For ages, man has sought to solve the “chicken or egg” paradox. Ever since ancient Greek philosophers posed the question, people have struggled to come up with an answer or an explanation to justify why either of the two came first. However, a multinational team of physicists believes they have the answer to the age-old question — both of the above.
In a statement quoted by Phys.org, ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems researcher Jacqui Romero explained that the principle of cause and effect in quantum physics cannot simply be explained by one event leading to another, or vice versa. She added that the “weirdness” of quantum mechanics could lead to certain events taking place without a specific order. This phenomenon is known as indefinite causal order, and as Romero further clarified, it is so peculiar that it cannot be observed in our day-to-day lives.
“Take the example of your daily trip to work, where you travel partly by bus and partly by train. Normally, you would take the bus then the train, or the other way round. In our experiment, both of these events can happen first,” said Romero.
The methodologies used in the new “chicken or egg” experiment, which was documented in the journal Physical Reviews Letters, included the use of a photonic quantum switch, a device where the order of events is determined by polarization. According to Fox News, this differs from previous studies that used other scientific techniques to conclude that the chicken came first.
“By measuring the polarization of the photons at the output of the quantum switch, we were able to show the order of transformations on the shape of light was not set,” said University of Queensland researcher Fabio Costa.
“This is just a first proof of principle, but on a larger scale indefinite causal order can have real practical applications, like making computers more efficient or improving communication.”
Prior to the new study, a team of British scientists used different methodologies, as noted by Fox News, to solve the conundrum. This 2014 study made use of a supercomputer to analyze a chicken eggshell and conclude that the chicken might have come first, as a protein exclusively found in the animal played a key role in the creation of the egg. However, Fox News also pointed out that other experts believe the egg came first, as amniotic eggs first emerged about 340 million years ago, well before the first chickens evolved close to 60,000 years ago.