‘Arrow of time’ reversed in quantum experiment | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Help us keep you informed.

Real Science. Real News.


News

‘Arrow of time’ reversed in quantum experiment

But the second law of thermodynamics still holds true

By
7:00am, November 27, 2017

TURN BACK TIME  In a quantum experiment, scientists reversed the arrow of time, the idea that natural processes run in one direction in time.

Your lukewarm cup of coffee won’t suddenly heat itself up, no matter how long you put off the trek to the microwave. But the same rule doesn’t necessarily apply to quantum systems. Like chilly air warming a mug, heat can spontaneously flow from a cold quantum particle to a hotter one under certain conditions, researchers report November 10 at arXiv.org. This phenomenon seems to reverse the “arrow of time,” the idea that natural processes run forward but not in reverse (SN: 7/25/15, p. 15).

The existence of an arrow follows from the second law of thermodynamics. The law states that entropy, or disorder, tends to increase over time. That rule explains why it’s easy to shatter a glass but hard to put it back together, and why heat spontaneously flows from hot to cold but not the opposite direction.

The new result, however, &ldquo

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content