For as long as I can remember, people have talked about time travel and how it was almost certainly never ever going to happen in our lifetimes, but guess what? Turns out someone has cracked it.
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We’re over at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology for this one – although they were helped by colleagues in Switzerland and the US – where researchers are claiming they’ve managed to reverse the flow of time in a quantum computer. Apparently this is the equivalent of causing a broken rack of pool balls to go back into place and anyone watching the computer would swear that time had been reversed. Not really sure I understand that because I know nothing about quantum physics or quantum computers, but wow!
Here’s how The Independent described the experiment – I’m just copying and pasting it because I really don’t have a clue here:
The “time machine” described in the journal Scientific Reports consists of a rudimentary quantum computer made up of electron “qubits”.#
A qubit is a unit of information described by a “one”, a “zero”, or a mixed “superposition” of both states.
In the experiment, an “evolution program” was launched which caused the qubits to become an increasingly complex changing pattern of zeros and ones.
During this process, order was lost – just as it is when the pool balls are struck and scattered with a cue.
But then another program modified the state of the quantum computer in such a way that it evolved “backwards”, from chaos to order.
It meant the state of the qubits was rewound back to its original starting point.
Most laws of physics work both ways, in the future and the past. If you see a video of a pool ball knocking into another one, for instance, and then reverse that same video, the physical processes would both make sense and it would be impossible at the level of physics to know which way around would be correct.
But the universe does have one rule that goes only in one way: the second law of thermodynamics, which describes the progression from order to disorder.
If you saw a video of someone breaking a perfectly arranged triangle of pool balls into a mess, for instance, then watching that backwards would obviously look nonsensical.
The new experiment is like giving the pool table such a perfectly calculated kick that the balls rolled back into an orderly pyramid.
Yeah I’m not really sure that I understand that at all, but it definitely sounds way less impressive than I thought it would. Still, if these guys are excited about it then I suppose I should recognise it as a major breakthrough as well – maybe we won’t get time travel in my lifetime, but at least it sounds like they’re making progress right.
Lead researcher Dr Gordey Lesovik said the following about the breakthrough:
We have artificially created a state that evolves in a direction opposite to that of the thermodynamic arrow of time.
Our algorithm could be updated and used to test programmes written for quantum computers and eliminate noise and errors.
Again, promising I guess. Can’t wait for the next update.
For more time travel, check out this time traveler that came back from the year 6000 with a picture. Told you it was happening.