Decoherence and Entanglement

Seven Pines Symposium XIV

May 5-9, 2010
The Outing Lodge, Stillwater, Minnesota

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The ideas of decoherence and entanglement are very old, going back to the early days of quantum mechanics. In the 1950's, the possibility that decoherence ought to be crucial in our understanding of the foundations of quantum mechanics was first discussed in detail - this discussion has continued ever since. However in the last 2 decades there has been an enormous new surge of interest in these topics, for at least the following reasons:

(i) They are central to the understanding of quantum computing, and to whether or not quantum information processing will ever be feasible.

(ii) Large-scale quantum phenomena, including macroscopic coherence, where entanglement and decoherence play a central role, were first discussed theoretically in the 1980's. In the last decade they were finally shown to exist in the lab.

(iii) Fairly general theoretical models of decoherence have now been introduced, and been shown to work in a number of experiments.

(iv) Enormous advances have been made in the last decade on the experimental investigation of coherence and decoherence phenomena, in systems including superconducting, semiconducting, and magnetic solid-state devices, quantum optical systems, and, quite remarkably, certain biological systems. These experiments are reaching the point where very fundamental questions in quantum mechanics can be investigated in large condensed matter systems.

(v) Decoherence phenomena may have been central to the formation of structure in the early universe.

These advances have reawakened interest in some of the older philosophical questions in the foundations of quantum mechanics, and suggested a number of quite new ones.

This meeting covers these themes, with talks in all these areas, and extensive discussion of them.