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Uncertainty at a grand scale

Macro test of Heisenberg’s principle may aid hunt for gravitational waves

1:57pm, February 14, 2013

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle, a tenet of quantum mechanics, has been demonstrated at scales visible to the naked eye. The research, described in the Feb. 15 Science, could help scientists detect minuscule perturbations in the fabric of space caused by merging black holes.

“The uncertainty principle has been demonstrated in many different ways, but to see it on a visible mechanical object is totally awesome,” says Keith Schwab, a physicist at Caltech who was not involved in the research. Besides astrophysics applications, the study could lead to practical methods of sending and processing information from quantum computers, he adds.

German physicist Werner Heisenberg's famous 1927 uncertainty principle states that there is a fundamental limit to how precisely one can measure an object's position and momentum at the same time. To demonstrate his theory, Heisenberg gave the example of using a microscope to locate a single electron.

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