Quantum Experiment Shows How Time ‘Emerges’ from Entanglement

riNews, Quantum Physics20 Comments

Time is an emergent phenomenon that is a side effect of quantum entanglement, say physicists. And they have the first experimental results to prove it

Time is an entanglementWhen the new ideas of quantum mechanics spread through science like wildfire in the first half of the 20th century, one of the first things physicists did was to apply them to gravity and general relativity. The result were not pretty.It immediately became clear that these two foundations of modern physics were entirely incompatible. When physicists attempted to meld the approaches, the resulting equations were bedeviled with infinities making it impossible to make sense of the results.Then in the mid-1960s, there was a breakthrough. The physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt successfully combined the previously incompatible ideas in a key result that has since become known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. This is important because it avoids the troublesome infinites—a huge advance.

But it didn’t take physicists long to realise that while the Wheeler-DeWitt equation solved one significant problem, it introduced another. The new problem was that time played no role in this equation. In effect, it says that nothing ever happens in the universe, a prediction that is clearly at odds with the observational evidence.

This conundrum, which physicists call ‘the problem of time’, has proved to be thorn in flesh of modern physicists, who have tried to ignore it but with little success.

Then in 1983, the theorists Don Page and William Wootters came up with a novel solution based on the quantum phenomenon of entanglement. This is the exotic property in which two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated.

Entanglement is a deep and powerful link and Page and Wootters showed how it can be used to measure time. Their idea was that the way a pair of entangled particles evolve is a kind of clock that can be used to measure change.

But the results depend on how the observation is made. One way to do this is to compare the change in the entangled particles with an external clock that is entirely independent of the universe. This is equivalent to god-like observer outside the universe measuring the evolution of the particles using an external clock.

In this case, Page and Wootters showed that the particles would appear entirely unchanging—that time would not exist in this scenario.

But there is another way to do it that gives a different result. This is for an observer inside the universe to compare the evolution of the particles with the rest of the universe. In this case, the internal observer would see a change and this difference in the evolution of entangled particles compared with everything else is an important a measure of time.

This is an elegant and powerful idea. It suggests that time is an emergent phenomenon that comes about because of the nature of entanglement. And it exists only for observers inside the universe. Any god-like observer outside sees a static, unchanging universe, just as the Wheeler-DeWitt equations predict.

Of course, without experimental verification, Page and Wootter’s ideas are little more than a philosophical curiosity. And since it is never possible to have an observer outside the universe, there seemed little chance of ever testing the idea.

Until now. Today, Ekaterina Moreva at the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) in Turin, Italy, and a few pals have performed the first experimental test of Page and Wootters’ ideas. And they confirm that time is indeed an emergent phenomenon for ‘internal’ observers but absent for external ones.

The experiment involves the creation of a toy universe consisting of a pair of entangled photons and an observer that can measure their state in one of two ways. In the first, the observer measures the evolution of the system by becoming entangled with it. In the second, a god-like observer measures the evolution against an external clock which is entirely independent of the toy universe.

The experimental details are straightforward. The entangled photons each have a polarisation which can be changed by passing it through a birefringent plate. In the first set up, the observer measures the polarisation of one photon, thereby becoming entangled with it. He or she then compares this with the polarisation of the second photon. The difference is a measure of time.

In the second set up, the photons again both pass through the birefringent plates which change their polarisations. However, in this case, the observer only measures the global properties of both photons by comparing them against an independent clock.

In this case, the observer cannot detect any difference between the photons without becoming entangled with one or the other. And if there is no difference, the system appears static. In other words, time does not emerge.

“Although extremely simple, our model captures the two, seemingly contradictory, properties of the Page-Wootters mechanism,” say Moreva and co.

That’s an impressive experiment. Emergence is a popular idea in science. In particular, physicists have recently become excited about the idea that gravity is an emergent phenomenon. So it’s a relatively small step to think that time may emerge in a similar way.

What emergent gravity has lacked, of course, is an experimental demonstration that shows how it works in in practice. That’s why Moreva and co’s work is significant. It places an abstract and exotic idea on firm experimental footing for the first time.

Perhaps most significant of all is the implication that quantum mechanics and general relativity are not so incompatible after all. When viewed through the lens of entanglement, the famous ‘problem of time’ just melts away.

The next step will to extend the idea further, particularly to the macroscopic scale. It’s one thing to show how time emerges for photons, it’s quite another to show how it emerges for larger things such as humans and train timetables.

And therein lies another challenge.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1310.4691 :Time From Quantum Entanglement: An Experimental Illustration

20 Comments on “Quantum Experiment Shows How Time ‘Emerges’ from Entanglement”

  1. Larry Saebens

    I am not a physicist, only a interested laymen but I seem to be able to connect (in my mind) that this experiment seems to provide an answer to the question of eternity and the physics of the soul.

  2. Christine Horner

    Yes! The “appearance” of time (cause/effect) derived out of relativity is really the fractal organization of Creation Itself in the third dimension! Choice is also an illusory appearance. I discuss it all in my book “What Is God? Rolling Back the Veil”. Dearest Amit, how I would love to meet you and create a video together and have you guest “teach” online at Bodhi UniversiTree. http://www.bodhiuniversitree.com. Much love to you, Christine

  3. Ricardo

    This is awesome that we can finally begin to understand where time comes from. Although, it has nothing to do with souls since there are no such things.

  4. Antonietta Francini MD MA

    well, in our real SPIRITUAL MIND we do not need experiments, we know with intuitive certainty or we don’t know!

  5. Vijay R Asrani

    If time is an emergent phenomenon for some observer internal to the Universe, then “Past” “Present” and Future” should all co-exist in the Now., which is what all Mystics have been saying. It is also mentioned in the Yoga Vashistha, that the only reality is the ” Now” moment and neither the “past” nor the “future” exist. . Further, if there is zero manifestation, then Space-Time ceases to exist. Qua tum Physics and Relativity are slowly but surely and steadily bringing us nearer to the Spiritual Center of the self in experiencing “Eternity” and the” Physics of the Soul”. Vijay R Asrani

  6. Larry Moore

    Firstly, beautiful!!! Thank you! A work of great art in the context of sound science which opens new doors on both fronts.

    I do have a question I would love to ask in hopes of receiving any reply by anyone anywhere at any time. Lol.

    To wit: I wonder why (and or for what purpose) the conceivability of consciousness itself as being the ground of being from which all visible manifest phenomena is emergent/emerging, is dismissed by the scientific community/mind as being an unacceptable premise to proceed from?

    Where you wrote: “The next step will to extend the idea further, particularly to the macroscopic scale. It’s one thing to show how time emerges for photons, it’s quite another to show how it emerges for larger things such as humans and train timetables”. I wonder…..

    ……. ‘if a photon has never been seen, measured or even conceived of, in the ABSENCE of Consciousness (as the source of the seeing, measuring and conceiving) by what principle of science is Consciousness excluded as being a possible source of any and all ’emergent’ phenomena of a Consciously perceived 3-dimensional world?

    I can understand the anecdotal evidence as carrying some weight, but all weight?

    “The next step will to extend the idea further, particularly to the macroscopic scale. It’s one thing to show how time emerges for photons, it’s quite another to show how it emerges for larger things such as humans and train timetables.”

    Perhaps an unknown unifying relationship between micro and macro realities necessarily preclude any possibility of discovering a shared function between the two presentations? Specifically where the issue is Time. For example, light behaving as both wave and particle, distinguishable only by Consciousness itself. Perhaps Time in the visible 3-dimensional physical world not only does not exist of itself, but cannot exist of itself, absent Consciousness (in the form of awareness and being) of it.

    Thank you again for the magnificent post. I love it!

    Larry Moore

  7. Daleth

    If the experiment can be extrapolated beyond quantum phenomena, it closely models the view of Qabalists. I would love to see how this fits in with brane theories.

  8. moreah vandevalde

    i am an lady from 88 years , worked and read for many years , but now i feel i am on the right road

    thanks so much Moreah vandevalde

  9. Immaculate Connection

    This is the exotic property in which two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated.

    One can relate in a mystical sense; as in, being a multidimensional being with many aspects existing at the same time. So to my mind, there are multi-aspects of ME outside the universe ‘I’ occupy looking in. However, I’m also an interested laymen looking in 🙂

  10. Steve

    I wonder if this has any correlation to the black hole universe theories, whereby every black hole creates a new universe, with its own Time, yet within the parent universe at a higher octave of reality, the observer outside the event horizon might, if he were able, see that, as Relativity predicts, time “comes to an end”, or is static and unchanging, per Wheeler-DeWitt. Very interesting.

  11. Jme

    This is for Larry Saebens:

    Larry, I understand where your going with your thought, but it is a foggy connection for me. Can you explain in more detail? I’m very interested in your thoughts.


  12. Dr. Graff

    A few ideas: It is suggested to me that time is a fourth dimensional phenomenon, a measurable exchange of energy, which humans observe. To differ, nature does not spend an eternity in observation, trying to measure distances, such as distance or time from one color in a rainbow to another. Entanglement suggests we are all connected that distance does not matter. We are the space between; i.e., eight hours or eight minutes can go fast or, can last an eternity, depending on our state of consciousness and vibratory health within our morphogenetic field(s). And, evolution of any of the energy fields, physical included, cannot be a single organism occurrence. With entanglement, what effects one effects all.

  13. Michel

    This is great and confirms that while our consciousness resides in this space-time continuum, the clock keeps ticking forward at a predictable rate determined by special relativity. But once our consciousness leaves the body, and is out of this space-time, all past and future events are laid out like a deck of cards. And this is how people are able to foretell future events – by leaving their bodies. Agree?

  14. Tom Gostola

    Once again, science and spiritual realization converge on the same point. In the state of Self-Realization, the Self exists in the awareness that nothing ever happens. And yet the Self, as the Observer of all phenomena, sees nothing but change in the outer reality.

  15. Randy

    This is fascinating. I wrote a 9 chapter e-paper of sorts a few months ago about Quantum Field Theory, the Holographic Theory and some other topics like neurology. I’m writing a follow-up at the moment and this discovery will definitely be discussed.

    My first e-paper was designed for the laymen to understand and the deeply curious to explore. It’s well sourced through out. If you’re interested it is here: “http://www.perceptivereality.net/”

  16. David S

    Then instantly after death there must be life. if time only exists in our consciousness then after our bodies can no longer sustain consciousness, (death) the observer (us) experiences no time at all, when inside of the 4th dimensional circle an eternity may have passed. Inevitably and instantaneously the observer must come back to a state of observation and experience time, or consciousness, once again; of course without all the memories and data they once occupied. This does leave me with a few questions. Do our dreams, a place where time appears distorted, somehow tie things together, interweaving realities? Or do we come back as an entirely different being, at a different place in time/space, completely unaware of its previous existence? Or maybe were just never meant to find out. Either way its all bulls***t

  17. YJT

    This is interesting. But you are assuming there is an observer outside of the universe. Is that possible?

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