Boffins are fairly certain that they have killed off one of the more important principles in physics, which basically is that we are not really sure.
Professor Werner Heisenberg came up with the “uncertainty principle” in the 1920s when he was asked why it was impossible to measure a particle’s position and its velocity at the same time. He said it is “uncertain” and people thought that was brilliant.
The great physicist Paul Dirac thought being uncertain was the best way to be and came up with ways of proving how uncertain everything was.
It was confirmation of the 1960s’s hippy mentality. It meant that no matter how hard you tried you could never be completely accurate and what was worse the more accurate you got, the less accurate the final result.
Photons would just go away and do something even more inexplicable. The only thing you could ever be sure of was that you were unsure. So you might as well chill out a bit and have a nice drink.
Now a team of five physicists from Germany, Switzerland, and Canada are certain that they have come up with wizard idea involving quantum computers.
Quantum computers are jolly clever and more than a bit theoretical. They can kill off uncertainty because the computer is in two places at once, being operated by a cat that is potentially dead or alive. Thus it can work out exactly where the particle is and measure its velocity at the same time.
According to Heisenberg this is totally impossible partly because he didn’t like cats but mostly because a quantum computer didn’t exist when he was alive.
In fact it only exists in a test tube now and at the moment the boffins have only made really small ones. To prove the boffins right we need better Quantum computers and a well trained cat with a steady paw.
The boffins have published their results in the popular science magazine Nature which we get for the cat’s potentially lost and found column, which according to the uncertainty principle can be found on pages 3.6.9 or 14 depending on whether you are looking at it.