Heisenberg, the uncertainty principle and Breaking Bad

The name Heisenberg became quite a famous name after the series Breaking Bad started screening on the AMC network in 2008, but why did Walter White chose that name, and who was Heisenberg?

Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-1976) was a German physicist who had a particular interest in quantum mechanics. His most famous work was his “uncertainty principle”.

The uncertainty principle states that:

we cannot measure the position and the momentum of a particle with absolute precision. If we know one of these values with certainty, the less accurately we know of the other.

Yes, this thought is messing with my head too.

Heisenberg: brilliant and possibly quite difficult. Bundesarchiv, Bild183-R57262 / CC-BY-SA [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Heisenberg: brilliant and possibly quite difficult (image credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild183-R57262)

In a way, Walter White’s journey from a benign high school teacher to fully developed criminal mastermind and meth-producer is somehow metaphorically reflecting on this idea: the more certain you are of his one side, the less you know of the other. A bit of a long shot, but nice nevertheless.

In 1932 Heisenberg received the Nobel Prize in Physics. Like many of these brilliant minds, he did not stop at being ridiculously good in quantum mechanics (and inventing it too), but he also pioneered in several other disciplines such as cosmic rays, hydrodynamics, ferromagnetism and helped constructing the first German nuclear power reactor in Karlsruhe. He was involved in some controversial research into nuclear weapons during the Second World War.

Science Safely!

...never gets her head around quantum mechanics.

…never gets her head around quantum mechanics.

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