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We revisit the definitions of error and disturbance recently used in error-disturbance inequalities derived by Ozawa and others by expressing them in the reduced system space. The interpretation of the definitions as meansquared deviations relies on an implicit assumption that is generally incompatible with the Bell-Kochen-Specker- Spekkens contextuality theorems, and which results in averaging the deviations over a non-positive-semidefinite joint quasiprobability distribution. For unbiased measurements, the error admits a concrete interpretation as the dispersion in the estimation of the mean induced by the measurement ambiguity.We demonstrate how to directly measure not only this dispersion but also every observable moment with the same experimental data, and thus demonstrate that perfect distributional estimations can have nonzero error according to this measure.We conclude that the inequalities using these definitions do not capture the spirit of Heisenberg’s eponymous inequality, but do indicate a qualitatively different relationship between dispersion and disturbance that is appropriate for ensembles being probed by all outcomes of an apparatus. To reconnect with the discussion of Heisenberg, we suggest alternative definitions of error and disturbance that are intrinsic to a single apparatus outcome. These definitions naturally involve the retrodictive and interdictive states for that outcome, and produce complementarity


This article was originally published in Physical Review A, volume 89, in 2014. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.89.022106

Peer Reviewed



American Physical Society



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