Direct Tests of Measurement Uncertainty Relations: What It Takes

Paul Busch, Neil Stevens

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The uncertainty principle being a cornerstone of quantum mechanics, it is surprising that, in nearly 90 years, there have been no direct tests of measurement uncertainty relations. This lacuna was due to the absence of two essential ingredients: appropriate measures of measurement error (and disturbance) and precise formulations of such relations that are universally valid and directly testable. We formulate two distinct forms of direct tests, based on different measures of error. We present a prototype protocol for a direct test of measurement uncertainty relations in terms of value deviation errors (hitherto considered nonfeasible), highlighting the lack of universality of these relations. This shows that the formulation of universal, directly testable measurement uncertainty relations for state-dependent error measures remains an important open problem. Recent experiments that were claimed to constitute invalidations of Heisenberg’s error-disturbance relation, are shown to conform with the spirit of Heisenberg’s principle if interpreted as direct tests of measurement uncertainty relations for error measures that quantify distances between observables.
Original languageEnglish
Article number070402
Number of pages5
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2015


  • quantum mechanics
  • uncertainty relations
  • Quantum measurement

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