Zeno Goes to Copenhagen: A Dilemma for Measurement-Collapse Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics

In M. C. Kafatos, D. Banerji & D. C. Struppa (eds.), Quantum and Consciousness Revisited. DK Publisher (forthcoming)
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A familiar interpretation of quantum mechanics (one of a number of views sometimes labeled the "Copenhagen interpretation'"), takes its empirical apparatus at face value, holding that the quantum wave function evolves by the Schrödinger equation except on certain occasions of measurement, when it collapses into a new state according to the Born rule. This interpretation is widely rejected, primarily because it faces the measurement problem: "measurement" is too imprecise for use in a fundamental physical theory. We argue that this is a weak objection, as there may be many ways of making "measurement" precise. However, measurement-collapse interpretations face a more serious objection: a dilemma tied to the quantum Zeno effect. Is measurement itself an observable that can enter superpositions? If yes, then the standard measurement-collapse dynamics is ill-defined. If no, then (at least if measurement is an observable), measurements can never start or finish. The best way out is to deny that measurement is an observable, but this leads to strong and revisionary consequences. This reinforces the view that there is no nonrevisionary interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Author Profiles

David Chalmers
New York University
Kelvin J. McQueen
Chapman University


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