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Quantum MechanicsAn Empiricist View$
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Bas C. van Fraassen

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780198239802

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198239807.001.0001

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Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics 1

Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics 1

(p.273) 9 Modal Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics1
Quantum Mechanics

Bas C. van Fraassen

Oxford University Press

The world of quantum theory is not deterministic; however, the quantum theory of an isolated system describes its state as evolving deterministically.How can these two points be reconciled? The modal interpretation (of which a number of variants have been developed) answers this as follows. An observable may have a value even if the system is not in the corresponding eigenstate of that observable. The state of the system only constrains the possible values the observable can have, and (at least under certain conditions) the probabilities that it has those values. Hence, the eigenvalue–eigenstate link is violated. There is no collapse; the state of an isolated system always evolves in accordance with the Schroedinger equation. Hence the values of observables can change indeterministically, though this stochastic process is constrained by the deterministically evolving quantum state. Terminology varies but in this book the quantum state is then called the dynamical state, and a summary of the values of the observables pertaining to the system is called the value state. Since not all observables are mutually compatible, they will not all have simultaneous sharp values, but for each there is a minimum Borel set of values as its current range. The specific modal interpretation developed here is the Copenhagen Variant of the Modal Interpretation, which places holistic constraints on values of observables pertaining to parts of composite systems.

Keywords:   collapse, Copenhagen variant, dynamical state, eigenstate, eigenvalue, modal interpretation, Schroedinger equation, value state

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