It is shown that the evolution of an open quantum system whose density operator obeys a Markovian master equation can in some cases be meaningfully described in terms of stochastic Schrödinger equations (SSE’s) for its state vector. A necessary condition for this is that the information carried away from the system by the bath (source of the irreversibility) be recoverable. The primary field of application is quantum optics, where the bath consists of the continuum of electromagnetic modes. The information lost from the system can be recovered using a perfect photodetector. The state of the system conditioned on the photodetections undergoes stochastic quantum jumps. Alternative measurement schemes on the outgoing light (homodyne and heterodyne detection) are shown to give rise to SSE’s with diffusive terms. These three detection schemes are illustrated on a simple quantum system, the two-level atom, giving new perspectives on the interpretation of measurement results. The reality of these and other stochastic processes for state vectors is discussed
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