This has come to be known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The physicist Werner Heisenberg suggested that just by observing quantum matter, we affect the behavior of that matter. Thus, we can never be fully certain of the nature of a quantum object or its attributes, like velocity and location. This idea is supported by the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. Posed by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, this interpretation says that all quantum particles don't exist in one state or the other, but in all of its possible states at once. The sum total of possible states of a quantum object is called its wave function. The state of an object existing in all of its possible states at once is called its superposition. According to Bohr, when we observe a quantum object, we affect its behaviour. Observation breaks an object's superposition and essentially forces the object to choose one state from its wave function. This theory accounts for why physicists have taken opposite measurements from the same quantum object: The object "chose" different states during different measurements.
An unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay. One can nearly "freeze" the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its (known) initial state. The meaning of the term has since expanded, leading to a more technical definition: time evolution can be suppressed not only by measurement: The quantum Zeno effect is the suppression of unitary time evolution caused by quantum decoherence in quantum systems provided by a variety of sources: measurement, interactions with the environment, stochastic fields, and so on. As an outgrowth of study of the quantum Zeno effect, it has become clear that application to a system of sufficiently strong and fast pulses with appropriate symmetry also can decouple the system from its decohering environment. The name comes from Zeno's arrow paradox which states that, since an arrow in flight is not seen to move during any single instant, it cannot possibly be moving at all.
An earlier theoretical exploration of this effect of measurement was published in 1974 by Degasperis et al. and Alan Turing described it in 1954:
It is easy to show using standard theory that if a system starts in an eigenstate of some observable, and measurements are made of that observable N times a second, then, even if the state is not a stationary one, the probability that the system will be in the same state after, say, one second, tends to one as N tends to infinity; that is, that continual observations will prevent motion...
resulting in the earlier name Turing paradox. The idea is contained in the early work by John von Neumann, sometimes called the reduction postulate. According to the reduction postulate, each measurement causes the wavefunction to "collapse" to a pure eigenstate of the measurement basis. In the context of this effect, an "observation" can simply be the absorption of a particle, without an observer in any conventional sense. However, there is controversy over the interpretation of the effect, sometimes referred to as the "measurement problem" in traversing the interface between microscopic and macroscopic. Closely related (and sometimes not distinguished from the quantum Zeno effect) is the watchdog effect, in which the time evolution of a system is affected by its continuous coupling to the environment.