Quantum dynamics of simultaneously measured non-commuting observables

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Abstract

In quantum mechanics, measurements cause wavefunction collapse that yields precise outcomes, whereas for non-commuting observables such as position and momentum Heisenberg's uncertainty principle limits the intrinsic precision of a state. Although theoretical work1has demonstrated that it should be possible to perform simultaneous non-commuting measurements and has revealed the limits on measurement outcomes, only recently2,3has the dynamics of the quantum state been discussed. To realize this unexplored regime, we simultaneously apply two continuous quantum non-demolition probes of non-commuting observables to a superconducting qubit. We implement multiple readout channels by coupling the qubit to multiple modes of a cavity. To control the measurement observables, we implement a ‘single quadrature’ measurement by driving the qubit and applying cavity sidebands with a relative phase that sets the observable. Here, we use this approach to show that the uncertainty principle governs the dynamics of the wavefunction by enforcing a lower bound on the measurement-induced disturbance. Consequently, as we transition from measuring identical to measuring non-commuting observables, the dynamics make a smooth transition from standard wavefunction collapse to localized persistent diffusion and then to isotropic persistent diffusion. Although the evolution of the state differs markedly from that of a conventional measurement, information about both non-commuting observables is extracted by keeping track of the time ordering of the measurement record, enabling quantum state tomography without alternating measurements. Our work creates novel capabilities for quantum control, including rapid state purification4, adaptive measurement5,6, measurement-based state steering and continuous quantum error correction7. As physical systems often interact continuously with their environment via non-commuting degrees of freedom, our work offers a way8,9to study how notions of contemporary quantum foundations10,11,12,13,14arise in such settings.

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