Does the environment cause wave function collapse

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Fiziqs, have you watched any on-line lectures? I would recommend
http://theoreticalminimum.com/courses
If the maths is too tricky the words are still good to listen too.
Jilang, yes I have watched most of these lectures, although I have never actually watched any of them all the way through. I still find them to be very helpful to a point. What inevitably happens though, is that I will start out with a very good grasp of what Prof. Susskind is talking about. I will understand it perfectly. But then he begins to use terminology with which I am unfamiliar. At first I can deduce what many of the terms are, and what they are referring to, and I can disregard others, but eventually I get to the point where I really have no idea what he's talking about. He's using terms that I don't understand based on earlier terms that I didn't understand. Until I finally get to the point where I go, I can't follow this anymore, I'm lost. I'm getting bits and pieces, but for the most part he's lost me.

It's not the concepts that are confusing me, it's the terminology. I'm sure that if I could ask him to clarify certain things, and he had the patience to explain them, that I would find the vast majority of what he teaches to be perfectly simple and understandable. The parts that I do get, I understand and agree with. Still I watch them every now and again, and hopefully I understand a little bit more each time. One of these days I may even get all the way through one of them.
 
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The environment is part of the wavefunction so you are essentially asking how can the wavefunction collapse the wavefunction?
I agree to a point. What many argue, and logically so, is that the environment causes decoherence, yet in the double slit experiment we have a complex environment that does not seem to be causing decoherence. The question then is, why? How can the particle be a part of this complex environment, this wave function as you call it, and not experience decoherence?

I could postulate a number of explanations on my own. It could be that the particle rarely interacts with anything during the very brief amount of time between the slits and the screen. Thus there is little opportunity for interaction, and for decoherence to be introduced. In which case, the particle's wave function, and the environment's wave function essentially remain separate. But if you introduce something into the environment, like a measuring device specifically designed to interact with the particle, then the likelihood of interaction with the environment increases to the point where the interference pattern disappears. Decoherence becomes likely. In this case the environment fails to eliminate interference because the particle never actually interacts with the environment. It's only when you increase the likelihood of interaction by adding a measuring device, that the interference pattern disappears. I find this argument to be somewhat counter-intuitive. How does a wave pass through an environment without interacting with the objects within that environment? Still, not understanding the mechanisms involved with such interactions, makes this argument difficult to rule out.

But there are other possibilities. It could be that the particle does indeed interact with the environment on its way from the slits to the screen, but that none of these interactions result in the obtaining of "which path" information, and it is only when you introduce something into the environment specifically designed to measure "which path" the particle took, that the interference pattern disappears. In this case the particle and the environment can indeed be modeled as one wave function, but the interference pattern remains because the environment doesn't obtain "which path" information, until something is present within the environment to do so.

But there are still further possible explanations, and I was hoping that someone would have some evidence to support a specific hypothesis. Thus the reason behind my initial question, why doesn't the environment collapse the wave function in a double slit experiment, even though it is claimed by many that the environment is indeed responsible for decoherence?

It may be erroneous of me to refer to the particle and the environment as separate wave functions, but hopefully you can overlook the poor terminology, and understand the question that I was attempting to ask.

Beware that the collapse event is not part of the formalism so the odds of you getting genuine snake oil are quite high.
I am quite aware that the odds of my looking like a complete idiot are indeed very high, but it wouldn't be the first time. I have a history of such things. There is no harm in you pointing it out however, and your input is appreciated.
 

atyy

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I agree to a point. What many argue, and logically so, is that the environment causes decoherence, yet in the double slit experiment we have a complex environment that does not seem to be causing decoherence. The question then is, why? How can the particle be a part of this complex environment, this wave function as you call it, and not experience decoherence?
Because there is no complex environment, or it does not interact with it. In these experiments, there is a loss of interference as a complex environment is introduced with which the particle interacts.

But there are other possibilities. It could be that the particle does indeed interact with the environment on its way from the slits to the screen, but that none of these interactions result in the obtaining of "which path" information, and it is only when you introduce something into the environment specifically designed to measure "which path" the particle took, that the interference pattern disappears. In this case the particle and the environment can indeed be modeled as one wave function, but the interference pattern remains because the environment doesn't obtain "which path" information, until something is present within the environment to do so.
More or less, yes. There's a famous experiment discussed by Bohr and Einstein.

"Einstein proposed the famous recoiling-slit experiment to gently measure which path the particle took through a two-path interferometer. In reply Bohr pointed out that the slit itself must also obey the laws of quantum mechanics and therefore is subject to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. He showed quantitatively that if the initial momentum of the slit-assembly is known well enough to permit the recoil measurement of which path the particle took, then the initial position of the slit must have been so uncertain that fringes would be unobservable." http://arxiv.org/abs/0712.3703 (p34)

A version of this experiment was performed by Bertet and Haroche. They say "Recoil of the quantum slit causes it to become entangled with the particle, resulting in a kind of Einstein-Podolsky–Rosen pair. As the motion of the slit can be observed, the ambiguity of the particle's trajectory is lifted, suppressing interference effects. In contrast, the state of a sufficiently massive slit does not depend on the particle's path; hence, interference fringes are visible." http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v411/n6834/abs/411166a0.html
 
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Because there is no complex environment, or it does not interact with it. In these experiments, there is a loss of interference as a complex environment is introduced with which the particle interacts.
Now this is an interesting question. What actually constitutes a complex environment? Is there a specific scientific definition for it? If not, I could venture a really off-the-cuff guess, that a complex system is one in which the relationship between the components of the system are such, that it imposes restrictions upon the possible states of the individual components of the system, or a subset of those components.

In other words, in the case of the double slit experiment, if we have a detector at the slits, then the state of the detector imposes a restriction upon the state of the particle. Specifically, it limits the possibilities as to which slit the particle came through. But in the case of an environment made up solely of air molecules, due to the nature of the slits the state of any single, or group of molecules, does not restrict the possibilities as to which slit the particle came through. So long as the particle was capable of interacting with that molecule regardless of which slit it came through, then such interactions impose no restrictions upon the path of the particle.

But this definition raises a problem, because the density of the medium within the double slit experiment should then have no effect upon the rate of decoherence. It wouldn't matter how many interactions the particle had between the slits and the screen, if none of those interactions could provide a restriction as to which slit the particle came through. But the experiments cited by Len M and atyy seem to indicate that there is indeed a correlation between the density of the medium, and the rate of decoherence. (Although as I stated in a previous post, I'm not sure that that effect wasn't due to some other factor) But this would seem to indicate that my definition of what constitutes a complex system is inadequate, incomplete, or incorrect.

As everyone can no doubt tell, I'm blathering again. This stuff is coming right off the top of my head. But does anyone else have a more formal definition as to what constitutes a complex environment?
 
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Because there is no complex environment, or it does not interact with it. In these experiments, there is a loss of interference as a complex environment is introduced with which the particle interacts.

This assumes that there is a classical environment consisting of ball-like particles but so far there is no evidence for the existence of such particles. We have to introduce them for the hypothesis to work, right?
 
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In this framework, we divide the universe into two parts. A classical world which we are part of, and a quantum world which we are studying.In this framework, quantum mechanics does not describe the whole universe, because it does not describe the classical apparatus.

Decoherence is common to all frameworks.
without the division, how can decohere.


.
 

atyy

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Now this is an interesting question. What actually constitutes a complex environment? Is there a specific scientific definition for it? If not, I could venture a really off-the-cuff guess, that a complex system is one in which the relationship between the components of the system are such, that it imposes restrictions upon the possible states of the individual components of the system, or a subset of those components.
There is no strict distinction between a simple and a complex experiment. In the experiments, as they introduced one random photon to more random photons, the degree to which the interference was lost increased.

But this definition raises a problem, because the density of the medium within the double slit experiment should then have no effect upon the rate of decoherence. It wouldn't matter how many interactions the particle had between the slits and the screen, if none of those interactions could provide a restriction as to which slit the particle came through. But the experiments cited by Len M and atyy seem to indicate that there is indeed a correlation between the density of the medium, and the rate of decoherence. (Although as I stated in a previous post, I'm not sure that that effect wasn't due to some other factor) But this would seem to indicate that my definition of what constitutes a complex system is inadequate, incomplete, or incorrect.
It's not the density of the medium. It is the ability of the random scattering to provide which path information.

This assumes that there is a classical environment consisting of ball-like particles but so far there is no evidence for the existence of such particles. We have to introduce them for the hypothesis to work, right?
Decoherence assumes everything is quantum, including the environment.

without the division, how can decohere.
Decoherence has no split into classical and quantum. Everything is quantum in decoherence.

Decoherence does not explain why we get classical outcomes, it only explains why we get classical possibilities - ie. why when when a measurement is made, we get a dead cat or an alive cat, but never a dead and alive cat. A measurement is still needed to collapse the wave function, so that we transition from a dead cat or an alive cat to a particular outcome. It is the measurement and collapse to a particular outcome, not decoherence, which requires that we divide the universe into classical and quantum. (Or you can use Many-Worlds or Bohmian mechanics.)
 

atyy

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David Kokorowski's thesis http://www.atomwave.org/otherarticles/mit/Kokorowski%202001.pdf [Broken] gives details of an atom interferometer. It looks like the main region (p22) is in a vacuum of 10-7 Torr.
 
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Decoherence assumes everything is quantum, including the environment.

Everything is quantum in decoherence.

.
if everythig is quantum, why the division ?

.
 

atyy

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if everythig is quantum, why the division ?

.
In interpretations with collapse, not everything is quantum. (Yes, this doesn't seem to make sense, but it works - so it is called shut-up-and-calculate. Because of this division, in the view of shut-up-and-calculate, quantum mrchanics is not a complete theory. If you want something that makes more sense try Many-Worlds, in which quantum theory is complete; or de Broglie - Bohm, which completes quantum mechanics with hidden variables.)
 
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In interpretations with collapse, not everything is quantum. (Yes, this doesn't seem to make sense, but it works - so it is called shut-up-and-calculate. Because of this division, in the view of shut-up-and-calculate, quantum mrchanics is not a complete theory. If you want something that makes more sense try Many-Worlds, in which quantum theory is complete; or de Broglie - Bohm, which completes quantum mechanics with hidden variables.)

right, everything is not quantum.


.
 
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Decoherence assumes everything is quantum, including the environment.

In the usual interpretation, the interaction between a quantum system and its environment is what causes decoherence. This is of course an oversimplification, as seen above, and only works FAPP but is not right in and of itself. At a more complete level it's the information about the which path that brings decoherence as you seem to agree in post 32.


right, everything is not quantum.


.

Like what?
 
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As far as my understanding takes me, everything is quantum mechanical in nature. At least in principle. We await the experiment to show us a 40kg mirror is placed in a superposition of positions, for example.
 

atyy

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In the usual interpretation, the interaction between a quantum system and its environment is what causes decoherence. This is of course an oversimplification, as seen above, and only works FAPP but is not right in and of itself. At a more complete level it's the information about the which path that brings decoherence as you seem to agree in post 32.
As long as one takes it that decoherence does not solve all problems, and only solves the "pointer basis problem" then it works completely, not only FAPP. In decoherence, the system, apparatus and environment are in the quantum world.

If decoherence is taken to solve the measurement problem, then it does not work, not even FAPP.
 
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It's not the density of the medium. It is the ability of the random scattering to provide which path information.
As I mentioned in an earlier post I have a bit of a problem trying to see how the random scattering in denser mediums can provide "which path" information. How do you gain "which path" information from random scattering?

But because I lack an understanding of the intricacies of the experiments, I may well be missing something. If we set up a double slit experiment and we introduce progressively denser mediums, we would expect the interference pattern to gradually disappear, but this could be accounted for simply by random scattering, and not be due to increased decoherence caused by an increase in "which path" information. Random scattering would cause the interference pattern to disappear regardless of any effects on decoherence.

However, I also assume that the designers of the experiments were aware of this, and accounted for it somehow. I'm just wondering how. I really would like to be sure, whether or not denser mediums cause an increase in decoherence, because this would provide an important clue into the nature of the process of decoherence. So I'm actually hoping that you can clear this up for me. (Not that I'm trying to use you as my own personal assistant, sorry)
 
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As I mentioned in an earlier post I have a bit of a problem trying to see how the random scattering in denser mediums can provide "which path" information. How do you gain "which path" information from random scattering?

But because I lack an understanding of the intricacies of the experiments, I may well be missing something. If we set up a double slit experiment and we introduce progressively denser mediums, we would expect the interference pattern to gradually disappear, but this could be accounted for simply by random scattering, and not be due to increased decoherence caused by an increase in "which path" information. Random scattering would cause the interference pattern to disappear regardless of any effects on decoherence.

However, I also assume that the designers of the experiments were aware of this, and accounted for it somehow. I'm just wondering how. I really would like to be sure, whether or not denser mediums cause an increase in decoherence, because this would provide an important clue into the nature of the process of decoherence. So I'm actually hoping that you can clear this up for me. (Not that I'm trying to use you as my own personal assistant, sorry)


See the following excerpt(Nature, Vol.401):

"In quantum interference experiments, coherent superposition
only arises if no information whatsoever can be obtained, even in
principle, about which path the interfering particle took. Interaction
with the environment could therefore lead to decoherence.We
now analyse why decoherence has not occurred in our experiment
and how modifications of our experiment could allow studies of
decoherence using the rich internal structure of fullerenes.
In an experiment of the kind reported here, ‘which-path’ information
could be given by the molecules in scattering or emission
processes, resulting in entanglement with the environment and a
loss of interference. Among all possible processes, the following are
the most relevant: decay of vibrational excitations via emission of
infrared radiation, emission or absorption of thermal blackbody
radiation over a continuous spectrum, Rayleigh scattering, and
collisions.
When considering these effects, one should keep in mind that
only those scattering processes which allow us to determine the path
of a C60 molecule will completely destroy in a single event the
interference between paths through neighbouring slits. This
requires lpd; that is, the wavelength l of the incident or emitted
radiation has to be smaller than the distance d between neighbouring
slits, which amounts to 100nm in our experiment. When this
condition is not fulfilled decoherence is however also possible via
multi-photon scattering7,8,17.
At T < 900 K, as in our experiment, each C60 molecule has on
average a total vibrational energy of Ev < 7 eV (ref. 18) stored in 174
vibrational modes, four of which may emit infrared radiation at
lvib < 7–19mm (ref. 10) each with an Einstein coefficient of
Ak < 100 s21 (ref. 18). During its time of flight from the grating
towards the detector (t < 6 ms) a C60 molecule may thus emit on
average 2–3 such photons.
In addition, hot C60 has been observed19 to emit continuous
blackbody radiation, in agreement with Planck’s law, with a measured
integrated emissivity of e < 4:5 ð 6 2:0Þ 3 1025 (ref. 18). For
a typical value of T < 900 K, the average energy emitted during the
time of flight can then be estimated as only Ebb < 0:1 eV. This
corresponds to the emission of (for example) a single photon at
l < 10mm. Absorption of blackbody radiation has an even smaller
influence as the environment is at a lower temperature than the
molecule. Finally, since the mean free path for neutral C60 exceeds
100min our experiment, collisions with background molecules can
be neglected.
As shown above, the wavelengths involved are too large for single
photon decoherence. Also, the scattering rates are far too small to
induce sufficient phase diffusion. This explains the decoupling of
internal and external degrees of freedom, and the persistence of
interference in our present experiment."

http://atomfizika.elte.hu/akos/orak/atfsz/dualitas/fulleren.pdf
 

zonde

Gold Member
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For objects other than photons - yes - for photons its probably related to they travel so quickly and there is so many of them, since their decoherence time is so long, very few interact with objects on the way through enough to decohere them - although it may decohere other objects. Of course those that are decohered and given an actual position will not participate in the interference effect.
This position is falsified by simple quantum eraser experiment (the do-it-yourself type - http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow.cfm?id=a-do-it-yourself-quantum-eraser)
Photons definitely interact with polarizers and yet interference is seen after "erasure" of which way polarization information.
 
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As I mentioned in an earlier post I have a bit of a problem trying to see how the random scattering in denser mediums can provide "which path" information. How do you gain "which path" information from random scattering?

But because I lack an understanding of the intricacies of the experiments, I may well be missing something. If we set up a double slit experiment and we introduce progressively denser mediums, we would expect the interference pattern to gradually disappear, but this could be accounted for simply by random scattering, and not be due to increased decoherence caused by an increase in "which path" information. Random scattering would cause the interference pattern to disappear regardless of any effects on decoherence.

However, I also assume that the designers of the experiments were aware of this, and accounted for it somehow. I'm just wondering how. I really would like to be sure, whether or not denser mediums cause an increase in decoherence, because this would provide an important clue into the nature of the process of decoherence. So I'm actually hoping that you can clear this up for me. (Not that I'm trying to use you as my own personal assistant, sorry)
Fiz, there can be no interference if there is random scattering. That's why experiments with particles must be performed in a vacuum. Experiments with photons can be performed in an atmosphere as they are affected much less.
 

atyy

Science Advisor
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As I mentioned in an earlier post I have a bit of a problem trying to see how the random scattering in denser mediums can provide "which path" information. How do you gain "which path" information from random scattering?

But because I lack an understanding of the intricacies of the experiments, I may well be missing something. If we set up a double slit experiment and we introduce progressively denser mediums, we would expect the interference pattern to gradually disappear, but this could be accounted for simply by random scattering, and not be due to increased decoherence caused by an increase in "which path" information. Random scattering would cause the interference pattern to disappear regardless of any effects on decoherence.

However, I also assume that the designers of the experiments were aware of this, and accounted for it somehow. I'm just wondering how. I really would like to be sure, whether or not denser mediums cause an increase in decoherence, because this would provide an important clue into the nature of the process of decoherence. So I'm actually hoping that you can clear this up for me. (Not that I'm trying to use you as my own personal assistant, sorry)
Random means the environment is too complex for us to really know its quantum state. Since the environment is not really random, it encodes the which way information. When we say the information about the path is in the environment, we don't mean that a path has already been chosen. In decoherence, the path is not chosen yet, the information is encoded in different correlations between the environment and each possible path. So in simple cases like the one photon case, if we are able to know enough about the environment, we can make the coherence come back. Here's an experiment which used information in the environment to regain coherence http://www.physics.arizona.edu/~cronin/Research/Publications/photon_scattering.pdf .

Kokorowski's thesis http://www.atomwave.org/otherarticles/mit/Kokorowski%202001.pdf [Broken] , however, does say in section 3.6.1, "Despite decades of work and hundreds of papers published on the subject, there currently exists no single, well-accepted definition of decoherence. In some sense, no such definition is necessary. What is more important is that the physical model describing how a given system's density matrix evolves appropriately includes any influence of its environment." He also has a very interesting discussion in section 3.6.5 on distinguishing between decoherence and classical dephasing.
 
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Kokorowski's thesis http://www.atomwave.org/otherarticles/mit/Kokorowski%202001.pdf[/URL] , however, does say in section 3.6.1, "Despite decades of work and hundreds of papers published on the subject,
[B]there currently exists no single, well-accepted definition of decoherence[/B]"[/QUOTE]

because, we dont know, what causes it, just we describe what we see.
no explanation at all.


[quote="StevieTNZ, post: 4588369"]the experiment to show us mirror is placed in a superposition of positions, for example.[/QUOTE]

indeed.
with big solid objects.

[B]Observation of a kilogram-scale oscillator near its quantum ground state[/B]
[url]http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/11/7/073032/[/url]

"cooling technique capable of approaching the quantum ground state of a kilogram-scale system....
....to probe the validity of quantum mechanics on an enormous mass scale"




[url]http://prd.aps.org/abstract/PRD/v65/i2/e022002[/url]
[url]http://cds.cern.ch/record/451662/files/0008026.pdf[/url]


[url]http://prd.aps.org/abstract/PRD/v64/i4/e042006[/url]
[url]http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0102012[/url]

[URL]http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7115/full/nature05273.html[/URL]
[url]http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0607068[/url]



[COLOR="Silver"].[/COLOR]
 
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If we set up a double slit experiment and we introduce progressively denser mediums, we would expect the interference pattern to gradually disappear, but this could be accounted for simply by random scattering, and not be due to increased decoherence caused by an increase in "which path" information. Random scattering would cause the interference pattern to disappear regardless of any effects on decoherence.
There are other ways of getting rid of the interference pattern:
In one experiment, Kim et al. controlled the exact interval between independent signal photons emitted in pairs [12]. As the time delay between photons was increased, first-order interference gradually vanished.
Interpreting Negative Probabilities in the Context of Double-Slit Interferometry
http://arxiv.org/pdf/physics/0611043v1.pdf

How would you interpret such results?
 
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As long as one takes it that decoherence does not solve all problems, and only solves the "pointer basis problem" then it works completely, not only FAPP. In decoherence, the system, apparatus and environment are in the quantum world.
Precisely :thumbs::thumbs::thumbs:

Decoherence likely solves the pointer basis problem, but a bit more work needs to be done to say 100% for sure. That being the case the world no longer needs to be divided between classical and quantum - in analysing the measurement problem everything is now quantum.

What it doesn't solve, and the exact way its 'solved' varies between interpretations, is the problems of outcomes - ie why we get any outcomes at all - and exactly what determines what those outcomes are eg MW solves it by the world you happen to be in.

Thanks
Bill
 
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This position is falsified by simple quantum eraser experiment (the do-it-yourself type - http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow.cfm?id=a-do-it-yourself-quantum-eraser)Photons definitely interact with polarizers and yet interference is seen after "erasure" of which way polarization information.
And exactly how that invalidates my claim that in your usual double slit experiment, the reason you get an interference pattern is because photons interact weakly with the air, dust particles etc that is usually what lies between it and the screen, and in that situation have long decoherence times, as well as there are a huge number of them so those that do is negligible, is beyond me. Of course they interact STRONGLY with polarizes, that the randomly polarized photons that go through such are in effect observed, and only those of a certain polarization in effect get through.

In other words, in the Scientific American article you linked to, it was done in the air with dust particles and whatever else there is, and you still got the interference pattern. I contend the reason that is possible is the long decoherence times of photons because they are true quantum particles of zero mass, the fact we have a huge number of them, and they have such a fast transit time.

I want to add, and in such discussions it is hardly ever mentioned, but to be 'exact' it should, describing photons travelling through a medium like air the way I have is very very wrong:
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=511177 [Broken]

But things like this are done in physics all the time to get an intuitive idea of whats going on.

Thanks
Bill.
 
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How do you gain "which path" information from random scattering?
Photons that have been scattered by for example a dust particle have been decohered - actually both the dust particle and photon are decohered, and in effect both given a position. The reason position is usually whats 'observed' by decoherence is tied up with the inverse square like nature of most interactions and you will need to consult the technical literature, such as the textbook on decoherence mentioned previously, for the detail. Since they now have a definite localized position they have lost 'which path' information as you put it.

The reason you still can get an interference pattern is the massive number of photons that make it to the screen without being decohered.

Also this is a very rough and ready description, photons travelling through a medium like air is a very much more complicated process than this.

Thanks
Bill
 

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