SCIENTISTS have built the world’s first time machine — sort of.
Working with electrons in the bizarre realm of quantum mechanics, they first created the equivalent of a break for a game of pool.
Alamy The sub-atomic 'time machine' has a long way to go before you can climb into it like Dr. Who's Tardis
The “balls” scattered and, according to the laws of physics, should have appeared to split in a haphazard way.
But researchers managed to make them reform in their original order — looking as if they were turning back time.
Lead researcher Dr Gordey Lesovik, of Moscow’s Laboratory of the Physics of Quantum Information, said: “We have artificially created a state that evolves in a direction opposite to that of the thermodynamic arrow of time.”
His team used a rudimentary quantum computer, which carries information on subatomic particles. He hopes their findings, in journal Scientific Reports, will help improve processing power.
@tsarcyanide/MIPT Press Office Scientists were able to program a quantum computer to "reverse" through time – like balls returning to their starting position in a game of pool
Not quite Dr Who, but even Time Lords had to start somewhere . . .
So how does it work? Well the "time machine" is actually a rudimentary quantum computer made up of electron qubits.
A qubit is a the basic unit of quantum information – a unit that represents one, zero, and both one and zero at the same time.
Researchers ran an "evolution program", which caused the qubits to enter a complicated changing pattern of ones and zeroes.
And during this process, the order was lost – like hitting balls at the start of a game of pool.
A separeate program then modified the state of this quantum computer so that it evolved backwards, returning from chaos to order.
This allowed the qubits to return to their original starting point.
Scientists were able to perform this so-called "time reversal" successfully 85% of the time with two qubits, and had a 50% success rate with three qubits.
What is quantum computing
Quantum computing could use interactive photons, but what actually is it?
- Computer chips are getting smaller and faster, but there's a limit to how small we can go
- Quantum computing is a way to keep making computers faster once we hit the limit of normal computer chips
- It's based on the idea of using tiny particles that can exist in multiple random "states" at any one time
- Quantum bits (or qubits) in a quantum computer could be a one, a zero, or both at the same time
- Think of a giant pole running through the centre of the earth
- The pole would be in the middle, but also at both ends of the planet, simultaneously
- In this example, a qubit could be at any point of the planet, and at all points of the planet, at any given time
- That means a qubit could store huge amounts of information, because it has millions of possible "states"
- This means that a quantum computer would be able to perform complex tasks very quickly by utilising qubits
- Sadly, quantum computers are still very much a work-in-progress
- But scientists hope that by using tiny particles like photons, it would be possible to advance quantum computing research
Doc Brown shows Marty the flux capacitor in the time travelling DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future II
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What's your favourite science fact? Let us know in the comments!