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Aside from being one of the best television dramas of all time, Breaking Bad was also a great example of popular media bringing science to the forefront of entertainment. Breaking Bad, which follows the downward spiral of a brilliant chemistry high school teacher as he learns that he has cancer, reminded the public that chemistry is, for lack of a better word, awesome! But the show did more than just inspire youth to study chemistry for its explosive properties, it also made permanently implanted the word Heisenberg into everyone's minds. 

The name was inspired by one of the earliest quantum physicists, Werner Heisenberg. Heisenberg made many contribution to the field of physics, mainly in the branch of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg is probably best known for the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle:








This, seemingly simple, relation has made generations of physics students question everything they had come to believe was fact. This relation states that two variables, the uncertainty in a particle's position and the uncertainty in a particle's momentum are related by a constant. If we choose to peer deeper, we realize that for this relation to hold true the uncertainty in the position of the particle must be inversely proportional to the the uncertainty in the momentum of the particle.

Translating this observation to English, we see that the more certain we are in where precisely a particle is, the less certain we are in how fast it is moving. Taking this to the extreme, if we are nearly certain of exactly where the particle is, we are nearly infinitely uncertain as to its momentum. 

And this is just one of a plethora of various things that hold true in quantum mechanics, but that we are not familiar with seeing on a macroscopic scale. If you'd like to learn more about this principle and quantum mechanics in general, we suggest watching some lectures on Coursera and reading about it some more on Wikipedia. Although we would like to give you fair warning, quantum mechanics is not for the faint of heart. While the quantum mechanical conclusions are riveting, the path to said conclusions is often long and laborious, requiring advanced math.

To see other equations like the Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, check out College Modern Physics.

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PictureHeinsenberg vs. The Real Heisenberg (Courtesy of http://prectarium93.deviantart.com/)



 


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