Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

29 Feb, 2024 530 Physics

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the German physicist who, at the age of 23 and while still a student, effectively created quantum mechanics for which he later won the Nobel Prize. Werner Heisenberg made this breakthrough in a paper in 1925 when, rather than starting with an idea of where atomic particles were at any one time, he worked backwards from what he observed of atoms and their particles and the light they emitted, doing away with the idea of their continuous orbit of the nucleus and replacing this with equations. This was momentous and from this flowed what’s known as his Uncertainty Principle, the idea that, for example, you can accurately measure the position of an atomic particle or its momentum, but not both.

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  • Fay Dowker 4 episodes
    Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College London
  • Harry Cliff 2 episodes
    Research Fellow in Particle Physics at the University of Cambridge
  • Frank Close 15 episodes
    Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics and Fellow Emeritus at Exeter College at the University of Oxford

Reading list

  • Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different
    Philip Ball (Vintage, 2018) Google Books →
  • Against 'measurement'
    John Bell (Physics World, 1990)
  • Quantum Dialogue: The Making of a Revolution
    Mara Beller (University of Chicago Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, And The Bomb
    David C. Cassidy (Bellevue Literary Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • Physics and Philosophy
    Werner Heisenberg (Penguin Classics, 2000) Google Books →
  • Helgoland: The Strange and Beautiful Story of Quantum Physics
    Carlo Rovelli (Penguin, 2022) Google Books →

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Programme ID: m001wq9h

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001wq9h

Auto-category: 530 (Physics)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. At the age of 23, the German physics student Werner Heisenberg effectively created quantum mechanics, for which he later won the Nobel Prize.