Quantum particles are subatomic particles, and quantum physics is the study of how those particles exist and interact with their environment. On the surface, it seems pretty straightforward, but when you look at the behavior of these particles, you’ll find that they’re anything but.

A Brief Explanation

The study of quantum particles builds mostly off of one core concept: superposition. Superposition is that idea that, until observed, quantum particles exist in many states at once, each one within its reality. A wave graph is often used to describe this concept, where the data points along the wave represent the likelihood of any given reality existing. When the particle if viewed, this waveform collapses into a single point as the real state is locked in.

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Bending The Rules

Israeli physicist, Yakir Aharonov, has proposed an approach that suggests quantum events are determined by quantum states in both the past and the future, and therefore work both forward and backward in time. Their causes appear to propagate back in time when the events are viewed from this perspective, taking place after their effects have already occurred.

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More simply put, this approach, called the two-state vector formalism (TSVF), allows observers to gain a retrospective understanding of the quantum system’s initial existence by choosing its outcome. This process of post-selection gives the observer more information than traditional methods because TSVF lays out the entire history of the particle, up to and including its observation, at any point in its existence.

The Field At Large

Aharanov’s new approach to observing quantum systems means that physicists can now study quantum states and interactions at a much higher resolution. Instead of picking through superpositions one outcome at a time, viewing only the result, TSVF brings a comparative encyclopedia of data to every observation made.

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Gaining a deeper understanding of how superposition affects quantum systems brings scientists closer to making breakthroughs in other niches of the field of quantum physics, such as quantum computing, which relies on the superposition of entangled particles to store and transmit data. Conducting further, more fine-tuned experiments using TSVF are less than half a year away, according to physicists. Further advancements in the field could be even closer than we think.