Breaking Heisenberg: Evading the Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Physics

Quantum Entanglement Schematic

Schematic of the entangled drumheads. Credit: Aalto University

New technique gets around 100-year-old rule of quantum physics for the first time.

The uncertainty principle, first introduced by Werner Heisenberg in the late 1920s, is a fundamental concept of quantum mechanics. In the quantum world, particles like the electrons that power all electrical products can also behave like waves. As a result, particles cannot have a well-defined position and momentum simultaneously. For instance, measuring the momentum of a particle leads to a disturbance of position, and therefore the position cannot be precisely defined.

In recent research, published in Science, a team led by Prof. Mika Sillanpää at Aalto University in Finland has shown that there is a way to get around the uncertainty principle. The team included Dr. Matt Woolley from the University of New South Wales in Australia, who developed the theoretical model for the experiment.

Instead of elementary particles, the team carried out the experiments using much larger objects: two vibrating drumheads one-fifth of the width of a human hair. The drumheads were carefully coerced into behaving quantum mechanically.

“In our work, the drumheads exhibit a collective quantum motion. The drums vibrate in an opposite phase to each other, such that when one of them is in an end position of the vibration cycle, the other is in the opposite position at the same time. In this situation, the quantum uncertainty of the drums’ motion is canceled if the two drums are treated as one quantum-mechanical entity,” explains the lead author of the study, Dr. Laure Mercier de Lepinay.

This means that the researchers were able to simultaneously measure the position and the momentum of the two drumheads — which should not be possible according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Breaking the rule allows them to be able to characterize extremely weak forces driving the drumheads.

“One of the drums responds to all the forces of the other drum in the opposing way, kind of with a negative mass,” Sillanpää says.

Furthermore, the researchers also exploited this result to provide the most solid evidence to date that such large objects can exhibit what is known as quantum entanglement. Entangled objects cannot be described independently of each other, even though they may have an arbitrarily large spatial separation. Entanglement allows pairs of objects to behave in ways that contradict classical physics, and is the key resource behind emerging quantum technologies. A quantum computer can, for example, carry out the types of calculations needed to invent new medicines much faster than any supercomputer ever could.

In macroscopic objects, quantum effects like entanglement are very fragile, and are destroyed easily by any disturbances from their surrounding environment. Therefore, the experiments were carried out at a very low temperature, only a hundredth a degree above absolute zero at -273 degrees Celsius (–459°F).

In the future, the research group will use these ideas in laboratory tests aiming at probing the interplay of quantum mechanics and gravity. The vibrating drumheads may also serve as interfaces for connecting nodes of large-scale, distributed quantum networks.

Reference: “Quantum mechanics–free subsystem with mechanical oscillators” by Laure Mercier de Lépinay, Caspar F. Ockeloen-Korppi, Matthew J. Woolley and Mika A. Sillanpää, 7 May 2021, Science.
DOI: 10.1126/science.abf5389

Sillanpää’s group is part of the National Centre of Excellence, Quantum Technology Finland (QTF). The research was carried out using OtaNano, a national open-access research infrastructure providing state-of-the-art working environment for competitive research in nanoscience and technology, and in quantum technologies. OtaNano is hosted and operated by Aalto University and VTT.

11 Comments on "Breaking Heisenberg: Evading the Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Physics"

  1. Frosted Flake | May 12, 2021 at 12:32 am | Reply

    I have a problem with this experiment : the ‘drumheads’ rest on a common foundation.

    The reason that should not be is, metronomes tend to syncronize when on the same table. This seemingly magical effect is caused by the small impulse given the table when the metronome stops and then swings the other way. The impulse carries over to the other metronomes, slowing or speeding them depending on where they are in their cucle. This syncronization effect would look a lot like entanglement untill looked at directly. I suggest that experiment is next.

  2. Be nice, man, don’t piss on their fire!

  3. Stephen Goldstein | May 12, 2021 at 12:04 pm | Reply

    I was under the impression that the uncertainty principle holds both in practice and, more importantly, in principle. It’s one thing to demonstrate a violation of the Uncertainty principle at a macro level, quite a different matter to establish it at the level of subatomic particles. Shouldn’t that be the next step?

  4. Jason Cortese | May 12, 2021 at 12:33 pm | Reply

    You can only believe the Uncertainty Principle because you are the Certainty Uncertainty Principle because you exist as belief of all possibilities as the infinite possibility as existence repeating its origin existence forever.

  5. BibhutibhusanPatel | May 12, 2021 at 2:37 pm | Reply

    This ìs typical èxpeŕiment trets ìmposinģ a special çoñdition wheŕe cancelled vector of momentum parameter.As able to measuŕe mass(have zero effective momentum) and position simùĺtaneousĺy.So this special event is nota natural process rather set has been created by own.
    Hèat is a form òf energy which not only effets external proporties,like temperature and so ŕandom motion of particlès or matter.But ģlimpass is finding out that this can has effect on other fundamental force.
    Gravity is not known and basic proporty of matter,that can nòt be crèated or dèßtroyed.

  6. BibhutibhusanPatel | May 12, 2021 at 2:57 pm | Reply

    In the article auther has tried to
    view Heigenberg’s Principle in
    a specific angĺe added to an experimental set.Experiment dìsected different parts to rèach an opnion.
    Gravity and effect of heat on proporties of particles/matter are cited.

  7. Krishna Mishra | May 12, 2021 at 7:56 pm | Reply

    Common platform for the metronomes is to be taken as environmental coupling. Then suddenly Quantum Mechanics appears to make sense: subtle forces interact to allign/synchronize the elements of the environment. That’s what Quantum Physics is expected to reach upto.
    This experiment is amusing! It tells us how the nature functions at sublimal level. We can then extrapolate it to macro level as well.

  8. Would be nice if reports like this would reflect the subtlety of “breaking Heisenberg’s limit” instead of treating it like a fad diet. We need people to understand that physics is fundamental and not easily reversed.

  9. … an attempt to “Evading the Uncertainty Principle in Quantum Physics” is, well the way to go around it, but you don’t get anywhere with that, just,… nothing, but it is interesting, though, it might lead to something…

    • … a collection of an artefacts that will need to be studied and many phd will be awarded till you figure out, H is here to stay… like it or not, …

  10. is this a breaking bad reference?

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