Who's watching: The limits of observation

Physics is all about observation, but how much can we actually see? These articles explore some of the limits of observation — be they natural, scientific, political, or down to the jelly-like quantum nature of reality.

What can we see? — The human eye is a marvellous thing: it can see pretty much as far as you like. But what are its limits when it comes to distinguishing objects and seeing colours?

What can science see? — Observing the smallest building blocks of nature — such as the famous Higgs boson — isn't about seeing in the ordinary sense. It's about careful mathematical detective work and statistical analysis.

What can we agree to look for? — Even if the science and technology you need to observe something exist, there can still be political and economical limits to what can be done.

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle — One of the most famous results from quantum mechanics puts limit on the accuracy with which we can observe fundamental particles. It's like squeezing jelly!

FQXi logo

This package is part of our Who's watching? The physics of observers project, run in collaboration with FQXi. Click here to see more articles and videos about questions to do with observers in physics.