The Power of Time: How the Future Can Affect the Past

Posted on 12 July 2017
The Power of Time: How the Future Can Affect the Past

The concept of time and our understanding of it has developed dramatically over the millions of years of our existence. You only have to read one of our latest features to discover how ancient civilisations developed and adapted the separation of time that we still use today. However, a new theory has surfaced that could completely revolutionise the way we comprehend our relationship with time and fundamentally change our lives forever. The new and arguably bizarre, quantum theory suggests that the future can directly affect the past.

Standard quantum theory suggests that the particles that make up the universe do not own any definitive states until humans place measurable terms to them. When two particles interact with each other, the result is their entanglement on a quantum, sub-atomic level that stops them achieving their unique and individual possibilities.

The first description of this process is from no other than Albert Einstein who referred to it as a “spooky action at a distance”. This description aptly demonstrates that even though two particles are connected, they could be at two opposite ends of the universe through horizontally or vertically polarised relationships. Because distance does not play a part in their connection, researchers in the industry have been considering whether time is a defining factor in quantum mechanics.

At the moment, there is nothing in the law of physics that explains that time should move forward. Many physicists suggest that time could have even gone backwards from the Big Bang if things had worked out differently. The theory of particles going back in time to the point where they connect with another particle is referred to as ‘retrocausality’. This theory is something experts want to investigate further to see if this another rule ignored by quantum mechanics.

Two physicists at the forefront of this study are Matthew S Leifer, from the Chapman University in California, and Matthew F Pusey, who is from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics based in Ontario. They have based their theory upon adaptions from the Bell’s Theorem which explains the relationship between two particles. John Bell, a Northern Irish physicist, proved in 1964 that if particles possess definitive states, known also as ‘realism’, and that their signals do not travel faster than light (‘locality’) that there is ultimately a limit to the level of correlation to be observed between the states of the two particles. Using Bell’s theory, the pair has swapped the elements of space for time, and have stated that unless another physicist can prove that time only goes forward that the concept of retrocausality is a definite possibility, therefore a quantum particle can travel back in time to affect their connecting partner.

Talking about his conclusions, Dr Leifer stated: “The reason I think that retrocausality is worth investigating is that we now have a slew of no-go results about realist interpretations of quantum theory, including Bell’s theorem.”


Leifer added: “These say that any interpretation that fits into the standard framework for realist interpretations must have features that I would regard as undesirable. Therefore, the only options seem to be to abandon realism or to break out of the standard realist framework.”

Like many new and ground-breaking concepts, many experts do not believe the theory, perhaps because there is no concrete evidence to support it. However, we can expect in the years to come that many physicists will work towards providing the answers to the burning questions regarding the matter.

However, if this concept has been a little lost on you, just remember the saying of the late and great physicist Richard Feynman: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Whilst we do not have any clocks that track the backwards measurement of time, as we know it, we do have some fine antique clocks that stick to the traditional concept. Take a look at our online portfolio today.

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