The uncertainty principle for energy and time
Abstract
It is generally thought desirable that quantum theory entail an uncertainty relation for time and energy similar to the one for position and momentum. Nevertheless, the existence of such a relation has still remained problematic. Here, it is shown that the problem is due to a confusion between the position coordinates of a point particle (a material system) and the coordinates of a point in space: The time coordinate should be put on a par with the space coordinates, not with the canonical position coordinates of a material system. Whereas quantum mechanics incorporates a Heisenberg uncertainty relation between the canonical position coordinates and their conjugate momenta, there is no reason why a Heisenberg relation should hold between the space coordinates and the canonical momenta, or between the time coordinate and the energy of the system. However, uncertainty relations of a different kind exist between the space coordinates and the total momentum of the system and between the time coordinate and the total energy. These relations are completely similar and may be taken together to form a relativistically covariant set of uncertainty relations. The relation between the time coordinate and the energy implies the wellknown relation between the lifetime of a state and its energy spread.
 Publication:

American Journal of Physics
 Pub Date:
 December 1996
 DOI:
 10.1119/1.18410
 Bibcode:
 1996AmJPh..64.1451H
 Keywords:

 03.65.w;
 Quantum mechanics