Article

Normal Typicality and von Neumann's Quantum Ergodic Theorem

Proceedings of The Royal Society A Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences (Impact Factor: 2). 07/2009; DOI: 10.1098/rspa.2009.0635
Source: arXiv

ABSTRACT We discuss the content and significance of John von Neumann's quantum ergodic theorem (QET) of 1929, a strong result arising from the mere mathematical structure of quantum mechanics. The QET is a precise formulation of what we call normal typicality, i.e., the statement that, for typical large systems, every initial wave function $\psi_0$ from an energy shell is "normal": it evolves in such a way that $|\psi_t> <\psi_t|$ is, for most $t$, macroscopically equivalent to the micro-canonical density matrix. The QET has been mostly forgotten after it was criticized as a dynamically vacuous statement in several papers in the 1950s. However, we point out that this criticism does not apply to the actual QET, a correct statement of which does not appear in these papers, but to a different (indeed weaker) statement. Furthermore, we formulate a stronger statement of normal typicality, based on the observation that the bound on the deviations from the average specified by von Neumann is unnecessarily coarse and a much tighter (and more relevant) bound actually follows from his proof. Comment: 18 pages LaTeX, no figures

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