Category: Inventions & Discoveries

Under Lock & Key (to Safety)

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Old keys, Photo by JMorton

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Key, Photo by JMorton

Under Lock & Key (to Safety)

We have a really lovely sideboard, in which I’ve stored all my chinas: plates, my lazy Susan, cups and saucers, my special dinner wares.  I thought because they are for special occasion, I should store them under lock and key.  Well, that was the idea.  The problem now is that they are so safe, I can’t get to them, no one can get to them.  The key won’t unlock the cupboard anymore.

I don’t really want to force open the sideboard because it is an antique, really beautiful; I don’t want to damage it.  It has been with Peter’s family, before I was even born and that was a very long time ago. eeckk 🙂

Anyway with this problem in mind, I got to thinking (as one does) how keys and locks have evolved.

I know that in ancient time, people would bury or leave their valuables in special places such as caves, under a tree, by the riverbank, or obvious landmarks, etc. (Actually, our canine does this. He would bury his dog bones for later use. 🙂 )

The Egyptians and the Chinese used complicated wooden bolts as early as 2000BC.

And then of course  Europe started using wooden chests to hide their valuables.  The wooden chest graduated into a strong box, and then to the use of safe.

It was Linus Yale, Junior,  an American, who developed a lock based on the early Egyptian principle of pin tumblers, the kind of lock that we still use today.

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I think, like me, Benjamin Franklin had a problem with  one of his keys and it had become rather redundant as it would not opened the furniture it was supposed to unlock.  Ergo he used that key to conduct his now famous experiment of attaching a key to a kite, which he flew during a thunderstorm.  The key was electrified, thus he invented the lightning conductor.

Keys are also used as a coming of age gift.  When my son turned 13, under much pomp and ceremony, he got his first set of house keys, which he promptly lost.   🙁

Apparently ancient Rome used to have this tradition of giving the keys for the household to new brides.

 

Artificial Intelligence – Death of Mankind

I agree with Stephen Hawkings on this one.  My smartphone alone will be the death of me.  It autocorrects my messages.  It automatically change my sometimes funny but nonsensical comments into downright stupid ones.  It is killing my reputation and gathering me some very unhappy friends. 😉

I also find that machines, which are supposed to make life easier are anything but.  I now have less and less free time as technology improves more and more.

My social life now consists of me and my Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  🙂  Of course I love every single one of them.  Some of them give me gifts for my Farmville, Sugar Crush and help me with my Pet Saga, but surely there is more to life than a mouse, keyboard and a small screen and of course a capricious internet connection?

JPJhermes

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Artificial Intelligence – Death of Mankind

Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind

Stephen Hawking: “Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded”

Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain’s pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence.

He told the BBC:”The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.

But others are less gloomy about AI’s prospects.

The theoretical physicist, who has the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is using a new system developed by Intel to speak.

Machine learning experts from the British company Swiftkey were also involved in its creation. Their technology, already employed as a smartphone keyboard app, learns how the professor thinks and suggests the words he might want to use next.

Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.

HAL 2001Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 and its murderous computer HAL encapsulate many people’s fears of how AI could pose a threat to human life

“It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said.

CelverbotCleverbot is software that is designed to chat like a human would

“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

But others are less pessimistic.

“I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realised,” said Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot.

Cleverbot’s software learns from its past conversations, and has gained high scores in the Turing test, fooling a high proportion of people into believing they are talking to a human.

Rise of the robots

Mr Carpenter says we are a long way from having the computing power or developing the algorithms needed to achieve full artificial intelligence, but believes it will come in the next few decades.

“We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” he says.

But he is betting that AI is going to be a positive force.

Prof Hawking is not alone in fearing for the future.

In the short term, there are concerns that clever machines capable of undertaking tasks done by humans until now will swiftly destroy millions of jobs.

Elon MuskElon Musk, chief executive of rocket-maker Space X, also fears artificial intelligence

In the longer term, the technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat”.

Robotic voice

In his BBC interview, Prof Hawking also talks of the benefits and dangers of the internet.

He quotes the director of GCHQ’s warning about the net becoming the command centre for terrorists: “More must be done by the internet companies to counter the threat, but the difficulty is to do this without sacrificing freedom and privacy.”

He has, however, been an enthusiastic early adopter of all kinds of communication technologies and is looking forward to being able to write much faster with his new system.

Prof Stephen Hawking and Rory Cellan-JonesProf Hawking is using new software to speak, but has opted to keep the same voice

But one aspect of his own tech – his computer generated voice – has not changed in the latest update.

Prof Hawking concedes that it’s slightly robotic, but insists he didn’t want a more natural voice.

“It has become my trademark, and I wouldn’t change it for a more natural voice with a British accent,” he said.

“I’m told that children who need a computer voice, want one like mine.”

Shreddies Pants – Relationship Saviour

Once again, David Cameron was vindicated for his impassioned comment that the UK invented most things worth inventing , when the Russians were reported to dismiss Britain as a small island whose views can be ignored.

We have the Shreddies Pants, Take that!!!

Flatulent Fashionitas 😉

Here it is, the savior of many a marriage, of relationship and untold embarassing moments. The Shreddies Pants contain Zorflex, apparently used in chemical warfare suits, the Loughborough based maker confirms that the knickers can filter odours 200 times stronger than the average emission.

Duvet will smell of white linen…. Just wear that knickers in bed!

🙂 🙂 😉

Just pop in a few pairs in that Christmas goodie bag for the other half!!! 😉

Living

 

New line of underwear filters out farts 

Using chemical warfare technology, these new briefs, shorties and boxers camouflage bodily odors that make intimacy difficult for people with digestive disorders like IBS and Crohn’s disease.

Rex USA

MUST CREDIT PICTURES TO:<br /> Shreddies Ltd./Rex Features</p> <p>Editorial Use Only. No stock, books, prints, advertising or merchandising without photographer's permission.

REX USA/Shreddies Ltd/Rex/REX USA/Shreddies Ltd/Rex

Models show of the new flatulence-filtering undies.

 A healthcare underwear company has designed a range of briefs and boxers which use chemical warfare technology to filter unwanted gas.

The hi-tech pants, created by Shreddies Ltd. based in Leicestershire, England, feature a highly absorptive carbon cloth back panel which traps and neutralizes flatulence odors.

The thin and flexible cloth, which contains Zorflex — the same activated carbon material used in chemical warfare suits — is reactivated simply by washing the pants.

Shreddies say through extensive testing the carbon cloth could filter odors 200 times the strength of the average flatus emission.

The award-winning healthcare product is particularly useful for sufferers of digestive disorders such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Crohn’s disease, Colitis and food intolerances.

Don't believe the claims? Test the odorless undies yourself with a sniff.

REX USA/Shreddies Ltd/Rex/REX USA/Shreddies Ltd/Rex

Don’t believe the claims? Test the odorless undies yourself with a sniff.

Suitable for men and women the underwear comes in a range of styles and is designed to fit more snugly than conventional underwear.

Women can buy Shreddies in briefs, high-leg briefs or shorties, while men can purchase support boxers, adjustable support boxers, hipsters and briefs.

It has even been reported that soccer player Frank Lampard has worn the underwear, so there is no need to be embarrassed buying them.

In the last few months Shreddies has signed up to sell their product in 11 UK retailers including Fenwicks and Bentalls.

A spokesperson at Shreddies Ltd. said: “Although Shreddies has got cheeky with the new campaign, to many people they still remain very much a healthcare product and have helped so many cope with conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s and food intolerances. But the bottom line is that Shreddies are for everyone, after all, it’s something we all do.

“Flatulence seriously affects millions of people every day and since 2008 Shreddies has been helping those affected increase their quality of life. We have found the answer to help alleviate the most obvious symptom of flatulence…the odors.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/new-line-underwear-filters-farts-article-1.1491756#ixzz2iRHlDr6C

The Amazing Story of British Science

The British have a remarkable talent for keeping calm, even when there is no crisis.

– Franklin F. Jones

 

From the 1700s Britain, this small group of islands was and still is a leader in science and engineering. Surely Sir Isaac Newton must be regarded as the greatest scientist that ever lived. He formulated the laws or motion and gravity, proved that sun light was not pure white but made up of colour and corpuscular(tiny particles of matter)when he produced a spectrum via two prisms and isolated one colour. He invented the reflecting telescope and for mathematics he invented calculus still a valuable mathematic tool today. His discoveries about energy gravity and motion laid the ground for Einstein.

Below is an article about an excellent new BBC TV series charting the successes and discoveries made by British scientists and engineers.

The Amazing Story of British Science

Sir Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Pictures via Getty

Britons Sir Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Tim Berners-Lee all changed the world through their discoveries and inventions

Science Britannica 
Professor Brian Cox
Scientist and presenter

The British Isles are home to just one percent of the world’s population and yet our small collection of rocks poking out of the north Atlantic has thrown up world beaters in virtually every field of human endeavour.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in science and engineering. Edward Jenner came up with vaccines, Sir Frank Whittle ushered in the jet age and Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid the foundations of the world wide web for the Internet. Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, George Stephenson, James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel (engineer), Francis Crick ( co discoverer of DNA)… the list is gloriously long.  We can now add Peter Higgs,who proposed the so called ‘God particle’ Higgs Bosun a field that holds particles together, which if if did not exist , sub atomic particles would never had formed into atoms and ultilmately us! The Higgs Bosun has been tentatively discovered by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

What is it about Britain that allowed so many great minds to emerge and flourish?

This is a very important question to ask, because science and engineering are not only part of our past – the future of our economy depends to an ever-increasing extent on our continued excellence in scientific discovery and high-tech manufacturing and engineering.

The roots of our success can be traced back many centuries. Oxford and Cambridge Universities were formed over 800 years ago.

They paved the way for the world’s oldest scientific institution, The Royal Society, formed in 1660 by a group including Sir Christopher Wren, professor of astronomy and architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Science Heroes

 Robert Boyle Boyle 1627 – 1691 is one of  founders of modern chemistry and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method which Britain gave to the world.  He is best known for Boyles Law  which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed sytem.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a brilliant physicist and mathematician who is considered a founding father of science.

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was a naturalist and geologist who came up with the world-changing theory of evolution.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) was an inventor and engineer who designed some of the UK’s most famous tunnels, bridges, railway lines and ships

Sir Frank Whittle (1907 – 1996) was a daredevil test pilot who is credited with inventing the turbo jet engine

Sir Tim Berners-Lee (1955 – ) is the inventor of the world wide web

Scientist Rosalind Franklin’s photograph’s of X Ray diffraction of DNA confirmed it’s double helix structure

Any theory or idea about the world should be tested and if it disagrees with observations, then it is wrong.

Even today, that’s radical, because it means that the opinions of important and powerful people are worthless if they conflict with reality. So central is this idea to science that it is enshrined in The Royal Society’s motto: “Take nobody’s word for it”.

Shortly after The Royal Society was formed, Sir Isaac Newton deployed this approach in his great work The Principia, which contains his law of gravity and the foundations of what we now call classical mechanics – the tools you need to work out the forces on bridges and buildings, calculate paths of artillery shells and the stresses on aircraft wings. This was arguably the first work of modern physics.

This has become known as the scientific method, and its power can be seen in some unexpected places. During the filming of Science Britannica, I met Capt Jerry Roberts who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Bletchley intercepted enemy messages and the captain and his colleagues were given the job of decoding them. He told me the story of his colleague, Bill Tutte, who worked on the ‘Tunny” code used by the Nazi high command to send orders to generals in the field.

Bill spent most of his time staring into space, but after just a few months, with awesome mathematical acumen he cracked the code.

In an age before computers, he did it using mathematics, logic and pencil and paper, aided by a single mistake by a German telegraph operator who sent a message twice. In the opinion of many, Tutte’s achievement was the greatest single intellectual achievement of the 20th Century, shortening the war by years and saving millions of lives on both sides.

This is what happens when genius is aided by the careful, scientific approach pioneered by Newton and others at The Royal Society. Capt Roberts and his colleagues at Bletchley are, in my view, heroes in every sense of the word.

 Bletchley Park was Britain’s main decryption establishment during World War II.

The Buckinghamshire compound is famous as the place where wartime codebreakers cracked the German Enigma code
Codebreaking machines Colossus and Bombe were the forerunners of modern computers. Mathematician Alan Turing helped create the Bombe
Historians estimate that breakthroughs at Bletchley shortened the war by two years
Bletchley Park’s computing  was so innovative
Alan Turing’s work built the foundations of computer science,programming etc. He is regarded as a true genius and founder of modern computing.

Another such genius was Nobel Prize winning phycisist Paul Dirac He was regarded by his friends and colleagues as unusual in character. Albert Einstein said of him “This balancing on the dizzying path between genius and madness is awful”  Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac Equation, which  predicted the existence of antimatter.

Despite its tremendous success, scientists have occasionally had a difficult relationship with the wider public. Frankenstein – the ultimate ‘scientist out of control’, has become a short-hand for things we fear.

A particularly colourful example can be found in the grim tale of George Forster, convicted of the double murder of his wife and daughter in 1803 and duly hanged.

This being the 19th Century, nobody was concerned about the hanging itself but rather illogically, the fate of Forster’s corpse caused a public outcry. It was taken directly to a nearby lecture theatre and used to demonstrate the effect of electricity on the human body.

The corpse twitched and jerked and even ‘opened an eye’ as an electric current was applied. There were reports of fainting and a particularly sensitive audience member died of shock – a wonderfully Georgian thing to do. The scientist – a visiting Italian called Giovanni Aldini – was forced to leave the country, when in fact his motives were absolutely sound. He was trying to resuscitate people using electricity.

Far from being a dangerous lunatic, he was ahead of his time. Nowadays thousands of lives are saved as hearts are regularly re-started using electrical pulses delivered by defibrillators.

Aldini’s controversial experiments were performed for a particular purpose, but not all science is carried out with a goal in mind.

Mary Shelley soon after wrote the classic gothic story Frankenstein, a cautionary tale of science out of control.

In the 19th Century, John Tyndall decided to work out why the vivid red and purple colours appeared when the sun is low, and why, for the rest of the time, the sky is blue.

He concluded that the colours of the sky are produced because light bounces off dust and water particles in the air. Blue light is more likely to bounce around than red, and so it is only when the sun is low and the light travels through more of the dust-filled air that the red light is bounced around to produce a sunset.

Tyndall was half right – we now know that it is mainly the air molecules themselves that scatter the light – but this didn’t really matter. Tyndall’s romantic curiosity led to a far more important discovery.

He decided to produce “pure” air with no particles in it, to see if the colours vanished, and he discovered that samples of meat didn’t rot in it. Here was evidence that infection and decay are caused by germs in the air – which Tyndall had inadvertently removed during his purification process. The discovery ultimately transformed the way that doctors dealt with infection and contamination.

Countless millions of lives were saved, because one curious scientist wanted to find out why the sky is blue. Today, the curiosity driven exploration of nature is still known as “blue skies research”.

Science has truly revolutionised our world. It is the basis of our economy and the foundation of our future. We must value our great heritage and continue to invest in education and science to ensure that we never lose our position as the best place in the world to do science.

SIR ISAAC NEWTON and me

One there is above all others,
Well deserves the name of Friend!
His is love beyond a brother’s,
Costly, free, and knows no end:
They who once His kindness prove,
Find it everlasting love!
—Newton.

DSCN8330Zoo 2012 100

Newton, unarguably the greatest scientist that ever lived. Even super-genius Albert Einstein acknowledged that Newton was the greatest scientist that ever lived. His contribution to science is so immennse that he saved later scientists more than 2oo years in research.

Edward Jenner, Father of Immunology

Edward Jenner, Father of Immunology

Edward Jenner

Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, Gloucestershire on 17 May 1749, the son of the local vicar. At the age of 14, he was apprenticed to a local surgeon and then trained in London. In 1772, he returned to Berkeley and spent most the rest of his career as a doctor in his native town.

In 1796, he carried out his now famous experiment on eight-year-old James Phipps. Jenner inserted pus taken from a cowpox pustule and inserted it into an incision on the boy’s arm. He was testing his theory, drawn from the folklore of the countryside, that milkmaids who suffered the mild disease of cowpox never contracted smallpox, one of the greatest killers of the period, particularly among children. Jenner subsequently proved that having been inoculated with cowpox Phipps was immune to smallpox. He submitted a paper to the Royal Society in 1797 describing his experiment, but was told that his ideas were too revolutionary and that he needed more proof. Undaunted, Jenner experimented on several other children, including his own 11-month-old son. In 1798, the results were finally published and Jenner coined the word vaccine from the Latin ‘vacca’ for cow.

Jenner was widely ridiculed. Critics, especially the clergy, claimed it was repulsive and ungodly to inocculate someone with material from a diseased animal. A satirical cartoon of 1802 showed people who had been vaccinated sprouting cow’s heads. But the obvious advantages of vaccination and the protection it provided won out, and vaccination soon became widespread. Jenner became famous and now spent much of his time researching and advising on developments in his vaccine. Jenner carried out research in a number of other areas of medicine and was also keen on fossil collecting and horticulture. He died on 26 January 1823.

Back to the Past?

I’ve heard it before from renowned scientists, on their days off prattling on about quantum physics, quantum theory, quantum mechanics, quantum teleportation, quantum information in some of the thousands of documentaries that Peter made me watch. LOL

images (23)If something can’t be explained, they seem to add “quantum” to it and people, like me, who do not have a clue what is all about have to accept it as a gospel.

Anyway I can remember vividly that you can travel into the future but there is no way you can travel back into the past. It has something to do with Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

So make sure you enjoy and do things right in your present because you can’t redo or make it right when they pass. What is past is past!

Jean
XXX
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Building a time machine “is possible” claims Professor Brian Cox

Time machines similar to Doctor Who’s Tardis are possible, Professor Brian Cox said in a speech at the British Science Festival.

Yahoo! NewsBy Rob Waugh | Yahoo! News – 20 hours ago
The TARDIS at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London as part of a summer promotion with Doctor Who and BBC Worldwide.

Press Association Images – The TARDIS at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London as part of a summer promotion with Doctor Who and BBC Worldwide.

TV’s Professor Brian CoxTime machines similar to Dr Who’s Tardis are possible, Professor Brian Cox said in a speech at the British Science Festival.

“Can you build a time machine?” said Professor Cox. “The answer is yes.”

There’s just one, tiny problem, Professor Cox says – if you can build a machine capable of time-travel, you can only travel into the future. You can’t come back.

Professor Cox also suggested that research at the LHC might uncover extra dimensions – thus, perhaps finally explaining how the Tardis is bigger on the inside.

Professor Cox , a Dr Who fan, is to deliver a 60-minute speech on Dr Who to be screened by the BBC on November 23 – tackling questions such as extraterrestrial life, travelling to other dimensions and time travel.

Professor Cox says that time travel is possible, and has already been done – albeit at a very small scale. The technology to accelerate something as big as a police box to near light speed does not yet exist.

Professor Cox says that, armed with such technology, “You can go into the future; you’ve got almost total freedom of movement in the future.”

To “travel” forward in time, you simply need to accelerate to speeds close to the speed of light, Cox says – as you get close to that speed, time slows down, but only for you, according to Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity.

“If you go fast, your clock runs slow relative to people who are still. As you approach the speed of light, your clock runs so slow you could come back 10,000 years in the future,” said Professor Cox.

Cox said previously on Conan O’Brien’s chat show that travel into the past was “impossible”, saying, “You can travel into the future as fast as you like. You can’t travel into the past.”

But in his speech in Birmingham, the physicist went into more detail – suggesting that “wormholes” often used in science fiction as portals through time may not offer a simple way to travel into the past.

“In General Relativity, you can do it in principle. It’s to do with building these things called wormholes; shortcuts through space and time. But most physicists doubt it. Hawking came up with the ‘chronology protection conjecture’ – physics we don’t yet understand that means wormholes are not stable.”

Travelling between different dimensions, though, might be easier – a relief for the Doctor, for whom “transdimensional engineering” was a key part of the Tardis.

Cox says, “We look for extra dimensions at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). You can imagine extra dimensions in space, and that we are living on a sheet of higher dimensional space.”

Whether this explains how the interior of the Tardis is “dimensionally transcendental” –  bigger on the inside – will perhaps be revealed in Cox’s speech on the 23rd.

A Litre (Liter) of Light – Innovative Solar Bottle Bulb

In the village of Sitio, Maligaya in San Vicente, San Pedro Laguna, Philippines the houses are built very close together often without windows and with corrugated galvanised iron roofs. This means that the homes are dark even during daylight hours as there are no apertures for light to get in. The people are generally too poor to afford electricity espcially all day as well as night. An innovative way was found to provide light in homes during the day. Enter ‘Sola Demi; a man with a mission to bring light and scatter the darkness during the day. He collects empty lite(liter) plastic bottles, fills them with water and bleach (to keep the water clear for years).C:UsersCharlesDocumentsLoitaLoita Library plan 5 11X17 SECT

 

He drills holes in the roof and installs the full bottles so they partly protrude above and under the roof like a light bulb. Liter of light

The bottles catch and refracts sunlight illuminating the rooms below like a bright electric bulb. Light 3

No other power is needed but sun light power.  Whilst these bottle bulbs only work in sun light, they are still effective and mean home dwellers can have light to see by.This method is much cheaper and easier than installing windows in the roof. Additionally, the water and bleach in the bottle refract light all around the room much more effectively than a window would!

Below is a video demonstrating this clever use of every day materials. Well Done ‘Solar Demi’! 🙂

The certainty of uncertainty

 

Quantum Physics is  both a fascinating and frustrating branch of science. With ever evolving sub-atomic  particle research technology like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) probing deep into the mysterious and almost magical realm of fundamental matter that makes up the universe and us, below is an excellent hopefully easier to us lay people a  guide  behind a famous though experiment:

WHEN IT COMES TO its ability to formulate accurate explanations and make testable predictions, the science of quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories of all time. Despite its astonishing successes, quantum mechanics has an unfortunate side effect – it can induce the cerebral equivalent of dropping a jellyfish into a blender and transform the human brain into a quivering mess of gelatinous denial.

Quantum mechanics is the theoretical construct that allows scientists to describe how matter behaves at the subatomic level. To say that it is weird is an understatement of galactic proportions and perhaps the weirdest of all its predictions is something called ‘Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle’.

Thought up by genius physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927, the uncertainty principle states that, in the quantum world, it is impossible to simultaneously know where a particle is and where it is going – you can know its position, or you can know its momentum, but you can’t know both.

Ok, so perhaps that doesn’t sound so very strange, but the reason why you can’t know both quantities is very strange indeed.

If you were asked to describe a particle, chances are you would imagine it to be a discrete, spherical lump of matter (like a teeny tiny ball bearing), but you’d be wrong. In quantum mechanics a particle is more of a wavy smudge of spread out potential – a cloud of possibility where the particle exists in multiple states and in multiple positions.

The uncertainty principle allows you to only determine one of those possibilities by saying that as you zero in on a particle’s position, so your ability to measure its momentum slips away. It’s a bit like rolling a dice – as it scoots along the tabletop you can see where its going but the numbers are a blur (it could stop on anyone of them), only by stopping the dice can you ‘force’ it to choose a number.

This indeterminate nature of the stuff makes up the world around us didn’t well with scientists – after all, who wants to believe that the particles you are made of exist in state of quantum flux? Even the physicists that created the science of quantum mechanics were uncomfortable with the predictions it made (which led Erwin Schrödinger to create his famous dead-and-alive cat in a box mind experiment).

For decades, some scientists have expected (and hoped) that uncertainly would one day be proved false and that predictability would be returned to the Universe. But it seems that their hopes might have been dashed by physicists at the University of York who believe they have proof that the limits imposed by uncertainty are just as Heisenberg described them.

By constructing a theoretical experiment in which measurements of particles with known values were compared with those of particles whose states were unknown, they found that the errors in their measurements matched with Heinsenberg’s original predictions.

Ok, so it was a lot more complicated than that, but their conclusion could prove to be a boon for quantum cryptography – messages encoded in such a fashion would in theory be unbreakable because any attempt to ‘see’ the message would force the multiple-state quantum bits that make it up to ‘collapse’ to a single state (thus ruining the message).