The Science of Existence (42-1) Zeno Effect

Zeno Effect

The quantum Zeno effect is the inhibition of transitions between quantum states by frequent measurements of the state. The inhibition arises because the measurement causes a collapse of the wave function. If the time between measurements is short enough, the wave function collapses back to the initial state. ~ American physicist Wayne Itano et al

Zeno of Elea was a 5th century BCE Greek philosopher and mathematician who had an inordinate fondness for paradoxes. Aristotle credited Zeno with inventing dialectic: logic based upon the interaction of juxtaposed ideas.

The Zeno effect is maintaining stasis in a quantum system via continuous observation. Time evolution in a quantum system is completely suppressed simply by continuously observing it.

The term Zeno effect comes from Zeno’s arrow paradox, which states that because an arrow in flight is not seen to move at any instant, the arrow cannot possibly be moving at all. It is a proposition based on the infinitesimals upon which calculus is built.

The Zeno effect is also called the Turing paradox, from Alan Turing’s 1954 observation that continuously measuring a system increases to infinity the probability that the system will be in the same state from one observation to the next: “that is, that continual observations will prevent motion.”

The Zeno effect has been repeatedly verified in quantum and atomic systems. It remains inexplicable.

Until a trustworthy algorithm is developed to explain the Zeno effect, the completeness of quantum theory must remain in doubt. ~ Indian physicists Baidyanath Misra & George Sudarshan

Awareness makes time stand still. Time’s progression is a matter of inattention.

The quantum Zeno effect is real; a watched quantum pot never boils. ~ English astrophysicist John Gribbin

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The Zeno effect applies to a localized quantum system. The classical effect of time’s arrow takes hold because quantum systems are entangled in a larger-scale multisystem. This entanglement induces delocalization and the classical irreversibility of time: an anti-Zeno effect. Classical chaotic dynamics exist because awareness cannot cover the world at large.