Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, September 01, 2012

So, Time Really Does Go Forward?

The Economist - September 1, 2012

TIME seems to flow inexorably in one direction. Superficially, that is because things deteriorate with age—and this, in turn, is because there are innumerably fewer ways to arrange particles in an orderly fashion than in a jumbled mess. Any change in an existing arrangement is therefore likely to increase its disorder.

Dig a little deeper, though, and time’s arrow becomes mysterious. A particle cannot, by itself, become disordered, so when you examine its behaviour in isolation the past and the future are hard to distinguish. If you film its movement and then give the film to someone else, he will not be able to work out just from the particle’s behaviour which way to run the film through the projector. Essentially, the two ways of doing so are symmetrical. Or so physicists used to think until hints to the contrary emerged in the 1960s. Now a group of researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, near Stanford University in California, have found the first physical evidence that backs those indications up.

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