Stopping time: The Zeno Effect

Zeno was a great philosopher back in the days of Aristotle that liked to think about theories rather than actually get off his butt and test them out. I don’t have a huge appreciation for dudes like that. I mean, just look at Aristotle. The bum figured that if you fire a cannon into the air, the cannonball will go straight at the direction it has been fired and then fall straight down.
Seriously Aristotle?

Well, some genius actually decided to observe what would happen if you fired a cannonball. TADA! The cannonball follows an trajectory that looks like an arc.


But this is one of those times I have to admit that an age old theory has really sparked my interest. It is called the Zeno effect and takes it’s name from Zeno’s paradox which states:

If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless: Aristotle(recounted)

Better known as Zeno’s arrow paradox, it basically says that if you look at a moving arrow in any given instant of time, it will appear motionless (think of one frame of a video). Since time is a collection of these “instants” or “frames” and because the arrow is motionless at any given “instant”, the arrow is thus, not moving.
Andrew will never get that pick.


Scientists have actually tried to test this with atomic decay and guess what, ZENO WAS RIGHT. Or so it seems. If you look at an atom long enough, it appears to not decay at all.

You can read the entire story about the Quantum Zeno Effect HERE.

i09’s very own Esther Inglis-Arkel also has written about it HERE.

Basically, Zeno was talking Quantum Mechanics some thousands of years before it’s existence.



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