- This is based on strange way quantum states are affected when observed
- In Schrödinger’s cat experiment, a cat in a box, whose fate is decided by subatomic particles, is both alive and dead until someone looks at it
- According to two U.S. scientists, the same thing could happen to the universe, causing an irreversible shift in the universe’s energy
- Some scientists think universe is overdue for a quantum energy change
- If shift occurs, it won’t exceed the speed of light, so we’ll see it coming
UPDATED: 08:59 EST, 5 February 2014
Knowledge is power – or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe.
But knowing too much could accidentally trigger a countdown to Armageddon, according to a two U.S. physicists.
The scientific theory suggests we may have nudged the universe closer to its death just by looking at it.
U.S. researchers argue that continuous observation of the universe might put it into a state that will destroy us
HOW DO WE AFFECT THE UNIVERSE?
The double-slit experiment reveals how the very act of looking can change the behaviour of a particle.
In the experiment, when scientists shoot a single particle towards a barrier with two slits, the particle behaves like a bullet and travels through one slit or the other.
Yet if no-one watches the particle, it moves in a wave-like pattern.
This means, bizarre as it sounds, that the particle can travel through both slits at the same time.
This demonstrates that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles, and that the behaviour of the particle changes based on a person’s perception and consciousness.
Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and colleague James Dent, claim that astronomers have sped up the process over the past two decades.
This is because they’ve dared to measure dark energy, the mysterious force that is driving galaxies apart.
The researchers, who first proposed their idea in 2007, argue that continuous observation of the universe might put it into a state that will destroy us all.
Their theory relates to a strange property of quantum physics which controls the behaviour of subatomic particles and possibly the whole universe.
The good news is that if we stop looking, the universe could shift to a state at which its decay much slower
SCHRODINGER’S CAT EXPERIMENT
Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment created by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935.
In the hypothetical experiment a cat is placed in a sealed box next to a radioactive sample, a Geiger counter and a bottle of poison.
If the Geiger counter detects that the radioactive material has decayed, it will trigger the smashing of the bottle of poison and the cat will be killed.
The experiment was designed to show the flaws in something known as the ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ of quantum mechanics.
This states that a particle exists in all states at once until observed.
If the Copenhagen interpretation suggests the radioactive material can have simultaneously decayed and not decayed in the sealed environment, then it follows the cat too is both alive and dead until the box is opened.
Quantum systems can shift a particle’s energy state at random, for example, when a radioactive atom decays.
Some scientists think the universe is overdue for a quantum energy shift that would cause everything to cease to exist at any moment.
If a collapse occurs, it won’t exceed the speed of light, so we’ll probably see it coming, according to Esther Inglis-Arkell at iO9.
The reason for a collapse, says Professor Krauss, has to do with the strange way quantum states are affected by someone looking at it.
In the Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment, a cat in a box whose fate is decided by subatomic particles is both alive and dead until someone lifts the lid and observes it.
Only then is the cat discovered to be either ‘alive’ or ‘dead’.
According to a law known as the ‘quantum Zeno effect’, whenever we observe or measure something at the quantum level we set its decay clock back to zero.
The physicists calculated that observing the effects of dark energy may have reset the universe’s decay clock.
The good news is if we stop looking, the universe could shifts to a state at which its decay much slower.
The same concept applies to the start of the universe. Professor Kraus recently told Radcliffe magazine that the universe sprang from nothing.
He says we just happen to live in a universe with the right set of laws to support human life – we wouldn’t exist otherwise.
‘The answer to the question, why is there something rather than nothing, is really quite simple,’ Professor Krauss said. ‘Just wait, there won’t be for long.’
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Categories: Quantum Science