Scientists 'reverse time' with quantum computers in breakthrough study

Move over Doctor Who: Physicists create a ‘time machine’

Move over Doctor Who: Physicists create a ‘time machine’

But scientists think that, at least for a single electron or the simplest quantum computer, they may be able to turn back time, and restore order to chaos.

Although scientists have yet to replicate the futuristic scenes of The Jetsons or the 1985 sci-fi classic Back to the Future, researchers from Moscow's Institute of Physics and Technology partnered with scientists in the USA and Switzerland to "experimentally demonstrate time reversal - sending a qubit from a more complicated state to a simpler one", writes Newsweek. In the report, the scientists also determined the "probability that an electron in empty interstellar space will randomly travel back into its recent past", Phys.org noted.

(Web Desk) - Scientists have reversed the direction of time with a quantum computer, in a breakthrough study that seems to contradict the basic laws of physics.

The study's lead author Gordey Lesovik said, "This is one in a series of papers on the possibility of violating the second law of thermodynamics".

In an experiment that would have challenged Doctor Who, researchers defied the second law of thermodynamics, which governs the direction of "time's arrow" from past to future.

"We began by describing a so-called local perpetual motion machine of the second kind".

However, imagine that someone has recorded a cue ball breaking the pyramid, the billiard balls scattering in all directions. This doesn't mean we'll be visiting with dinosaurs or Napoleon any time soon, but for physicists, the idea that time can run backward at all is still a pretty big deal. "This is practically equivalent to the increasing disorder in a large scale system, for example, a billiard table-because of the second law of thermodynamics".

Quantum physicists from MIPT made a decision to check if time could spontaneously reverse itself at least for an individual particle and for a tiny fraction of a second. "The laws of quantum mechanics prevent us from knowing it with absolute precision, but we can outline a small region where the electron is localized", says study co-author Andrey Lebedev from MIPT and ETH Zurich. Although this phenomenon is not observed in nature, it could theoretically happen due to a random fluctuation in the cosmic microwave background permeating the universe.

It may not quite be the Tardis, but scientists have built what could loosely be described as a time machine.

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Qubits are units of information which are described by a "one", a "zero", or a mixed "superposition" of both states. It worked out that across over the entire lifetime of the universe-13.7 billion years-observing 10 billion freshly localized electrons consistently, the reverse evolution of the particle's state would just happen once.

The experiment saw an "evolution program" launched which essentially muddled up all the information of the qubits until order was lost, creating chaos or "entropy".

An analogy would be giving the pool table such a perfectly calculated kick that the balls roll back into an orderly pyramid.

The scientists have found that working with only two qubits makes time reversal more achievable with a success rate of 85 per cent but when more than two qubits are involved, the chances of it forming a time reversal modified pattern lessens to 50 per cent.

The state of the qubits was rewound back to its original starting point.

With time, scientists and researchers are hoping to use better devices to reduce discrepancies in results.

"Another fundamental question is whether it is possible at all to design a quantum algorithm that would perform time-reversal more efficiently".

"Our algorithm could be updated and used to test programs written for quantum computers and eliminate noise and errors", said Dr Lesovik.

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