In a recent science experiment conducted to study the nature of quantum particles, the researchers made a curious and weird discovery — seven quantum particles were acting as if they were in the presence of billions.
The quirky behavior of quantum particles
Matter in larger scales tends to go through various changes that are referred to as phase transitions. For instance, the process of water turning into steam. However, such changes have only been observed when molecules are in large numbers. But with quantum particles, the phase transition was observed on a crowd of just seven particles. This has baffled scientists.
In the experiment, researchers pumped photons into a dye-filled mirror trap using a finely tuned laser. This was done to observe when the photons will transition into a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). To the surprise of the team, all the photons started acting as a single molecule and formed a BEC after just seven photons transitioned. And as per the researchers, that is a very low count required for a phase transition.
“Now that it’s confirmed that ‘phase transition’ is still a useful concept in such small systems, we can explore properties in ways that would not be possible in larger systems,” Live Science quotes a statement made by the lead author of the study, Robert Nyman.
Entire apparatus for the experiment consisted of some curved mirrors and fluorescent dyes. The setup enables scientists not only to study the properties of quantum particles, but also to create and control special light states.
“With the best of two distinct worlds — the physics of phase transitions and the accessibility of small systems — this unusual light source has potential applications in measurement or sensing,” Science Daily quotes co-author of the study Dr. Florian Mintert.
The study of quantum science has also revealed another interesting possibility — retrocausality, a concept that proposes that the future influences the past. In essence, it is based on the idea that the effect occurs before the cause. This is curiously similar to the theory of time symmetry that says that physical processes can easily run backward or forwards in time even while remaining subject to the exact same set of physical laws.
“The reason I think that retrocausality is worth investigating is that we now have a slew of no-go results about realist interpretations of quantum theory, including Bell’s theorem, Kochen-Specker, and recent proofs of the reality of the quantum state,” BigThink quotes physicist Matthew S Leifer.
The existence of retrocausality also brings in the concept of time travel. The idea was popularized by American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, who said that if retrocausality exists, then one could move back and forth in time by changing the direction of the moving particles like positrons. And according to Leifer, an evidence of time travel could exist in the period of the Big Bang.
While the possibility of human beings ever becoming capable of traveling through time remains remote in our lifetime, there is a chance that it might be possible sometime in the future. And the study of quantum particles, their ability of phase transform at low particle counts, and the probable existence of retrocausality within the realm of quantum science might well be the foundation for cracking the code of time travel.