SSE Talks


Can You Still Win Yesterday’s Lottery? or Retrocausation: Is it Compatible with Known Physics?
Apr 16, 2009 at 2:24 AM EST | G. Moddel


Garret Moddel


In a recent issue of New Scientist (April 5, 2008, p. 39) the process of precognition is described as Class III physical impossibility, meaning that if it existed, “it would represent a collapse of the foundations of physics.” Yet, ample experimental evidence exists for precognition (knowing of an event in advance of its occurring), including precognitive galvanic skin response to emotive images and to loud noises, precognitive EEG response to light flashes, observation of presentiment in the brain using fMRI imaging, and much more. How precognition can be made consistent with known physics – and logic – is the subject of this presentation.

A similar apparent contradiction arises with regard to retro-psychokinesis (affecting the outcome of an event that has already occurred). In accordance with the “bilking paradox” one cannot make a change in that past that could block one’s present existence (killing one’s grandfather in his youth is the common example). And yet, ample experimental evidence for this too exists, including post-determination of prerecorded clicks on an audio tape, modification of previously logged outputs of electronic random number generators and a random mechanical cascade, and more.

Must we upset the applecart and retract physical law as we know it? There are two parts to the answer. The first – and easier part – is to consider whether physical phenomena are time-symmetric: When a film of billiard balls colliding is played backwards, are the laws of motion obeyed? Can electromagnetic emission and absorption be viewed as being time-symmetric? The answer to both is yes.

The second part to the answer is in regard to whether time’s arrow can be reversed. The direction of this arrow is defined by the natural tendency for a system to drift to a state of greater randomness, i.e., greater entropy. Does this fundamental tendency allow for retrocausation? The answer for physical systems is yes, as long as the process results in a greater randomness despite the retrocausal influence. For example, it is theoretically possible for a subject to reduce the randomness in the output of a random number generator retrocausally because the overall process still increases the total entropy.

More subtle is the question of whether information can be passed backwards in time and used to make physical or mental changes. It turns out that the bilking paradox can be resolved, again using entropy, but information entropy rather than thermal entropy. The solution is that retrocausation should not be looked at as a binary process – either total control of the past or none. Instead, the degree to which retrocausation is allowed equals the degree to which it cannot cause bilking, and this is described using information entropy. It is possible to define clearly how much information can be transmitted backwards in time.

One outcome of this analysis is that one cannot treat the information transmitter, the channel, and the receiver independently. These three entities comprise a fundamentally interconnected system.


Garret Moddel, Ph.D., is professor of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.




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