Uncertain Principles

Uncertain PrinciplesSimply put, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that it is impossible to know both the exact position and the exact velocity of an object at the same time. However, the effect is tiny and so is only noticeable on a subatomic scale.

Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976) was a German physicist who helped to formulate quantum mechanics at the beginning of the 20th century. He first presented the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in February 1927 in a letter to Wolfgang Pauli, then published it later that year.

Light can be considered as being made up of packets of energy called photons. To measure the position and velocity of any particle, you would first shine a light on it, then detect the reflection. On a macroscopic scale, the effect of photons on an object is insignificant. Unfortunately, on subatomic scales, the photons that hit the subatomic particle will cause it to move significantly, so although the position has been measured accurately, the velocity of the particle will have been altered.

By learning the position, you have rendered any information you previously had on the velocity useless. In other words, the observer affects the observed.

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Ratings: 8.82/10 from 17 users.
  • yourboycal

    quantum mechanics the first pages of gods blue prints............. =o

  • isabella

    Loved the extra bits of trivia, vintage photos, history and understated humor.

    Was curiuos as to why John Polkinghorne was referenced as a "former" Professor at Cambridge. Looked him up and found out he resigned his chair in 1979 to study for the priesthood, becoming an ordained Anglican priest in 1982!?

    Thank you for finding the doc. Both thumbs up.

  • Top_Quark

    Quantum theory is right, probability rules!

  • http://twitter.com/ericscerri eric scerri

    very nice documentary.

    Had never seen footage of JJThompson or John Gribbin for that matter.
    Riordan's statement that American's took a more pragmatic view of QM is thought provoking. Of course technology was already at it's most advanced in the US. But the fact remains that most work in the foundations of QM has been done in Europe, sometimes by Americans like Bohm!

    eric scerri,
    author of The Periodic table Its Story and Its Significance, Oxford University Press, 2007.

  • Mark O'Connor

    Quantum mechanics has NOTHING to do with gods

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6XHMG6UPRA4O5SI7QMDVKDJ4MI Stupid

    This is a great little mind-boggling documentary. I'm sure that I will think on it for a while. Basically this means that every mathematical representation of the physical world could be wrong. Because you can't exactly predict what an electron's velocity will be or where an electron's exact location will be. This is because matter is spread out in space and is wavy. The added variable to the new scientific equation is probability...

  • Terry Chambers

    Once we understand the meaning of "God", in the Einsteinian sense, we will all be better for it.

  • awful_truth

    A terrific short documentary regarding the history of probability (quantum mechanics) in science. Check it out!