US prof plans to send message back in time
Unaccountably fails to get DARPA funding
A West Coast scientist who believes it may be possible to transmit information backwards through time has been funded by individual donations after established mad-scientist groups refused to cough up.
John Cramer, a physicist at the University of Washington, reckons that "quantum retrocausality" could "involve signalling, or communication, in reverse time."
The El Reg science desk passed this one over to us at the engineering-degree-a-long-time-ago desk, and all we really know about quantum is that it's pretty wild stuff.
We do know about DARPA, though, the US military's famously wacky research bureau. DARPA has happily funded all kinds of crazy stunts, including Terminator cyborg moths, mind-reading electrode hats, terror casinos - you name it. "Mad scientists are good scientists" is almost the DARPA motto.
But DARPA wouldn't fund Cramer. It said his planned experiment was "too weird". Coming from them, this does seem unfair. All Cramer wants to start with is a few lasers, prisms, splitters, fibre-optics, and suchlike doodads. He's not asking for a beautiful girl strapped to a table, living brains in bubbling jars, lightning, dead bodies, enormous monkeys, fossilized dinosaur DNA, or anything seriously outre.
"I'm not crazy," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I don't know if this experiment will work, but I can't see why it won't. People are skeptical about this, but I think we can learn something, even if it fails."
Others think so too. A diverse collection of private donors has apparently chipped in $35,000+ to get Cramer's experiments underway. They include a Vegas music-biz exec, a biotech scientist, and Richard Miller, an artist and photographer based in Washington state.
"I would say the predicted failure of this project is probably a good omen," Miller told the Post-Intelligencer. "Most predictions are wrong."
"Artists have experienced non-local space all along, we just can't prove it," he added mysteriously.
Cramer plans to attempt some basic instantaneous faster-than-light communication next month with his donation-funded rig. If that's successful, he reckons that mainstream funding will arrive and he can have a crack at sending information back though time.
It does seem a trifle odd, if the theory is sound, that Cramer hasn't already received advance notification of his success. Perhaps he has, and is keeping it secret. If one dons one's tinfoil hat, this line of thinking might easily lead to an explanation for DARPA's otherwise unaccountable lack of interest, too.
More from the Post-Intelligencer here. ®
If he is going to send a signal back in time then he should have received it already (depending on how far back it was sent).
I.e., on June 1st, 2010 he sends a signal back 3 years, which means it arrived a few weeks ogo (June 1st, 2007). If he didn't receive said signal then it wasn't sent so need to bother with the experiment. But then if he doesn't bother then it will never get sent, but if he received the signal on June 1st, 2007 then it obviously was.
Having said that, surely he can only send it back as far as to the piont where the equipment was setup to receive it "from the future"? The first thing he should do is set up the "receiving equipment" so that he can receive the signal from 2010 at any point. And if he does, again then there's no need to setup the the sending equipment since he has received the signal so it must have been sent...... or not....
Why I hope Cramer suceeds...
(I posted the anonymous Transactional Interpretation comment above; this is a more in depth overview of what I think. Sorry it's not a funny - I stick to my own area of exepertise ;))
Despite the weirdness of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity, physicists are a rather conservative bunch, who cling to their human notions of how the universe _ought_ to work, rather than thinking the unthinkable. For example, when James Clerk Maxwell showed that the speed of light was a constant, physicists didn’t accept the ramifications but tried to reconcile it with Newtonian mechanics. Only Einstein was bold enough to say Maxwell was 100% pukka, and face up to the consequences. (Ironically, Einstein himself refused to accept Quantum Mechanics, even though it flowed from his own, Nobel-Prize winning work.)
Modern physicists are in the same sort of funk. And ultimately something has to give.
The Transaction Interpretation (TI) of Quantum Mechanics gives up on our everyday ideas of cause and effect (much treasured by physicists), to a produce a mathematically elegant description of the world of subatomic particles. It says that signals and particles don't propagate exclusively forwards in time, like one might expect, but can travel backwards in time; and "bounce" backwards and forwards, too. It's a bold, imaginative, crazy idea, which could bring about a "Galilean moment" when we realise our humans notions of causality are as accurate as Renaissance ideas about the Earth being at the centre of the universe; and it could provide new foundations for a Theory of Everything.
Now, I don't know exactly what Cramer is attempting to do (The Engineering desk didn't provide much info – perhaps El Reg needs a Quantum Mechanics/Quantum Computation desk; hint, hint ;)) But I would guess he's trying to provide support for TI. It's not going to result in us being able to talk to people in the past, or go to the Jurassic and step on butterflies. But if I had the cash to spare, I'd put a small bet on Cramer eventually succeeding. And even if he’s wrong, its the kind of radical thinking that physics desperately needs. So good luck John.
Mr. Wizard's World
I believe this all fell apart with the death of Mr. Wizard. The lack of this technical expertise is I am sure what ultimately doomed this project.
I do have a request for Mr. Cramer if he ever succeeds - please send my mom a note to use birth control - particularly in the March-May 1962 time frame. It will save me alot of grief - and if this note disappears - you'll know he was successful.