Amanda Skofstad | September 24, 2017
Nicholas J. Teh, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, along with London School of Economics colleague Bryan W. Roberts, was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study the nature of observables.
Teh is a philosopher of physics and his project will focus on the mathematical language used to represent observations and explore the historical and philosophical development of the concept of observables in quantum physics.
While observations form the basis for the most important scientific experiments, as well as some of the most important human experiences, 20th-century physics revealed that the structure of observations is full of surprises. Quantum theory, for example, shows that putative quantities like ‘the position and the momentum of a particle at a given time’ are actually unobservable.
“This unobservability is not just a practical limitation,” said Teh. “It is a fundamental feature of quantum reality that position and momentum cannot be exactly and simultaneously measured by anyone. That leads to a number of open philosophical and scientific questions about the nature of observations and their limitations.”