MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Does the law of conservation of energy apply to quantum Physics

Date: Wed Jun 21 09:46:07 2006
Posted By: Ken Wharton, Physics Professor
Area of science: Physics
ID: 1150760731.Ph

In quantum mechanics, there is an uncertainty principle between energy and time -- the briefer the time span, the more uncertain the energy is for that span. Longer time spans allow for a more accurate energy measurement. Sometimes popular science accounts imply that this uncertainty means that energy is not conserved on very short time scales. This is incorrect; quantum mechanics still implies energy conservation.

If future experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) find that energy is not conserved during a high-energy particle interaction, physicists will not throw out conservation of energy as a fundamental principle. It is too well established, on both experimental and theoretical grounds. Instead, physicists would probably use those results to infer that some energy has gone somewhere else, where we cannot measure it. (Perhaps into Hidden Dimensions!)

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