top of page

Physicists actually solved the chicken and egg conundrum

It’s the age-old question that always sparks debate.

The “chicken or egg” paradox was first proposed by philosophers in ancient Greece to describe the problem of determining cause and effect.

Now a team of physicists from the University of Queensland and the NÉEL Institute has shown that the chicken and the egg can both come first.

Still don’t get it? The answer lies in quantum physics. We’ll let the experts explain.

Jacqui Romero said that in quantum physics, cause and effect was not always as straightforward as one event causing another.

“The weirdness of quantum mechanics means that events can happen without a set order,” Romero said. “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.

“This is called ‘indefinite causal order’ and it isn’t something that we can observe in our everyday life.”

To observe this effect in the lab, the researchers used a setup called a photonic quantum switch.

Fabio Costa said that with this device the order of events — transformations on the shape of light — depends on polarization.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Still, confused?

This study is obviously physics-based, unlike others that have claimed to have scientifically proved that the chicken came first using other methods.

In 2014, British scientists used a supercomputer to look in such detail at a chicken eggshell that they were able to determine the vital role of a protein used to kickstart the egg’s formation.

That protein is only found in — you guessed it — a chicken.

But chickens did not really start as chickens anyway.

The very first chicken in existence would have been the result of a genetic mutation taking place in a zygote produced by two almost-chickens.

With amniotic eggs showing up roughly 340 million or so years ago, and the first chickens evolving at around 58 thousand years ago at the earliest, others believe the safe bet is the egg came first.

Sorry if I didn’t really help solve the dinner table argument!


bottom of page