How decoherence affects the probability of slow-roll eternal inflation
AbstractSlow-roll inflation can become eternal if the quantum variance of the inflaton field around its slowly rolling classical trajectory is converted into a distribution of classical spacetimes inflating at different rates, and if the variance is large enough compared to the rate of classical rolling that the probability of an increased rate of expansion is sufficiently high. Both of these criteria depend sensitively on whether and how perturbation modes of the inflaton interact and decohere. Decoherence is inevitable as a result of gravitationally sourced interactions whose strength are proportional to the slow-roll parameters. However, the weakness of these interactions means that decoherence is typically delayed until several Hubble times after modes grow beyond the Hubble scale. We present perturbative evidence that decoherence of long-wavelength inflaton modes indeed leads to an ensemble of classical spacetimes with differing cosmological evolutions. We introduce the notion of per-branch observables—expectation values with respect to the different decohered branches of the wave function—and show that the evolution of modes on individual branches varies from branch to branch. Thus, single-field slow-roll inflation fulfills the quantum-mechanical criteria required for the validity of the standard picture of eternal inflation. For a given potential, the delayed decoherence can lead to slight quantitative adjustments to the regime in which the inflaton undergoes eternal inflation.