Quantum physics and perception
Time is an emergent phenomenon that is a side effect of quantum entanglement, say physicists. And they have the first experimental results to prove it. Many paradoxes get clarified now and we get a deeper understanding of our existence and the meaning of the Koran.
When the new ideas of quantum mechanics spread through science like wildfire in the first half of the 20th century, one of the first things physicists did was to apply them to gravity and general relativity. The results were not pretty.
It immediately became clear that these two foundations of modern physics were entirely incompatible. When physicists attempted to meld the approaches, the resulting equations were bedeviled with infinities making it impossible to make sense of the results.
Then in the mid-1960s, there was a breakthrough. The physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt successfully combined the previously incompatible ideas in a key result that has since become known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. This is important because it avoids the troublesome infinites-a huge advance.
But it didn't take physicists long to realise that while the Wheeler-DeWitt equation solved one significant problem, it introduced another. The new problem was that time played no role in this equation. In effect, it says that nothing ever happens in the universe, a prediction that is clearly at odds with the observational evidence.
This conundrum, which physicists call 'the problem of time', has proved to be thorn in flesh of modern physicists, who have tried to ignore it but with little success.
Then in 1983, the theorists Don Page and William Wootters came up with a novel solution based on the quantum phenomenon of entanglement. This is the exotic property in which two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated.
Entanglement is a deep and powerful link and Page and Wootters showed how it can be used to measure time. Their idea was that the way a pair of entangled particles evolve is a kind of clock that can be used to measure change.
But the results depend on how the observation is made. One way to do this is to compare the change in the entangled particles with an external clock that is entirely independent of the universe. This is equivalent to god-like observer outside the universe measuring the evolution of the particles using an external clock.
In this case, Page and Wootters showed that the particles would appear entirely unchanging-that time would not exist in this scenario.
But there is another way to do it that gives a different result. This is for an observer inside the universe to compare the evolution of the particles with the rest of the universe. In this case, the internal observer would see a change and this difference in the evolution of entangled particles compared with everything else is an important a measure of time.
This is an elegant and powerful idea. It suggests that time is an emergent phenomenon that comes about because of the nature of entanglement. And it exists only for observers inside the universe. Any god-like observer outside sees a static, unchanging universe, just as the Wheeler-DeWitt equations predict.
Of course, without experimental verification, Page and Wootter's ideas are little more than a philosophical curiosity. And since it is never possible to have an observer outside the universe, there seemed little chance of ever testing the idea.
Until now. Today, Ekaterina Moreva at the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) in Turin, Italy, and a few pals have performed the first experimental test of Page and Wootters' ideas. And they confirm that time is indeed an emergent phenomenon for 'internal' observers but absent for external ones.
The experiment involves the creation of a toy universe consisting of a pair of entangled photons and an observer that can measure their state in one of two ways. In the first, the observer measures the evolution of the system by becoming entangled with it. In the second, a god-like observer measures the evolution against an external clock which is entirely independent of the toy universe.
The experimental details are straightforward. The entangled photons each have a polarisation which can be changed by passing it through a birefringent plate. In the first set up, the observer measures the polarisation of one photon, thereby becoming entangled with it. He or she then compares this with the polarisation of the second photon. The difference is a measure of time.
In the second set up, the photons again both pass through the birefringent plates which change their polarisations. However, in this case, the observer only measures the global properties of both photons by comparing them against an independent clock.
In this case, the observer cannot detect any difference between the photons without becoming entangled with one or the other. And if there is no difference, the system appears static. In other words, time does not emerge.
"Although extremely simple, our model captures the two, seemingly contradictory, properties of the Page-Wootters mechanism," say Moreva and co.
That's an impressive experiment. Emergence is a popular idea in science. In particular, physicists have recently become excited about the idea that gravity is an emergent phenomenon. So it's a relatively small step to think that time may emerge in a similar way.
What emergent gravity has lacked, of course, is an experimental demonstration that shows how it works in in practice. That's why Moreva and co's work is significant. It places an abstract and exotic idea on firm experimental footing for the first time.
Perhaps most significant of all is the implication that quantum mechanics and general relativity are not so incompatible after all. When viewed through the lens of entanglement, the famous 'problem of time' just melts away.
Indeed it is an impressive experiment. An experiment which clarifies many paradoxes! We can better understand now why from God's point of view everything is already pre-ordained, but us, who are living inside creation, have a free will nonetheless and are consequently held responsible for our deeds.
We can understand now, why there exists this quarrel between so called "creationist" and adherers of the evolution theory. The creationists, who base their opinion on their revealed sources, accuse the adherers of the evolution theory of blasphemy and evil conspiracy, whereas the creationists are commonly viewed as fanatic religious fools. We could tell them now: "Please calm down! It is all a matter of perception! Indeed, from God's point of view creation is really one unity and everything directly created, but for us, who are inside of the creation, it appears as evolution."
But before we try to interfere in this debate, we should ask ourselves: Are really both perceptions true and equally valid? What does the Koran say?
Have they not pondered upon themselves? Allah created not the heavens and the earth,
and that which is between them, save with truth and for a destined end.
But truly many of mankind are disbelievers in the meeting with their Lord.
God says He has created the world with truth. Then how can He say in a different verse:
And in the Hereafter there is grievous punishment,
and [also] forgiveness from Allah and His good pleasure,
whereas the life of the world is but matter of illusion.
We see that God defines the life of this world, meaning the creation viewed from our point of perception, as an illusion, but not the creation as such! And surely God as absolute reality has the right perception and not us! But what is wrong with our perception?
Many Muslims (myself included) had difficulties in understanding, how God first created the world, established Adam as khalifah, but 'deported' him then because of his sin down to our world. Are there actually two worlds, one is the present one, the other lies in a spiritual sphere? But now it seems to become clear:
The creation is the same! Only our perception has changed because of eating the fruit of knowledge! The whole world as we perceive it now and hold for reality, exists only in this form, because we look at it and gain knowledge! If we would not look at reality, time would not exists, as time only emerges, when we look at reality!
But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the [happy] state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. [al-Baqarah 36]
A state without time would be pure existence, pure being! It would be pure life!
It will most probably not take long until quantum physics tells us that beside time also space is an ,emergent phenomena'! If two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated!
Professor Robert Lanza from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina indeed declares that life created the universe and not vice cersa, and that consciousness determines the shape and size of an object. He calls his theory biocentrism and says, time and space are merely tools of our mind. Once we accept that space and time are 'tools of our minds', death can't exist in 'any real sense' either in a world without spatial or linear borders.
Lanza cited the famous double-slit experiment to backup his claims.
In the experiment, when scientists watch a particle pass through two slits in a barrier, the particle behaves like a bullet and goes through one slit or the other.
Yet if a person doesn't watch the particle, it acts like a wave. This means it can go through both slits at the same time.
This demonstrates that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles, and that behaviour of the particle changes based on a person's perception and consciousness.
This explains many things, e.g. why prophets and saints can cause miracles. They just watch at reality different as the common man.
But first of all it seems to show that we have descended from a state of pure life and pure being into a world of time and space! The eating of the fruit of knowledge has created space-time in the first place!
And Allah knows best!