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Is Science Closer To Time Travel?

Submitted by on October 1, 2011 – 2:52 pm4 Comments

Scientists at a massive underground facility in Europe announced that they had recorded particles traveling faster than the speed of light, a feat long thought to be impossible.

The news comes from the CERN facility underneath the border of Switzerland and France, which houses the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a giant mechanism for colliding particles at massive speeds. (Have you seen Angels and Demons? Some early scenes are set at the LHC.) Researchers announced that they had recorded particles traveling 60 billionths of a second faster than light.

Even this tiny fraction could completely revolutionize physics and our understanding of our world. Albert Einstein and his “special theory of relativity” said that absolutely nothing could go any faster than light (about 186,000 miles per second), making it essentially the speed limit of the universe. And for over a hundred years, no one has proved this wrong.

Now, researchers will spend years trying to figure out if their findings were a mistake. With measurements so tiny and yet so important, the scientists had to take into account everything from the movement of the Earth in the nanoseconds of the experiments to vibrations caused by automobile traffic in nearby tunnels.

What does this mean for the average person? Probably nothing…unless these experiments rip apart the fabric of the universe.

I’m kidding. But the LHC did make a lot of people nervous when it was first being built. Since the LHC can attempt things never before possible, no one knew exactly what would happen—and some thought the experiments, especially the particle speeds and collisions, could literally destroy the universe. But the collider has been operating for years now, and we’re still here.

Scientists played down the sci-fi implications of this latest discovery, but physicists and fantasy lovers alike have long wondered if faster-than-light travel could produce time travel (or at least spaceships that explore the galaxy). Einstein’s calculations at the turn of the 19th century helped produce almost everything in our modern world, from GPS to the nuclear bomb, and revisions to his ideas could be just as revolutionary. While many scientists think last week’s findings will be proven wrong, almost everyone hopes they’re right.

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