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Generalized uncertainty relations: Theory, examples, and Lorentz invariance

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JournalAnnals of Physics
DatePublished - 10 Apr 1996
Issue number1
Number of pages39
Pages (from-to)135-173
Original languageEnglish


The quantum-mechanical framework in which observables are associated with Hermitian operators is too narrow to discuss measurements of such important physical quantities as elapsed time or harmonic-oscillator phase. We introduce a broader framework that allows us to derive quantum-mechanical limits on the precision to which a parameter-e.g., elapsed time-may be determined via arbitrary data analysis of arbitrary measurements on N identically prepared quantum systems. The limits are expressed as generalized Mandelstam Tamm uncertainty relations, which involve the operator that generates displacements of the parameter-e.g., the Hamiltonian operator in the case of elapsed time. This approach avoids entirely the problem of associating a Hermitian operator with the parameter. We illustrate the general formalism, first, with nonrelativistic uncertainty relations for spatial displacement and momentum, harmonic-oscillator phase and number of quanta, and time and energy and, second, with Lorentz-invariant uncertainty relations involving the displacement and Lorentz-rotation parameters of the Poincare group. (C) 1996 Academic Press, Inc.

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