Freshening up from an all nighter with a triple espresso and a shower. Today’s going to be one of those days.
Just finished breaking bad. Can honestly say its the best series ever made. Goddamn.
Microscopic life in a single drop of pond water. Peter Matulavich/Science Photo Library. Source here (definitely watch).
BODIES & SKULLS
The New Cruelty is a unique creative production agency based in New York. - “A series of still-life images featuring preserved human skulls, bodies and various internal organs.”
Time is an illusion – at least in a toy model of the universe made of two particles of light. The experiment shows that what we perceive as the passage of time might emerge from the strange property of quantum entanglement. The finding could assist in solving the long-standing problem of how to unify modern physics.
Physicists have two ways of describing reality, quantum mechanics for the small world of particles and general relativity for the larger world of planets and black holes. But the two theories do not get along: attempts to combine their equations into a unified theory produce seemingly nonsensical answers. One early attempt in the 1960s was the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, which managed to quantise general relativity – by leaving out time altogether.
"It means that the universe should not evolve. But of course we see evolution," says Marco Genovese at the National Institute of Metrological Research in Torino, Italy.
In 1983 theorists Don Page and William Wootters suggested that quantum entanglement might provide a solution to the Wheeler-DeWitt "problem of time". When quantum objects are entangled, measuring the properties of one changes those of the other. Mathematically, they showed that a clock entangled with the rest of the universe would appear to tick when viewed by an observer within that universe. But if a hypothetical observer existed outside the universe, when they looked in, everything would appear stationary.
For the first time, Genovese and colleagues have demonstrated this effect in a physical system, albeit in a “universe” that contains only two photons. The team started by sending a pair of entangled photons along two separate paths. The photons start out polarised, or orientated, either horizontally or vertically, and the polarisation rotates as both photons pass though a quartz plate and on to a series of detectors.
The entangled photons exist in a superposition of both horizontal and vertical states simultaneously until they are observed. But the thicker the plate, the longer it takes the photons to pass through and the more their polarisation evolves, affecting the probability that either one will take a particular value.
In one mode of the experiment, one of the photons is treated like a clock with a tick that can alternate between horizontal and vertical polarisation. Because of entanglement, reading this clock will affect the polarisation value of the second photon. That means an observer that reads the clock influences the photons’ universe and becomes part of it. The observer is then able to gauge the polarisation value of the other photon based on quantum probabilities.
Since photons passing through a thicker quartz plate experience a different degree of change, repeating the experiment with plates of different thicknesses confirms that the second photon’s polarisation varies with time.
In another mode, the experimenter is a “super-observer” that exists outside of the universe, and so measures the quantum state of the system as a whole. From that vantage point, the state of both photons taken together is always the same, giving the appearance of a static universe.
"It’s very nice these people have done an experiment to illustrate this effect and show how in practice it can occur," says Page, who is now at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
But not everyone thinks the Wheeler-DeWitt equation is the correct route to unification of the quantum and classical worlds, says Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. “They have verified in the context of a laboratory system that quantum mechanics is working correctly,” he says. But Smolin argues that any correct description of the universe must include time.
Genovese acknowledges that the result does not cinch the issue. Instead, he sees the work as a hint that quantum equations can in some ways mesh with general relativity, offering hope for a unified theory. The next step will be moving beyond the toy universe and seeing whether a similar effect scales up to explain what we see on a cosmic level.
"It’s a visualisation of the phenomenon, it’s not a proof," Genovese says of the experiment. "You should look to the universe itself for that."
Journal reference: arxiv.org/abs/1310.4691
Author: Jacob Aron
Artist Fabian Oefner enjoys capturing both art and science in his work. In his latest series, “Orchid”, the blossom-like images are the result of splashes. He layered multiple colors of paint, ending with a top layer of black or white, then dropped a sphere into the paint. The images show how the colors mix and rebound, a delicate splash crown seen from above. The liquid sheet thickens at the rim and breaks up into ligaments from the instability of the crown’s edge. It makes for a remarkable demonstration of the effects of momentum and surface tension. Several of Oefner’s previous collections have appeared on FYFD (1, 2, 3). (Photo credit: F. Oefner)
Quantum Suicide and Immortality
It attempts to distinguish between the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and the Everett many-worlds interpretation by means of a variation of the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment, from the cat's point of view. Quantum immortality refers to the subjective experience of surviving quantum suicide regardless of the odds.
Quantum Suicide involves a life-terminating device and a device that measures the spin value of protons. Every 10 seconds, the spin value of a fresh proton is measured. Conditioned upon that quantum bit, the weapon is either deployed, killing the experimenter, or it makes an audible "click" and the experimenter survives. The theories are distinctive from the point of view of the experimenter only; their predictions are otherwise identical.
The probability of surviving the first iteration of the experiment is 50%, under both interpretations, as given by the squared norm of the wavefunction. At the start of the second iteration, if the Copenhagen interpretation is true, the wavefunction has already collapsed, so if the experimenter is already dead, there's a 0% chance of survival. However, if the many-worlds interpretation is true, a superposition of the live experimenter necessarily exists, regardless of how many iterations or how improbable the outcome. Barring life after death, it is not possible for the experimenter to experience having been killed, thus the only possible experience is one of having survived every iteration.
Spider Wasps - Pompilidae
If this whole natural history museum thing doesn’t work out for me, at least I’ll have enough inspirational fuel to write an alarmingly high number of science fiction novels. Case in point: the spider wasps of the family Pompilidae, an enormous family of wasps that contains over 5,000 species that all share the same nightmare-inducing behavior.
The lone adult spider wasp will seek out a spider - often times much larger than itself - and paralyze it via venom from its stinger. It then drags the still-living arachnid to a nest, like the specially constructed hut built by the mud dauber pictured above. The wasp will lay an egg directly on the paralyzed spider, which needs to remain alive to continue providing nutrition - but completely unable to move or scream or free itself - to sustain the wasp larvae after it hatches and as it develops.
So imagine being this poor spider, probably aware of what is going on to whatever level of consciousness you can assign a spider, trapped in an inescapable prison and doomed to having its life slowly drained from it by a greedy ectoparasitoid like the victim of a vampiric horror story.
Have a great Monday!
Even awesomer: HYPERPARSITES! I can see the bad Sy Fy movie now…
Awesome collection photos. Amazingly well-preserved larval mud-case. Terrifying creatures, but totally fascinating.