The flow of time, sometimes referred to as the “arrow of time,” is a source of debate, especially among physicists. Most physicists argue that time can only move in one direction based on “causality” (i.e., the relationship between cause and effect). The causality argument goes something like this: every event in the future is the result of some cause, another event, in the past. This appears to make perfect sense, and it squares with our everyday experience. However, experiments within the last several years appear to argue reverse causality is possible. Reverse causality means the future can and does influence the past. For example, in reverse causality, the outcome of an experiment is determined by something that occurs after the experiment is done. The future is somehow able to reach into the past and affect it. Are you skeptical? Skepticism is healthy, especially in science. Let us discuss this reverse causality experiment.

In 2009, physicist John Howell of the University of Rochester and his colleagues devised an experiment that involved passing a laser beam through a prism. The experiment also involved a mirror that moved in extremely small increments via its attachment to a motor. When the laser beam was turned on, part of the beam passed through the prism, and part of the beam bounced off the mirror. After the beam was reflected by the mirror, the Howell team used “weak measurements” (i.e., measurement where the measured system is weakly affected by the measurement device) to measure the angle of deflection. With these measurements, the team was able to determine how much the mirror had moved. This part of the experiment is normal, and in no way suggests reverse causality. However, the Howell team took it to the next level, and this changed history, literally. Here is what they did. They set up two gates to make the reflected mirror measurements. After passing the beam through the first gate, the experimenters always made a measurement. After passing it through the second gate, the experimenters measured the beam only a portion of the time. If they chose not to make the measurement at the second gate, the amplitude of the deflected angle initially measured at the first gate was extremely small. If they chose to make the measurement at the second gate, the deflected angle initially measured at the first gate was amplified by a factor of 100. Somehow, the future measurement influenced the amplitude of the initial measurement. Your first instinct may be to consider this an experimental fluke, but it is not. Physicists Onur Hosten and Paul Kwiat, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, using a beam of polarized light, repeated the experiment. Their results indicated an even larger amplification factor, in the order of 10,000.

The above experimental results raise questions about the “arrow of time.” It appears that under certain circumstances, the arrow of time can point in either direction, and time can flow in either direction, forward or backward. This is a scientific result, and I am not going to speculate about religious connotations, free will, and the like. Obviously, there are numerous religious connotations possible and a plethora of associated questions.

Source: How to Time Travel (2013), Louis A. Del Monte