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A complicated experiment has found an exception to an important scientific law relating to heat and energy transfers.
It has essentially seen the usual exchange of heat from hot objects to cold objects go backwards in a mind-boggling discovery.
They concluded the second law of thermodynamics is not an absolute, definitive concept.
The simplest explanation for the second law of thermodynamics is that heat will naturally transfer to a colder place when the two entities come into contact – however this can never be done with 100 per cent efficiency.
The property behind this transfer is called entropy which essentially dictates the order of molecules making up something.
For example, water molecules in an ice cube will have more order than the same amount of molecules in water as a gas.
This means the heat and energy of the molecules have become dispersed as they transfer from one state to another.
New research looking at correlated particles – particles which are not as closely bonded as entangled particles – showed how this process can indeed be reversed.
The experts experimented with the molecule trichloromethane, which is made up of hydrogen and carbon.
The team then made the nucleus of the hydrogen atom warmer and the nucleus of the carbon atom colder.
When the nuclei of the two atoms were uncorrelated, the hotter nucleus became cooler and the colder nucleus became warmer – as expected in the second law of thermodynamics.
However, when the nuclei were correlated, the warmer one became hotter and the cooler one colder, essentially making heat flow backwards and demonstrating the “reversal of the arrow of time”.
The experts say their study does not violate the second law of thermodynamics as that is on an entangled level, but it does prove an exception to the rule.
The researchers write in a the online journal arXiv: “The second law permits the prediction of the direction of natural processes, thus defining a thermodynamic arrow of time.
“However, standard thermodynamics presupposes the absence of initial correlations between interacting systems.
“We here experimentally demonstrate the reversal of the arrow of time.”