Then in 1983, the theorists Don Page and William Wooters came up with a novel solution based on the quantum phenomenon of entanglement. This is the exotic property in which two quantum particles share the same existence, even though they are physically separated.
Entanglement is a deep and powerful link and Page and Wooters showed how it can be used to measure time. Their idea was that the way a pair of entangled particles evolve is a kind of clock that can be used to measure change.
But the results depend on how the observation is made. One way to do this is to compare the change in the entangled particles with an external clock that is entirely independent of the universe. This is equivalent to god-like observer outside the universe measuring the evolution of the particles using an external clock.
In this case, Page and Wooters showed that the particles would appear entirely unchanging—that time would not exist in this scenario.
But there is another way to do it that gives a different result. This is for an observer inside the universe to compare the evolution of the particles with the rest of the universe. In this case, the internal observer would see a change and this difference in the evolution of entangled particles compared with everything else is an important a measure of time.
This is an elegant and powerful idea. It suggests that time is an emergent phenomenon that comes about because of the nature of entanglement. And it exists only for observers inside the universe. Any god-like observer outside sees a static, unchanging universe, just as the Wheeler-DeWitt equations predict.
Of course, without experimental verification, Page and Wooter’s ideas are little more than a philosophical curiosity. And since it is never possible to have an observer outside the universe, there seemed little chance of ever testing the idea.
Until now. Today, Ekaterina Moreva at the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRIM) in Turin, Italy, and a few pals have performed the first experimental test of Page Wooters ideas. And they confirm that time is indeed an emergent phenomenon for ‘internal’ observers but absent for external ones.
In the last years several theoretical papers discussed if time can be an emergent property deriving from quantum correlations. Here, to provide an insight into how this phenomenon can occur, physicists present an experiment that illustrates Page and Wootters' mechanism of "static" time, and Gambini subsequent refinements. A static, entangled state between a clock system and the rest of the universe is perceived as evolving by internal observers that test the correlations between the two subsystems. They implement this mechanism using an entangled state of the polarization of two photons, one of which is used as a clock to gauge the evolution of the second: an "internal" observer that becomes correlated with the clock photon sees the other system evolve, while an "external" observer that only observes global properties of the two photons can prove it is static.