A Growing Number of Scientists Are Convinced the Future Influences the Past
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard:
Have you ever found yourself in a self-imposed jam and thought, “Well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions”? It’s a common refrain that exposes a deeper truth about the way we humans understand time and causality. Our actions in the past are correlated to our experience of the future, whether that’s a good outcome, like acing a test because you prepared, or a bad one, like waking up with a killer hangover. But what if this forward causality could somehow be reversed in time, allowing actions in the future to influence outcomes in the past? This mind-bending idea, known as retrocausality, may seem like science fiction grist at first glance, but it is starting to gain real traction among physicists and philosophers, among other researchers, as a possible solution to some of the most intractable riddles underlying our reality.
In other words, people are becoming increasingly “retro-curious,” said Kenneth Wharton, a professor of physics at San Jose State University who has published research about retrocausality, in a call with Motherboard. Even though it may feel verboten to consider a future that affects the past, Wharton and others think it could account for some of the strange phenomena observed in quantum physics, which exists on the tiny scale of atoms.
“We have instincts about all sorts of things, and some are stronger than others,” said Wharton, who recently co-authored an article about retrocausality with Huw Price, a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Bonn and an emeritus fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. “I’ve found our instincts of time and causation are our deepest, strongest instincts that physicists and philosophers — and humans — are loath to give up,” he added. Scientists, including Price, have speculated about the possibility that the future might influence the past for decades, but the renewed curiosity about retrocausality is driven by more recent findings about quantum mechanics. […] While there are a range of views about the mechanics and consequences of retrocausal theories, a growing community of researchers think this concept has the potential to answer fundamental questions about the universe.
“The problem facing physics right now is that our two pillars of successful theories don’t talk to each other,” Wharton explained. “One is based in space and time, and one has left space and time aside for this giant quantum wave function.”
“The solution to this, as everyone seems to have agreed without discussing it, is that we’ve got to quantize gravity,” he continued. “That’s the goal. Hardly anyone has said, ‘what if things really are in space and time, and we just have to make sense of quantum theory in space and time’? That will be a whole new way to unify everything that people are not looking into.”
Price agreed that this retrocausality could provide a new means to finally “eliminate the tension” between quantum mechanics and classical physics (including special relativity). “Another possible big payoff is that retrocausality supports the so-called ‘epistemic’ view of the wave function in the usual quantum mechanics description — the idea that it is just an encoding of our incomplete knowledge of the system,” he continued. “That makes it much easier to understand the so-called collapse of the wave function, as a change in information, as folk such as Einstein and Schoedinger thought, in the early days. In this respect, I think it gets rid of some more of the (apparently) non-classical features of quantum mechanics, by saying that they don’t amount to anything physically real.”