If you thought that you saw a headline recently that talked about reversing time, don’t panic – you were not seeing things. That was an actual study.
If you remember your thermodynamic class in college, then you know that our universe is getting messier and messier by the minute. Just like a dust storm or sand storm, particles keep running amok through our galaxies. In this case, we know that this mess in the universe can only flow in one direction – and this is toward more disorder and more chaos, and it flows one way because it is time-dependent.
Can Time Really Be Turned Back?
However, scientists have recently believed they could possibly turn back time – at least for one lone electron or with a simple quantum computer. And by doing so, they could possibly restore some order back to the chaos. This is not to say that people will be visiting Julius Caesar or Abraham Lincoln, but it is still a very big deal for physicists.
Altering time means that we are trying to go against the second law of thermodynamics. This law simply states that the universe “can only move from a more ordered state to a more chaotic state over time”. It is said that the “entropy” of our universe increases with time. Entropy is defined as chaos or disorder.
Thus, science tells us that the entropy of our universe can only increase – it can never decrease. But there is a global team of scientists that are being led by scientific researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology who believe they have found a loophole in this long-standing scientific law.
They set out to find out by designing an experiment that used one of IBM‘s ordinary and basic public quantum computer programs. This program uses two qubits – which as two units that can be either a zero or a one – just like a normal computer bit. But different from normal computer bits, qubits are able to occupy a form that is known as a superposition – which is when they are both zero and one simultaneously. This allows them to observe the laws of quantum mechanics, which are physical laws that the micro-world of atoms and electrons live by.
The researchers set up the quantum computer where each of the two qubits was set at zero. In accordance with quantum laws, as time passes, the computer will fall out of this initial order. This means that the two qubits will soon exhibit a random combination of zeros, ones, or both. But scientists are able to make this occur by running a program on this basic, 2-qubit quantum computer.
However, the scientists chose to run a different program, which told the computer to flow or run “backward.” Then they ran that first program once again and recovered that initial zero-zero setting around 85% of the time. The research team posted these findings in Scientific Reports.
The vital portion of this entire process was getting the quantum computer to run backward, which in essence, makes time flow backward. Scientists tested this in the real world by isolating a lone electron and calculating the time required for random perturbations in the universe to create this effect. They discovered that if they were to study as many as 10 billion electrons each second, it would still take the entire lifetime of the universe to witness this phenomenon just one time.
This is why you will never see a group of glass shards form back together into the unbroken mirror they once belonged to. We all know that the mirror will always break into many pieces when dropped – thus, obeying the second law of thermodynamics to increase entropy in our universe.