Decoherence from horizons: General formulation and rotating black holes

Samuel E. Gralla, Hongji Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent work by Danielson, Satishchandran, and Wald (DSW) has shown that black holes - and, in fact, Killing horizons more generally - impart a fundamental rate of decoherence on all nearby quantum superpositions. The effect can be understood from measurement and causality: An observer (Bob) in the black hole should be able to disturb outside quantum superpositions by measuring their superposed gravitational fields, but since his actions cannot (by causality) have this effect, the superpositions must automatically disturb themselves. DSW calculated the rate of decoherence up to an unknown numerical factor for distant observers in Schwarzschild spacetime, Rindler observers in flat spacetime, and static observers in de Sitter spacetime. Working in electromagnetic and Klein-Gordon analogs, we flesh out and generalize their calculation to derive a general formula for the precise decoherence rate for Killing observers near bifurcate Killing horizons. We evaluate the rate in closed form for an observer at an arbitrary location on the symmetry axis of a Kerr black hole. This fixes the numerical factor in the distant-observer Schwarzschild result, while allowing new exploration of near-horizon and/or near-extremal behavior. In the electromagnetic case we find that the decoherence vanishes entirely in the extremal limit, due to the "black hole Meissner effect"screening the Coulomb field from entering the black hole. This supports the causality picture: Since Bob is unable to measure the field of the outside superposition, no decoherence is necessary - and indeed none occurs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065031
JournalPhysical Review D
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics


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