Time Reversal 2

Lessons from the Light, 5.3

They found that T is indeed violated.

All perfectly fine and glorious. The pet peeve only comes up in the sub-headline of the SLAC press release: “Time’s quantum arrow has a preferred direction, new analysis shows.” Colorful language rather than precise statement, to be sure, but colorful language that is extremely misleading.

“Time’s arrow,” in the sense that the phrase is conventionally used (by the kind of folks who would conventionally use such a phrase), refers to the myriad ways in which the past is different from the future in our macroscopic experiential reality. Entropy increases with time; … This new measurement in the B meson system — indeed, the entire phenomenon of T violation — has absolutely nothing to do with that arrow of time.

The reason is pretty simple to understand. The arrow of time centers on the concept of irreversibility — things happen in one direction of time but not the other. You can scramble eggs, but not unscramble them, etc. That’s not at all what’s going on in the B mesons. The oscillations between different types of meson happen perfectly well in both directions of time, just with ever-so-slightly different rates.

The particle-physics processes in question, in other words, are perfectly reversible. Information is not lost over time; you can figure out exactly what the quantum state used to be by knowing what it is now. (It’s “unitary,” to use the jargon word.) That’s utterly different from the macroscopic arrow of time.

— Time-Reversal Violation Is Not the “Arrow of Time”

— Sean Carroll

2014.06.13 Friday ACHK