We’ve all heard of the “consequences of our actions,” where something in our past somehow brings about something in our future. Another common way to look at it is through the eyes of sowing seeds. It is true that you reap what your sow. Some scientists believe it can also be the reverse. They call retrocausality what means that your future actions somehow affect the past.
It seems crazy and perhaps even outlandish to believe that our actions in the future could influence the past. Many scientists are now starting to pay more attention to the idea of retrocausality, and its meaning. It’s a bit of a mind-bending twisty, turny way of thinking, but does that make it inherently incorrect?
According to Kenneth Wharton, who recently co-authored an article on the subject, looking at how the future affects the past could help answer some nagging questions scientists have struggled with in quantum physics. These problems exist on the tiniest scale of atoms, but they can still have a great deal of influence on the world around them. Understanding how retrocausality affects that, though, isn’t exactly easy.
Research into this insane-sounding phenomenon has appeared in journals like Foundations of Physics, where scientists can really try to break down the fundamentals of what holds our world together. It seems that the quantum realm is not governed by classical physics principles. Why should we exclude the possibility of retrocausality?
Some of the big differences we see between the quantum realm and our own is how quantum objects can often become synced up in what scientists call quantum entanglement. Despite being light-years apart, these objects appear to act on the same timeline. Many of our beliefs about the universe are thrown into disarray by quantum entanglement.
For many scientists, understanding this phenomenon requires us to “kill” one of our most treasured physics ideals. Some believe that locality is the ideal, which states objects should not be able interact with each other at large distances without a mediator. Others want to kill the idea of “realism.” For Wharton and others, though, retrocausality seems to be the answer that holds it all together.
Emily Adlam, who studies retrocausality as a postdoctoral associate at Western University’s Rotman Institute of Philosophy, told Motherboard that an argument exists that retrocausality could help make sense of quantum mechanics in a time-symmetric way.
Studying quantum mechanics has allowed us to uncover many new truths, including the existence of time reflections. But, proving the part that retrocausality plays in the quantum realm could help reshape everything we understand about cause and effect.
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