Principles of Design #2 – Uncertainty Principle

Sep 01 2010 Published by Neil Gains under design

Werner Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1932 for his creation of quantum mechanics, at the tender age of 31.  He is best known for his uncertainty principle, which states that we can never know both the position and momentum of a particle, because when we measure one of these it affects the other.

This principle is often generalised in design to state that the act of measuring sensitive variables in any system will alter them, and therefore confound the accuracy of the measurement.  A simple example is that if you measure computer performance, which is often done by event logging, this increases the visibility of what the computer is doing, but also consumes computing power which therefore changes the performance.

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