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Researchers Uncertain of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is one of the most well-known and dearly held tenets of modern quantum physics. It’s one of those things about science you totally know, even if you don’t know you know it. The principle states that on a quantum level, you can’t directly measure anything without changing something about it. Thus, it is impossible to measure a particle’s position without affecting its velocity, and vice versa. Still confused? Us to, but luckily this Futurama clip explains the matter brilliantly in the first 30 seconds or so. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Back? Great. Now that you understand the uncertainty principle, it’s time for the news about it. Thanks to new measurement techniques, physicists are no longer certain that the theory holds up.

Researchers at the University of Toronto may have overcome this obstacle to finely measure quantum particles with a new technique known as “weak measurement.” In using a weak measurement, the device on which the particle is being measured is nearly imperceptible. After a first weak measurement, researchers sent the particle into a device that measured its velocity, and then measured its mass again using the weak measurement, giving them a good look at how much the act of measuring actually disturbed the particle. Knowing how much the particle is disturbed means it can be functionally weighed by disregarding the amount of disturbance, which is known, and makes the Uncertainty Principle less than certain.

“Each shot only gave us a tiny bit of information about the disturbance, but by repeating the experiment many times we were able to get a very good idea about how much the photon was disturbed,” said Lee Rozema, lead author on the study that was published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters.

It’s not yet a perfect technique, but it suggests that there is a way to work around one of the most generally agreed upon matters in physics. Now if we could only find a similar workaround for stupid gravity, because man, am I tired of waiting around for jet packs.

(via Science Daily)

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