Why does time only go in one direction? And why is the future so different from the past? They seem obvious questions, but they have troubled scientists for over a century. A new theory has proposed an answer — that time doesn’t run just one way, and that there is another universe, a mirror of ours, where time runs backwards.
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That’s what a team of scientists argue, including Julian Barbour of the University of Oxford, Tim Koslowski of the University of New Brunswick and Flavio Mercati of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Ultimately, they found that, regardless of size and amount, every configuration of particles would evolve into what’s known as a low-complexity scale. They then expand outward in both directions, creating two different, and opposite “arrows of time”.
“Along each of the two temporal paths, gravity then pulls the particles into larger, more ordered and complex structures — the model’s equivalent of galaxy clusters, stars and planetary systems. From there, the standard thermodynamic passage of time can manifest and unfold on each of the two divergent paths.
Explaining the model as a swarm of bees, Dr Barbour says that as time increases, the universe moves from an initial chaotic ‘swarm of bees’ to a more structured and ordered cosmos. ‘If you look at a simple model with a swarm of bees in the middle [the Big Bang] but breaking up in either direction, then you would say there are two arrows of time, pointing in opposite directions from the swarm of bees,’ he said. ‘If you define time as the direction in which order is increasing, you always get two arrows in opposite direction from the central chaotic region.’
However, he notes much more work needs to be done in looking at how time works. “This is opening up a completely new way to think about a fundamental problem, the nature of the arrow of time and the origin of the second law of thermodynamics.
“But really we’re just investigating a new aspect of Newton’s gravitation, which hadn’t been noticed before. Who knows what might flow from this with further work and elaboration?”
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