Decoherence of inflationary primordial fluctuations Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • We study the process whereby quantum cosmological perturbations become classical within inflationary cosmology. By setting up a master-equation formulation we show how quantum coherence for super-Hubble modes can be destroyed by their coupling to the environment provided by sub-Hubble modes. We identify what features the sub-Hubble environment must have in order to decohere the longer wavelengths, and identify how the onset of decoherence (and how long it takes) depends on the properties of the sub-Hubble physics which forms the environment. Our results show that the decoherence process is largely insensitive to the details of the coupling between the sub- and super-Hubble scales. They also show how locality implies, quite generally, that the decohered density matrix at late times is diagonal in the field representation (as is implicitly assumed by extant calculations of inflationary density perturbations). Our calculations also imply that decoherence can arise even for couplings which are as weak as gravitational in strength.

publication date

  • March 2008