Finding a direction of time in exotic particle transformations

Entangled B mesons show that time has an arrow on the smallest scales.

by Matthew Francis – Nov 19 2012, 12:00pm EST

Unlike our daily experience, the world of elementary particle physics is mostly symmetrical in time. Run the clock backward on your day and it won’t work; run the clock backward on a process in particle physics and things are just fine. However, to preserve certain fundamental aspects of space-time the Standard Model predicts that certain reversible events nevertheless have different probabilities, depending on which way they go. This time-reversal asymmetry is remarkably hard to observe in practice since it involves measurements of highly unstable particles.

New results from the BaBar detector at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) have uncovered this asymmetry in time. Researchers measured transformations of entangled pairs of particles, including the rates at which these transformations occurred. Through analyzing over 10 years of data, they found clear time-reversal asymmetry with an error of only one part in 10^43, a clear discovery by any standard. These results are a strong confirmation of predictions of the Standard Model, filling in one of the final missing details of that theory.

Read more: Finding a direction of time in exotic particle transformations | Ars Technica.

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