Simulating Time Travel: Doctor Who Encounters Professor Heisenberg

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Researchers from University of Queensland have simulated time travel consuming light particles. Chief author and PhD student Martin Ringbauer, from UQ's School of Mathematics and Physics, said that the work was done by using photons, single particles of light, to simulate quantum particles roaming through time and examine their behavior, perhaps enlightening strange features of modern physics. Mr Ringbauer said "The question of time travel features at the interface between two of our most successful yet incompatible physical theories – Einstein's general relativity and quantum mechanics. Einstein's theory describes the world at the very large scale of stars and galaxies, while quantum mechanics is an excellent description of the world at the very small scale of atoms and molecules."

Space-time arrangement showing locked paths in space (horizontal) and time (vertical). A quantum particle journeys over a wormhole back in time and returns to the similar place in space and time. Credit: Martin Ringbauer

Einstein's theory proposes the option of travelling back in time by following a space-time pathway that proceeds to the initial point in space, but at an earlier time-a sealed time like curve.
This option has confused physicists and philosophers similarly as it was revealed by Kurt Gödel in 1949, it appears to origin paradoxes in the classical world, for example the grandparents paradox, where a time traveler might stop their grandparents from gathering, thus avoiding the time traveler’s birth. This would create it impossible for the time traveler to have departed in the firstly place. UQ Physics Professor Tim Ralph said it was projected in 1991 that time travel in the quantum world might duck this kind paradoxes. He said "The properties of quantum particles are 'fuzzy' or uncertain to start with, so this gives them enough wiggle room to avoid inconsistent time travel situations," Professor Ralph said there was no proof that nature acted in ways except standard quantum mechanics predicted, but this had not been verified in rules where great effects of general relativity played a role, such as nearby a black hole. "Our study provides insights into where and how nature might behave differently from what our theories predict."

Cases of the fascinating possibilities in the existence of closed timelike curves contain the violation of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, cracking of quantum cryptography and faultless duplicating of quantum states.

You can read the original Issued Paper in Nature Communications.

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