Friday, August 31, 2012

1106.2823 (Jacek Dziarmaga et al.)

Topological Schrödinger cats: Non-local quantum superpositions of
topological defects

Jacek Dziarmaga, Wojciech H. Zurek, Michael Zwolak
Topological defects (such as monopoles, vortex lines, or domain walls) mark locations where disparate choices of a broken symmetry vacuum elsewhere in the system lead to irreconcilable differences. They are energetically costly (the energy density in their core reaches that of the prior symmetric vacuum) but topologically stable (the whole manifold would have to be rearranged to get rid of the defect). We show how, in a paradigmatic model of a quantum phase transition, a topological defect can be put in a non-local superposition, so that - in a region large compared to the size of its core - the order parameter of the system is "undecided" by being in a quantum superposition of conflicting choices of the broken symmetry. We demonstrate how to exhibit such a "Schr\"odinger kink" by devising a version of a double-slit experiment suitable for topological defects. Coherence detectable in such experiments will be suppressed as a consequence of interaction with the environment. We analyze environment-induced decoherence and discuss its role in symmetry breaking.
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