Video: Werner Heisenberg's Birthday Tribute

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Our Video Sunday feature continues with this tribute to Werner Heisenberg, who was born on this day, December 5, 1901. Heisenberg was a theoretical physicist who is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory.

One of my favorite techno-spoofs was something call the Turboencabulator. In this update, I parodied marketing techno-jargon with a fake launch video of the Sun Heisenberg Compensator. I think I produced it somewhere around June, 2004.

In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Heisenberg Compensators are part of the transporter system. A Star Trek matter transporter is presumed to operate by reading the precise quantum state of every particle making up the person to be transported, breaking down that person from their component matter into energy, “beaming” that energy to the desired location, and recombining this energy back into their component matter according to the information gleaned when the precise quantum state was read. However, in quantum physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states (in general terms) that one cannot know the quantum state of a subatomic particle to arbitrary precision. Therefore, matter transportation in this way was believed to be impossible, and this was formalized as the no teleportation theorem.

Thus, the creators of Star Trek created a plot device, the so-called Heisenberg Compensators. It is unclear how exactly the Heisenberg Compensators work. It is, of course, possible that they do not actually tell you the precise statistics of each particle; they could just compensate for not being able to know them.