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Scientists create ‘time machine’ that rivals Doctor Who’s TARDIS

It’s the subject of many science-fiction blockbusters, but now time travel could be set to become a reality.

Researchers have developed what could loosely be described as a time machine.

In a Doctor Who-style experiment, researchers from Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology defied the second law of thermodynamics, which governs the direction of ‘time’s arrow’ from past to future.

To develop the machine, the researchers worked with electrons in the weird realm of quantum mechanics, allowing them to achieve the equivalent of causing a broken rack of pool balls to re-order itself.

It was as if the balls scattered randomly around a pool table went into reverse and packed themselves back into their original pyramid formation.

To an outside observer, it looks as if time is running backwards.

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Tardis

Lead researcher Dr Gordey Lesovik, who heads the Laboratory of the Physics of Quantum Information at the Moscow Institute of Physics & Technology (MIPT), said: "We have artificially created a state that evolves in a direction opposite to that of the thermodynamic arrow of time."

The "time machine" described in the journal Scientific Reports consists of a rudimentary quantum computer made up of electron "qubits".

A qubit is a unit of information described by a "one", a "zero", or a mixed "superposition" of both states.

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In the experiment an "evolution program" was launched which caused the qubits to become an increasingly complex changing pattern of zeros and ones.

During this process, order was lost – just as it is when the pool balls are struck and scattered with a cue.

Another program then modified the state of the quantum computer in such a way that it evolved "backwards", from chaos to order.

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

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

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The scientists found that, working with just two qubits, "time reversal" was achieved with a success rate of 85%.

When three qubits were involved more errors occurred, resulting in a 50% success rate.

The experiment could have a practical application in the development of quantum computers, the scientists said.

"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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