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Cause and Effect Doesn’t Actually Exist on a Particle Level

The basic idea of “cause and effect” seems easy to understand. Thing A takes place, and it is responsible for Thing B happening. You throw a baseball at a window and the window breaks. The relationship is inherently logical, so long as you’re only dealing with events on a macro scale, that is, because that relationship doesn’t really exist on a particle level.

The latest video from MinutePhysics explains why cause and effect isn’t an element of fundamental particle physics, and that’s because particles don’t care about the flow of time. For cause and effect to happen things have to occur in a linear fashion forward, “A to B.” However, the “underlying laws of physics don’t care about the direction of time,” and instead they follow predictable behaviors of a pattern. The current state of a particle doesn’t dictate its next state.

cause-and-effect
A better way to understand the relationship between the past and present events/states is to think of them in terms of leverage. That goes for bigger events too, like how a tiny spark has leverage over the future. You can light a torch and burn down a house, giving the tiny spark that begins it all leverage over the future. Leverage can also work backwards, though, but in that case the present creates a record of past events, or what we might call a memory.

record-cause-effect
So cause and effect as we think of it only exists for us in the context of time, which only moves forward. If that sounds familiar that’s because the last video we told you about from MinutePhysics explained why time only flows forward. So cause and effect is merely a byproduct of chaos.

Which is fitting, because chaos is what happens when you throw baseballs at windows. But you didn’t need physics to tell you that.

What other concepts would you like MinutePhysics to tackle next? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured Image: Warner Bros.
Body Images: MinutePhysics

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