Sunday, November 11, 2007

Time within time, or how particles act like bees

Time flows, an instant goes away and is replaced by the next one, in a endless, silent, dull procession (at least, that is what our collective imaginary keeps repeating to us usque ad nauseam).

Pretty boring, right?

Unless... unless you can zoom into one of those instants, and find another time, a hidden time. After all, atoms of matter were thought of as indivisible only a little over one hundred years ago, and, as it turns out, they very very roomy; why should instants of time be any different?

Hidden time. A tantalizing hypothesis, and the basis of a fascinating model of Quantum Mechanics concocted by Pavel Kurakin and George Malinetskii, from the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics and the Russian Academy of Sciences (you can read an informal account here). Kurakin and Malinetskii have developed Cramer's transactional interpretation of QM, and gone a bit further. When a subatomic particle has to move, say from an emitting source to a detector, it sends out probing waves, like scout bees. Each goes its own way, hits the possible targets, and comes back. At the end, a global decision takes place, and the particle moves from one point to the next. This entire set of transactions happens in hidden time. In other words, before the particle has made up her mind, there is no time tick, at least as far as our physical clocks are concerned.

Intriguing, isn't it? A tacit assumption one always makes is that all phenomena occur within the same time scale. But there are other options. Perhaps what for me is a time tick, for you is an entire lifetime, or an eternity...

Yet another chapter in my book on Time.

1 comment:

Madra said...

Good for people to know.