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complementarity principle

noun, Physics.
1.
the principle that experiments on physical systems of atomic size or smaller, as electrons or photons, can exhibit either particle or wave behavior but not both simultaneously.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Encyclopedia Article for complementarity principle

in physics, tenet that a complete knowledge of phenomena on atomic dimensions requires a description of both wave and particle properties. The principle was announced in 1928 by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. Depending on the experimental arrangement, the behaviour of such phenomena as light and electrons is sometimes wavelike and sometimes particle-like; i.e., such things have a wave-particle duality (q.v.). It is impossible to observe both the wave and particle aspects simultaneously. Together, however, they present a fuller description than either of the two taken alone.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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