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Uncertainty Principle

Uncertainty Principle

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Published by tdharish
Uncertainty Principle sounds like Advaita Vedanta?
Uncertainty Principle sounds like Advaita Vedanta?

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Published by: tdharish on Nov 07, 2010
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08/04/2014

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The Uncertainty Principle:
A Philosophical Perspective
Werner Karl Heisenberg
was a celebratedGerman physicistand Nobel laureate,one of the founders of quantum mechanics,and acknowledged to be one of the most important physicists of the twentiethcentury.He is most well-known for discovering one of the central principles of modern physics, the epoch-makinguncertainty principle that shook the very foundations of the ‘
deterministic sciences’
.Until the dawn of the 20
th
century, the physicists were following the Laplacean determinism that believedin the ‘
exact’ 
certain’ 
nature of things or happenings. To them, the Universe looked like a perfect clock.Once we know the position of its parts at one instant, they would forever be specified.This deterministic view is expressed by
Laplace
in an oft-quoted passage:
We ought then to regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its antecedent state and thecause of the state that is to follow. An intelligence knowing at any given instant of time all forces acting in nature, as well as the momentary positions of all things of which the universe consists, would be ableto comprehend the motions of the largest bodies of the world and those of the smallest atoms in one single formula, provided it were sufficiently powerful to subject all data to analysis: to it nothing would be uncertain, both future and past would be present before its eyes.
Heisenberg showed that the subatomic entities like the electron can never be measured or determined in a‘casual way’. There is and must always be an element of 
uncertainty
or 
indeterminacy
in our knowledge.This discovery is known as
the uncertainty principle.
The uncertainty relations may be expressed in words as follows.
The simultaneous measurement of two conjugate variables (such as the momentum and position or theenergy and time for a moving particle) entails a limitation on the precision (standard deviation) of eachmeasurement. Namely: the more precise the measurement of position, the more imprecise themeasurement of momentum, and vice versa. In the most extreme case, absolute precision of one variablewould entail absolute imprecision regarding the other 
.The uncertainty relations can be written a little more precisely in the shorthand of mathematical symbols.But first we must define what these symbols stand for. Here are their definitions:
Δq
is the uncertainty or imprecision (standard deviation) of the position measurement.
Δp
is the uncertainty of the momentum measurement in the q direction at the same time as the qmeasurement.
ΔE
is the uncertainty in the energy measurement.
Δt
is the uncertainty in the time measurement at the same time as the energy is measured.
 
h
is a constant from quantum theory known as
Planck's constant
, a very tiny number.
π
is
pi
from the geometry of circles.
 
means "greater than or equal to"Putting these symbols together, the two uncertainty relations look like this:
Δ
p .
Δ
q ≥ h / 4 π
Δ
E .
Δ
t ≥ h / 4 π
Let's see when we measure the position of a moving electron with such great accuracy that,
Δ
q
is verysmall, what happens to the precision of the momentum,
Δ
p
which we measure at the same instant.From the first relation, we have,
Δ
p ≥
 
h / 4 π
Δ
q
 We can see that the uncertainty in the momentum measurement,
Δ
p
is very large, since
Δ
q
in thedenominator is very small. In fact, if the precision of the position measurement gets so great that theuncertainty
Δ
q
gets so small that it
approaches zero
, then
Δ
p
gets so large that it
approaches infinity
or  becomes
completely undefined
.Following Heisenberg's derivation of the uncertainty relations, one starts with an electron moving all byitself through empty space. To describe the electron, a physicist would refer to certain measured propertiesof the particle. Four of these measured properties are important for the uncertainty principle. They are the position of the electron, its momentum (which is the electron's mass times its velocity), its energy, and thetime. These properties appear as "
variables
" in equations that describe the electron's motion.The uncertainty relations have to do with the measurement of these four properties; in particular, they haveto do with the precision with which these properties can be measured. Up until the advent of quantummechanics, everyone thought that the precision of any measurement was limited only by the accuracy of theinstruments the experimenter used. Heisenberg showed that no matter how accurate the instruments used,quantum mechanics limits the precision when two properties are measured at the same time. These are not just any two properties but two that are represented by variables that have a special relationship in theequations. The technical term is "canonically conjugate" variables. For the moving electron, the canonicallyconjugate variables are in two pairs: momentum and position is one pair, and energy and time another.Roughly speaking, the relation between momentum and position is like the relation between energy andtime.Heisenberg pictured a microscope that obtains very high resolution by using high-energy gamma rays for illumination. No such microscope exists at present, but it could be constructed in principle. Heisenbergimagined using this microscope to see an electron and to measure its position.
 
Here, a free electron sits directly beneath the center of the microscope's lens. The circular lensforms a cone of angle
2A
from the electron.
 
The electron is then illuminated by gamma rays--high energylight which has the shortest wavelength. These yield the highest resolution, for according to a principle of wave optics, the microscope can resolve (that is, "see" or distinguish) objects to a size of 
 
x
,
which isrelated to and to the wavelength
L
of the gamma ray, by the expression:
x = L / (2sinA)
However, in quantum mechanics, where a light wave can act like a particle, a gamma ray striking anelectron gives it a kick. At the moment the light is diffracted by the electron into the microscope lens, theelectron is thrust to the right. To be observed by the microscope, the gamma ray must be scattered into anyangle within the cone of angle 2A. In quantum mechanics, the gamma ray carries momentum, as if it were a particle. The total momentum p is related to the wavelength by the formula
p = h / L
,
where
h
is Planck's constant.
In the extreme case of diffraction of the gamma ray, say, to the right edge of the lens, thetotal momentum in the x direction would be the sum of the electron's momentum p'
x
inthe x direction and the gamma ray's momentum in the x direction:
p'
x
+ (h sinA ) / L'
,
Where L' is the wavelength of the deflected gamma ray.In the other extreme, the observed gamma ray recoils backward, just hitting the left edge of the lens. In thiscase, the total momentum in the x direction is:
p''
x
- (h sinA ) / L''
The final x momentum in each case must equal the initial x momentum, since momentum is never lost (it is
conserved 
). Therefore, the final x momenta are equal to each other:
p'
x
+ (h sinA ) / L' = p''
x
- (h sinA ) / L''
If 
A
is small, then the wavelengths are approximately the same,
L' ~ L" ~ L
. So we have
p''
x
- p'
x
=
p
x
~ 2h sinA / L
Since
 
x = L / (2 sinA )
,
we obtain a reciprocal relationship between the minimum uncertainty inthe measured position
,
x
,
of the electron along the
X
axis and the uncertainty in its momentum
,
p
x
,
in the
X
direction:
 
p
x
~ h /
x or
p
x
 
x ~ h.
For more than minimum uncertainty, the "greater than" sign may be added.Except for the factor of 4
π
and an equal sign, this is Heisenberg's uncertainty relation for the simultaneousmeasurement of the position and momentum of an object.

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