werner heisenberg


at age 32 – [wikipedia page]


intro’d to Heisenberg while reading Adam Greenfield‘s against the smart city, re:

Collectively, we’ve known since Heisenberg that to observe the behavior of a system is to intervene in it. Even in principle, there is no way to stand outside a system and take a snapshot of it as it existed at time T.


much more to take in.. (as the story goes..)

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Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key creators of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper.

In 1927 he published his *uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known.

Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics”.

He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles, and he was instrumental in planning the first West German nuclear reactor at Karlsruhe, together with a research reactor in Munich, in 1957.

Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during World War II.

Heisenberg affair – One attack was published in Das Schwarze Korps, the newspaper of the Schutzstaffel (SS), headed by Heinrich Himmler. In this, Heisenberg was called a “White Jew” (i.e. an Aryan who acts like a Jew) who should be made to “disappear”. These attacks were taken seriously, as Jews were violently attacked and incarcerated. Heisenberg fought back with an editorial and a letter to Himmler, in an attempt to resolve this matter and regain his honour.

At one point, Heisenberg’s mother visited Himmler’s mother. The two women knew each other, as Heisenberg’s maternal grandfather and Himmler’s father were rectors and members of a Bavarian hiking club. Eventually, Himmler settled the Heisenberg affair by sending two letters, one to SS GruppenführerReinhard Heydrich and one to Heisenberg, both on 21 July 1938. In the letter to Heydrich, Himmler said Germany could not afford to lose or silence Heisenberg, as he would be useful for teaching a generation of scientists. To Heisenberg, Himmler said the letter came on recommendation of his family and he cautioned Heisenberg to make a distinction between professional physics research results and the personal and political attitudes of the involved scientists. The letter to Heisenberg was signed under the closing “Mit freundlichem Gruß und, Heil Hitler!” (With friendly greetings, Heil Hitler!”)

In 1928, Albert Einstein nominated Heisenberg, Born, and Jordan for the Nobel Prize in Physics, but it was not to be.

“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.” -W.Heisenberg 

*uncertainty principle

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In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously. For instance, in 1927, Werner Heisenberg stated that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa.

The original heuristic argument that such a limit should exist was given by Heisenberg, after whom it is sometimes named the Heisenberg principle. This ascribes the uncertainty in the measurable quantities to the jolt-like disturbance triggered by the act of observation. Though widely repeated in textbooks, this physical argument is now known to be fundamentally misleading. While the act of measurement does lead to uncertainty, the loss of precision is less than that predicted by Heisenberg’s argument; the formal mathematical result remains valid, however.

Historically, the uncertainty principle has been confused with a somewhat similar effect in physics, called the *observer effect, which notes that measurements of certain systems cannot be made without affecting the systems. Heisenberg offered such an observer effect at the quantum level (see below) as a physical “explanation” of quantum uncertainty. It has since become clear, however, that the uncertainty principle is inherent in the properties of all wave-like systems, and that it arises in quantum mechanics simply due to the matter wave nature of all quantum objects. Thus, the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems, and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology. It must be emphasized that measurement does not mean only a process in which a physicist-observer takes part, but rather any interaction between classical and quantum objects regardless of any observer.

*observer effect

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In science, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics.

The observer effect on a physical process can often be reduced to insignificance by using better instruments or observation techniques.

Historically, the observer effect has been confused with the uncertainty principle.


in Steven Johnson‘s – where good ideas come from:

First presented in a letter in 1927, German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle stated that the more precisely the position of a subatomic particle position was known, the less precisely one could know the particle’s momentum. Interpreted in a number of ways, the most influential notion has been the idea that the act of observation changes the very object being observed.


The Love Letters of the Nobel-Winning Pioneer of Quantum Mechanics and Originator of the Uncertainty Principle


Two years after he received the Nobel Prize for his uncertainty principle — a supreme bow before the limits of knowledge, stating that the more precisely we know the position of a given particle, the less precise our measurement of its momentum, and vice versa


The Beauty of Uncertainty: How Heisenberg Invented Quantum Mechanics, Told in Jazz



in daniel wahl‘s designing regen cultures:


werner heisenberg: ‘what we observe i snot nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning’

aka: whales in sea world

art (by day/light) and sleep (by night/dark) as re\set.. to fittingness