Measurement-induced Decoherence and Information in Double-Slit Interference

Am J Phys. 2016 Jul;84(7):522-530. doi: 10.1119/1.4943585.


The double slit experiment provides a classic example of both interference and the effect of observation in quantum physics. When particles are sent individually through a pair of slits, a wave-like interference pattern develops, but no such interference is found when one observes which "path" the particles take. We present a model of interference, dephasing, and measurement-induced decoherence in a one-dimensional version of the double-slit experiment. Using this model, we demonstrate how the loss of interference in the system is correlated with the information gain by the measuring apparatus/observer. In doing so, we give a modern account of measurement in this paradigmatic example of quantum physics that is accessible to students taking quantum mechanics at the graduate or senior undergraduate levels.