New Uncertainty About the Uncertainty Principle

New Uncertainty About the Uncertainty Principle

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The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is often invoked outside the realm of physics to describe how the act of observing something changes the thing being observed, or to point out that there’s a limit to how well we can ever really understand the universe.

While the subtleties of the uncertainty principle are often lost on nonphysicists, it turns out the idea is frequently misunderstood by experts, too. But a recent experiment shed new light on the maxim and led to a novel formula describing how the uncertainty principle really works. The uncertainty principle only applies in the quantum mechanical realm of the very small, on scales of subatomic particles. Its logic is perplexing to the human mind, which is acclimated to the macroscopic world, where measurements are only limited by the quality of our instruments.

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