochastic dynamical collapse of the system wave function. By the inclusion of feedback on the meter, the pointer is made to relax towards an appropriate readout. We apply this model to the selective measurement of the position of a particle in a double-well potential. In contrast to a recent claim [H. Fearn and W. E. Lamb, Jr., Phys. Rev. A 46, 1199 (1992)] we show that truly continuous position measurements lead to a quantum Zeno effect in certain parameter regimes. This is manifest by the changing of the particle dynamics from coherent tunneling between the well minima to incoherent flipping, as in a random telegraph. As the measurement strength increases, the average length of time the particle remains stuck in one well increases proportionally

Topics: System, Reduction, Dynamics, Paradox, 3100 Physics and Astronomy, 3107 Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
Publisher: American Physical Society
Year: 1993
DOI identifier: 10.1103/PhysRevA.48.132
OAI identifier:

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