Measurement Uncertainty Relations

Paul Busch, Pekka Lahti, Reinhard F. Werner

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Measurement uncertainty relations are quantitative bounds on the errors in an approximate joint measurement of two observables. They can be seen as a generalization of the error/disturbance tradeoff first discussed heuristically by Heisenberg. Here we prove such relations for the case of two canonically conjugate observables like position and momentum, and establish a close connection with the more familiar preparation uncertainty relations constraining the sharpness of the distributions of the two observables in the same state. Both sets of relations are generalized to means of order α rather than the usual quadratic means, and we show that the optimal constants are the same for preparation and for measurement uncertainty. The constants are determined numerically and compared with some bounds in the literature. In both cases the near-saturation of the inequalities entails that the state (resp. observable) is uniformly close to a minimizing one.
Original languageEnglish
Article number042111
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Mathematical Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • quantum mechanics
  • uncertainty relations

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