Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Heisenberg and Soup
Name:  John
Status:  other
Age:  20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001

Often I've heard people use the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to explain why soup temperature can't be accurately measured because the thermometer itself adds or subtracts to/from the temperature, or that surveys can never receive truly accurate results because the participating peoples' answers are affected by the survey itself. However, as stated in Dr. Bart Kosko's book, "Fuzzy Thinking," I think that the HUP is misused in these circumstances. Am I (and Dr Kosko) right in this assumption, or are these variants of the principle that are acceptable?

You and Dr. Kosko are correct. There are experimental things oue could do to get a more accurate soup-temperature measurement, such as independently calibrating the heat capacities of the soup and thermometer at different temperatures. However, there is no way to get around or correct for the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

The soup temperature is a useful analogy of how the HUP works, but it is not an example.

Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
Assistant Director
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory