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How Energy Conservation Limits Our Measurements

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number140502
JournalPhysical Review Letters
DatePublished - 9 Apr 2014


Observations in quantum mechanics are subject to complex restrictions arising from the principle of energy conservation. Determining such restrictions, however, has been so far an elusive task, and only partial results are known. In this Letter, we discuss how constraints on the energy spectrum of a measurement device translate into limitations on the measurements which we can effect on a target system with a nonconstant energy operator. We provide efficient algorithms to characterize such limitations and, in case the target is a two-level quantum system, we quantify them exactly. Our Letter, thus, identifies the boundaries between what is possible or impossible to measure, i.e., between what we can see or not, when energy conservation is at stake.

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