Physics News of the Week: Getting Around the Uncertainty Principle and The Fate of the Universe

| March 3, 2013 | 0 Comments


Another great weak has passed and it seems like a good time to summarize a number of news from the world of science. If you would like to receive these news straight to your email, please register for our email newsletter. Also, for more news, check out our news section.

1. The Higgs Mass and the Fate of the Universe (February 28)

Among the wildest scientific theories, one in particular seems to have caused a small sensation in the press lately. It is a rather bizarre theory, which states that, according to quantum theory, it’s possible that the lowest energy state of our universe – when there’s nothing but space and time – isn’t the lowest possible state of all. The idea is that there exist an even lower energy state. According to this idea our universe could transition to this lower state. That might not sound too scary until you learn that in the lower energy state, all the protons in all the matter in the universe decay, with the unfortunate side effect that we all disappear.

An interesting aspect of this theory, worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster, is that precise calculations dictate that the stability of our universe is intimately connected to the mass of the Higgs boson. So the “scary” part is that according to the prediction of quantum physicists, the mass of the Higgs boson should be larger than 129,4 GeV (whereas the current measurements of the mass of the Higgs boson give a value of 125 GeV) for the universe to be stable. Of course, as always, there are scientists with a different opinion, namely that the mentioned hypothesis cannot be true, as the standard model does not fully describe our universe, for instance it does not describe gravity and so on. For a full analysis check out this link.

The famous Higgs particle is still at the center of attention

2. Getting Around the Uncertainty Principle (March 3) 

Scientists at the University of Rochester and the University of Ottawa have applied a recently developed method to directly measure the polarization states of light. Their work, for the first time, overcame some important challenges of the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and also is advanced the practical progress of the quantum information theory.

Such measurements of the wavefunction had long seemed impossible because of the uncertainty principle – the idea that certain properties of a quantum system could be known only poorly if certain other related properties were known with precision. The ability to make these measurements directly challenges the idea that full understanding of a quantum system could never come from direct observation. More about this discovery here.

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