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Physicists prove Heisenberg’s intuition correct

Posted October 18, 2013

An international team of scientists has provided proof of a key feature of quantum physics – Heisenberg’s error-disturbance relation – more than 80 years after it was first suggested.


One of the basic concepts in the world of quantum mechanics is that it is impossible to observe physical objects without affecting them in a significant way; there can be no measurement without disturbance.

In a paper in 1927, Werner Heisenberg, one of the architects of the fundamental theories of modern physics, claimed that this fact could be expressed as an uncertainty relation, describing a reciprocal relation between the accuracy in position and the disturbance in momentum. However, he did not supply any evidence for the theory which was largely based on intuition.

Now Professor Paul Busch of the University of York, UK, Professor Pekka Lahti of the University of Turku, Finland and Professor Reinhard Werner of Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany have finally provided a precise formulation and proof of the error-disturbance relation in an article published today in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Their work has important implications for the developing field of quantum cryptography and computing, as it reaffirms that quantum-encrypted messages can be transmitted securely since an eavesdropper would necessarily disturb the system carrying the message and this could be detected.

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