Secret loss of unitarity due to the classical background
AbstractWe show that a quantum subsystem can become significantly entangled with a classical background through a process with few or no semiclassical backreactions. We study two quantum harmonic oscillators coupled to each other in a time-independent Hamiltonian. We compare it to its semiclassical approximation in which one of the oscillators is treated as the classical background. In this approximation, the remaining quantum oscillator has an effective Hamiltonian which is time-dependent, and its evolution appears to be unitary. However, in the fully quantum model, the two oscillators can entangle each other. Thus, the unitarity of either individual oscillator is never guaranteed. We derive the critical time scale after which the unitarity of either individual oscillator is irrevocably lost. In particular, we give an example that in the adiabatic limit, unitarity is lost before other relevant questions can be addressed.