Thursday, June 14, 2007

Public Donates Thousands To Fund Backward-In-Time Experiments

NASA didn't want to know, neither did a special research unit of the Pentagon, but the members of the public want to find out whether or not an American physicist can actually prove that travelling back in time is a reality. And they put their money behind their curiosity, funding the radical research project with more than $35,000 in donations.

A rocket scientist has kicked in money, so has a chemist, an artist, a computer programmer and a Las Vegas music mogul.

Albert Einstein said it was impossible to travel backwards or forwards in time, but he would have stuck to that belief, wouldn't he? For even a particle to make such a journey would have gone against the rules of his greatest claim to fame : the theory of relativity.

But to prove that it is possible to go backwards in time doesn't necessarily mean that Einstein was wrong.

A University of Washington scientist believes it might just be possible for "light particles to act in reverse time". It's not a completely radical idea, quantum physics, and scientific observations, have already shown it is possible.

From the Seattle Post Intelligencer :

Cramer, a physicist, for decades has been interested in resolving a fundamental paradox of quantum mechanics, the theory that accounts for the behavior of matter and energy at subatomic levels. It's called the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox.

It was set up by Albert Einstein (and two other guys named Rosen and Podolsky) in the 1930s to try to prove the absurdity of quantum theory. Einstein didn't like quantum theory, especially one aspect of it he ridiculed as "spooky action at a distance" because it seemed to require subatomic particles interacting faster than the speed of light.

However, experimental evidence has continued to pile up demonstrating the spooky action. Two subatomic particles split from a single particle do somehow instantaneously communicate no matter how far apart they get in space and time. The phenomenon is described as "entanglement" and "non-local communication."

For example, one high-energy photon split by a prism into two lower-energy photons could travel into space and separate by many light years. If one of the photons is somehow forced up, the other photon -- even if impossibly distant -- will instantly tilt down to compensate and balance out both trajectories.

As the evidence for this has accumulated, several fairly contorted and unsatisfying efforts have been aimed at solving the puzzle. Cramer has proposed an explanation that doesn't violate the speed of light but does kind of mess with the traditional concept of time.

"It could involve signaling, or communication, in reverse time," he said.

He has proposed a relatively simple bench-top experiment using lasers, prisms, splitters, fiber-optic cables and other gizmos to first see if he can detect "non-local" signaling between entangled photons. He hopes to get it going in July. If this succeeds, he hopes to get support from "traditional funding sources" to really scale up and test for photons communicating in reverse time.

"I'm not crazy," he confirmed. "I don't know if this experiment will work, but I can't see why it won't. People are skeptical about this, but I think we can learn something, even if it fails."

Cramer said it's possible that the primary goal of his experiment could fail and yet still produce something of value. Some new subtlety about the nature of entanglement could be revealed, he said, even if the photons don't engage in measurable non-local communication. The "disentanglement" itself, he said, could be quite revealing.

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