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10/20/12Uncertainty principle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia1/27en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle

Uncertainty principle

In quantum mechanics, the

uncertainty principle

is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamentallimit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position

x

and momentum

p

, can be known simultaneously. The more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentumcan be known, andvice versa.

[1]

The original heuristic argument that such a limit should exist was given by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, after whom it is sometimes named, as the Heisenberg principle. A more formal inequality relating thestandard deviation of position σ

and thestandard deviation of momentum σ

p

was derived by Earle Hesse Kennard

[2]

later that year (and independently by Hermann Weyl

[3]

in 1928),where

ħ

[4][5]

with a somewhat similar effect in physics, called the observer effect, which notes that measurements of certain systems cannot be made without affecting the systems. Heisenberg offeredsuch an observer effect at the quantum level (see below) as a physical "explanation" of quantum uncertainty.

[6]

It has since become clear, however, that the uncertainty principle is inherent in the properties of allwave-like systems, and that it arisesin quantum mechanics simply due to the matter wave nature of all quantum objects. Thus,

the uncertainty principleactually states a fundamental property of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational successof current technolog y

It mustbe emphasized that

measurement

does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between classical and quantum objects regardless of any observer.

[8]

Since the uncertainty principle is such a basic result in quantum mechanics, typical experiments in quantum mechanicsroutinely observe aspects of it. Certain experiments, however, may deliberately test a particular form of the uncertainty principle as part of their main research program. These include, for example, tests of number-phase uncertainty relations insuperconducting

[9]

or quantum optics

[10]

systems. Applications are for developing extremely low noise technology such asthatrequired in gravitational-wave interferometers.

Contents

1 Introduction1.1 Wave mechanics interpretation1.2 Matrix mechanics interpretation2 Robertson–Schrödinger uncertainty relations3 Examples3.1 Quantum harmonic oscillator stationary states3.2 Quantum harmonic oscillator with Gaussian initial condition3.3 Coherent states3.4 Particle in a box3.5 Constant momentum4 Additional uncertainty relations4.1 Mixed states

10/20/12Uncertainty principle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia2/27en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle

4.2 Phase space4.3 Systematic error 4.4 Entropic uncertainty principle5 Harmonic analysis5.1 Signal processing5.2 Benedicks's theorem5.3 Hardy's uncertainty principle6 History6.1 Terminology and translation6.2 Heisenberg's microscope7 Critical reactions7.1 Einstein's slit7.2 Einstein's box7.3 EPR paradox for entangled particles7.4 Popper's criticism7.5 Many-worlds uncertainty7.6 Free will8 See also9 Notes10 External links

Introduction

Main article: Introduction to quantum mechanics

The uncertainty principle can be interpreted in either the wave mechanics or matrix mechanics formalisms of quantummechanics. Although the principle is more visually intuitive in the wave mechanics formalism, it was first derived and is moreeasily generalized in the matrix mechanics formalism. We will attempt to motivate the principle in the two frameworks.Mathematically, the uncertainty relation between position and momentum arises because the expressions of thewavefunction in the two corresponding bases are Fourier transforms of one another (i.e., position and momentum areconjugate variables). A similar tradeoff between the variances of Fourier conjugates arises wherever Fourier analysis isneeded, for example in sound waves. A pure tone is a sharp spike at a single frequency. Its Fourier transform gives theshape of the sound wave in the time domain, which is a completely delocalized sine wave. In quantum mechanics, the twokey points are that the position of the particle takes the form of a matter wave, and momentum is its Fourier conjugate,assured by the de Broglie relation , where is the wavenumber.In the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics, any pair of non-commuting self-adjoint operators representingobservables are subject to similar uncertainty limits. An eigenstate of an observable represents the state of the wavefunctionfor a certain measurement value (the eigenvalue). For example, if a measurement of an observable is taken then thesystem is in a particular eigenstate of that observable. The particular eigenstate of the observable may not be aneigenstate of another observable . If this is so, then it does not have a single associated measurement as the system is notin an eigenstate of the observable.

[12]

Wave mechanics interpretation

Main article: Wave packet

10/20/12Uncertainty principle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia3/27en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncertainty_principle

The superposition of several plane waves. The wave packet becomes increasingly localized with the addition of manywaves. The Fourier transform is a mathematical operation thatseparates a wave packet into its individual plane waves. Notethat the waves shown here are real for illustrative purposesonly whereas, in quantum mechanics the wave function isgenerally complex.

Main article: Schrödinger equation

According to the de Broglie hypothesis, every object inthe universe is a wave, a situation which gives rise to this phenomenon. The position of the particle is described bya wave function . The time-independent wavefunction of a single-moded plane wave of wavenumber

k

0

or momentum

p

0

isThe Born rule states that this should be interpreted as a probability density function in the sense that the probability of finding the particle between

a

and

b

is.In the case of the single-moded plane wave, is auniform distribution. In other words, the particle positionis extremely uncertain in the sense that it could beessentially anywhere along the wave packet. Consider awave function that is a sum of many waves, however, we may write this aswhere

A

n

represents the relative contribution of the mode

p

n

to the overall total. The figures to the right show how with theaddition of many plane waves, the wave packet can become more localized. We may take this a step further to thecontinuum limit, where the wave function is an integral over all possible modeswith representing the amplitude of these modes and is called the wave function in momentum space. In mathematicalterms, we say that is the

Fourier transform

of and that

x

and

p

are conjugate variables. Adding together allof these plane waves comes at a cost, namely the momentum has become less precise, having become a mixture of wavesof many different momenta.One way to quantify the precision of the position and momentum is the standard deviation σ. Since is a probability density function for position, we calculate its standard deviation.We improved the precision of the position, i.e. reduced σ

x

, by using many plane waves, thereby weakening the precision of the momentum, i.e. increased σ

p

. Another way of stating this is that σ

x

and σ

p

have an inverse relationship or are at least bounded from below. This is the uncertainty principle, the exact limit of which, is the Kennard bound. Click the

show

button below to see a semi-formal derivation of the Kennard inequality using wave mechanics.