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Uncertainty not so certain after all

Early formulation of famous physics principle undermined by lab experiments

3:12pm, September 14, 2012

Physicists may need to tweak what they think they know about Werner Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle.

Measuring light particles doesn’t push them as far into the realm of quantum fuzziness as once thought, new research suggests. The work doesn’t invalidate the principle underlying all of modern quantum theory, but may have implications for supersecure cryptography and other quantum applications.

“The real Heisenberg uncertainty principle is alive and well,” says Lee Rozema, a graduate student at the University of Toronto whose team reports the finding in the Sept. 7 Physical Review Letters. “It’s really just this [one aspect] that needs to be updated.”

In its most famous articulation, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that it’s possible at a given moment to know either the position or momentum of a particle, but not both. This relationship can be written out mathematically

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