The universe may have one past (the Big Bang) and two futures

Andrew Grant in Science News:

Arrow_opener_0For nearly 140 years, scientists have tried to rule out the backward flow of time by way of nature’s preference for disorder. Left alone, nature transforms the neat into the messy, a one-way progression that many physicists have used to define time’s direction. But if nature prefers disorder now, it always has. The challenge is figuring out why the universe started out so orderly — thereby allowing disorder to grow and time to march forward — when the early universe should have been messy. Despite many proposals, physicists have not been able to agree on a satisfying explanation.

A new paper offers a solution. The secret ingredient, the authors say, is gravity. Using a simple simulation of gravitationally interacting particles, the researchers show that an orderly universe should always arise naturally at one point in time. From there, the universe branches in opposing temporal directions. Within each branch, time flows toward increasing disorder, essentially creating two futures that share one past. “It’s the only clear, simple idea that’s been put forward to explain the basis of the arrow of time,” says physicist Julian Barbour, a coauthor of the study published last October in Physical Review Letters.

More here.