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12-06-1999

Clarkson Prof Hits Rewind On Time: River Of Time May Flow Backward In Parts Of Galaxy

[Clarkson University Physics Professor Lawrence S. Schulman's calculations on time running backward will appear in the Dec. 27 issue of Physical Review Letters. An article about Schulman's theory is featured in the Nov. 27 issue of New Scientist magazine, and he has been interviewed by the BBC and Australian public radio. A short explanation of Schulman's calculations follows. He is available for interviews until Dec. 10. After that he can be reached by e-mail.]

Potsdam, N.Y. -- Could milk unstir itself from coffee and run backward into the milk carton? Could a broken egg mend through a reversal of time? Could wrinkles spontaneously disappear? According to a Clarkson University scientist, such things may in fact be happening in certain regions of the universe.

Time running backward has long been a topic of speculation for writers of science fiction. Nevertheless, scientists have not considered this likely, expecting that all regions of the universe should move in the same time direction. If not, it was argued, interactions between areas with opposite "arrows of time" would result in the destruction of order in both systems.

Lawrence S. Schulman, professor of physics at Clarkson University, has addressed the question using the modeling methods of statistical mechanics. Running contrary to traditional expectations, his calculations suggest that the opposing arrows may actually be compatible.

"The systems can interact. Not too much, but enough so that the respective motions are influenced by one another. There is no traumatic disappearance of order in either system," says Schulman.

Areas where time moves backward may not be right around us. But they might be within our own galaxy, perhaps as near as 100 light years. Such reverse-time regions could be relics from the far future, from a time when the present expanding universe may start to contract again in what scientists have named the "Big Crunch."

Such relics may actually explain the invisible, hitherto inexplicable, dark matter that is believed to exist between the visible stars in the universe. In regions from the future, any stars would have long ago ("ago" by "their" clock) burnt out.

"We would, however, still feel their gravity," Schulman says. "Such matter would have all the attributes of dark matter.”

Alternatively, dark matter could be normal-time matter that has already collided with reverse-time matter from the future, resulting in matter that has no time direction. This would also, according to Schulman, appear exactly like dark matter.

Though his results may seem like science fiction, they have been derived within the rigorous confines of theoretical physics, and will appear in the Dec. 27 issue of the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters. Schulman’s work has already been the topic of an article in New Scientist magazine and a BBC interview.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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