# Tag Info

38

The direction of the gravitational force would not change under time reversal. Your object would feel a force downward, just as it does usually. It might be easier to imagine you had a movie of an object under the influence of gravity. Drop the ball from rest some distance above the floor. You'll see it move downward and speed up. You'd interpret this as a ...

31

Good question. Let's first consider the ball falling immediately before it hits the table. Neglect friction with the air for simplicity. The ball has a velocity in the downward direction. If we reverse time, the ball is in the same position right above the table, but now it has an upward velocity. A ball with an upward velocity will rise with a negative ...

29

What do physicists mean by time? We’ll start with the easy question what do physicists mean by time. Note that it’s easy to get mixed up between the concepts of time and the flow of time. When non-physicists talk about time they usually mean the flow of time i.e. the fact that in the human experience time flows inexorably onwards (at one second per second)....

15

There is no mistake. The laws of physics themselves are reversible in time, but the solutions not necessarily so. Thus, the "behavior" of the universe itself does not show symmetry under time reversal, primarily due to the second law of thermodynamics. The second law is about the behavior of the solutions, is not a fundamental law in itself. In your specific ...

13

Hannesh, you are correct that the second law of thermodynamics only describes what is most likely to happen in macroscopic systems, rather than what has to happen. It is true that a system may spontaneously decrease its entropy over some time period, with a small but non-zero probability. However, the probability of this happening over and over again tends ...

11

One of the problems you will encounter is causality. Imagine you have a ball resting on the ground. Without already knowing how it behaved in the past you cannot uniquely define the next frame of your game. You cannot tell if the ball should: move upwards vertically. move upwards in any direction. roll on the ground towards any direction. do nothing. ...

10

Dear Jack, there is no physical phenomenon that could be called the collapse. The collapse of the wave function, as first emphasized by Werner Heisenberg and then many others, is just the event when we learn something about a physical property of a physical system. When we learn that Osama bin Laden is located in a building in Pakistan, his wave function - ...

9

Loschmidt's paradox is that the laws of thermodynamics are time asymmetric because entropy always increases, but the underlying laws of physics are symmetric under time reversal. It should not therefore be possible to derive the second law of thermodynamics from first principles. Opinions in the scientific community differ as to whether this has been ...

8

There are currently two different accounts that give a larger picture of what happens when a quantum system is measured. One of them is the fact that many random interactions between the system (which might be a 1-body or N-body quantum system) and the environment (which is considered for most purposes a pseudo-classical system with infinite degrees of ...

8

A scalar is defined to be invariant under transformations of the coordinate system. Thus, a vector in one dimension is not a scalar. Time is a "parameter", or a component of a 4-vector in special relativity. In classical mechanics, it is essentially a one-dimensional vector.

8

The expansion of the universe have no influence at all on smaller scales (small in this case means the size of galaxies). The universe expands but galaxies are held together by their gravity. If the universe would stop expanding and start to collapse the galaxies would keep on rotating, the stars would keep on turning nice, well ordered, nuclear enery into ...

8

The reasoning in the question is correct. If you have a box with gas particles placed in half of a box but otherwise uniformly random and with random velocities then it is overwhelmingly likely that it entropy will increase with time, but if reverse the velocities, you will still have randomly distributed velocities and the same argument will apply. By time ...

7

I think most people would say the paradox is resolved - but, as the answers to this question make clear, they wouldn't necessarily agree about who resolved it or what precisely the resolution is. For my money the paradox was elegantly resolved by Edwin Jaynes in this 1965 paper. In Jaynes' argument, the symmetry is broken by the fact that we, as ...

7

The laws of physics are time reversible, so a clock could tick backwards as well as forwards. However in our current low entropy universe it is vastly more probable that the clock ticks forwards. In a maximum entropy universe the probablility of a backwards tick would be identical to a forwards tick, so on average the clock time wouldn't change.

7

One may still describe the behavior of such a system at maximal entropy using a theory that does use the concept of time, or the time coordinate $t$. But it is true that operationally speaking, the passage of time ceases to exist because the equilibrium associated with the maximum entropy is incompatible with the existence of thinking observers. Note that ...

7

Is time reversible? Look at the stroboscopic photograph. Is the ball "falling up" or falling down? The answer is surely we don't know! A motion picture of this sort of sequence of the event could be run backward & would inevitably be impossible for the viewer to detect any violation of Newton's laws. A time-reversal changes both $t,v \to -t,-v$ ...

7

What is time? As Einstein said, time is what clocks measure. And if you take a look at what a clock actually does, if you open up a clock and take a cold scientific look at the empirical evidence, you will see cogs turning or a crystal oscillating. You will see that the clock features some kind of regular cyclical motion along with something like gears or ...

6

The summing over final states and the averaging over initial states is a good observation that I always emphasize as the origin of the arrow of time. As soon as one considers mathematical logic, this asymmetry has to arise. Why are we summing over final states? Because "we don't care" about which of them occurs (and no one knows). We're calculating the ...

6

The microscopic laws of physics are reversible or, to say the least, CPT-symmetric (processes are invariant if they're run backwards in time, in mirror, and with antiparticles). The CPT symmetry follows from the Lorentz symmetry. Langton's ant as well as pretty much any other Turing machine or cellular automaton fails to be microscopically reversible; that'...

6

It is a reasonable question at the elementary particle physics level , since the mathematical formulae of all the models we have are reversible as to time. It is in the thermodynamic manifestation of the laws that an arrow of time appears, and in special relativity which separates observations in timelike and spacelike regions. So it is one of those ...

5

We do all the "cross section business" because we want to predict results of experiments. Let's take for example some particle with two polarizations states: "+" and "-". You know that experimentalists will collide 1 000 000 pairs of particles, with polarisation of initial particles being unknown. Best thing you can do is to hope that in experiment ...

5

Contrary to the general tone of the answers I have read so far, I feel there are indeed real difficulties in quantum mechanics which fall under the general category of "collapse of the wave function". I think part of the problem is the tendency of people to talk in generalities instead of dealing with specific issues. I am therefore going to list a few of ...

5

I'm not sure if there's a definitive answer because I've seen it discussed recently at high level. I do think there's some broad agreement that entropy is important because it has an irreversible property: closed systems progress from low entropy states to higher entropy states. So we can define the passage of time more precisely by talking about increasing ...

5

Time seems to "pass" because it is not symmetric -- it is T symmetric. This is often called the "arrow of time." The arrow of time points in the direction of increasing entropy. More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_of_time The real question you are asking is why our minds perceive this direction...

5

You ask: From my studies in quantum mechanics, I don't remember any postulates stating anything like this, but this all makes sense to me. Are there any theories out there that go along these lines? Indeed there is such a theory. It's called decoherence. You mention the comparison with thermodynamics, and this is basically the same way decoherence ...

5

First of all, it's strange how the OP jumps from the Loschmidt "paradox" to dissipation. It makes it very unclear what he or she is actually asking because dissipation has no direct relationship to the Loschmidt "paradox" except that both of them are issues concerned with irreversibility in statistical physics or thermodynamics. The existence of dissipation ...

5

A scalar with a unit is a 1-dimensional (axial) vector; changing the basis corresponds to changing the unit. A number (without a unit) is not a 1-dimensional vector in the terminology used by physicists. However, it is a 1-dimensional vector in the terminology used in linear algebra.

5

It is important to distinguish between the time and the flow of time. The time, $t$, is just a coordinate like $x$, $y$ and $z$ that we use to specify points in spacetime. The time coordinate doesn't have an arrow any more than $x$, $y$ or $z$ have arrows. The time axis has a negative and positive direction, just like the spatial coordinates, but at normal ...

4

Just a few pointers for you to explore more on this. Check out Aharonov's paper the time symmetric formulation of quantum mechanics: http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9501011 Tony Leggett talks about this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGim9uzcumk It's a nice video and quite simple to understand.

Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible