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"Entangled toy universe shows time may be an illusion"

26.10.13

 

 The team started by sending a pair of entangled photons along two separate paths. The photons start out polarised, or orientated, either horizontally or vertically, and the polarisation rotates as both photons pass though a quartz plate and on to a series of detectors.

The entangled photons exist in a superposition of both horizontal and vertical states simultaneously until they are observed. But the thicker the plate, the longer it takes the photons to pass through and the more their polarisation evolves, affecting the probability that either one will take a particular value.

In one mode of the experiment, one of the photons is treated like a clock with a tick that can alternate between horizontal and vertical polarisation. Because of entanglement, reading this clock will affect the polarisation value of the second photon. That means an observer that reads the clock influences the photons' universe and becomes part of it. The observer is then able to gauge the polarisation value of the other photon based on quantum probabilities.

Since photons passing through a thicker quartz plate experience a different degree of change, repeating the experiment with plates of different thicknesses confirms that the second photon's polarisation varies with time.

In another mode, the experimenter is a "super-observer" that exists outside of the universe, and so measures the quantum state of the system as a whole. From that vantage point, the state of both photons taken together is always the same, giving the appearance of a static universe.

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