Faster Than Light?

According to news reports, for instance, the physicists at CERN have discovered neutrinos traveling slightly faster than the speed of light. They’ve run the test fifteen thousand times trying to find some mistake in their measurements and thus far, have not been able to figure out what they might be doing wrong. So they are asking colleagues at other research facilities to try to duplicate/refute/explain their results.

While some news organizations have suggested that this would “overturn” Einstein, in reality, the possibility of something traveling faster than light is not excluded by Einstein’s theory. In fact, theorists postulated a particle called a “tachyon” which would never be able to travel slower than the speed of light. While an ordinary particle’s mass/energy rises toward infinity as it approaches the speed of light, so a tachyon’s mass/energy would increase the slower it got–as its speed decreased toward the speed of light. Just as ordinary particles cannot go faster than light, so tachyons could never go slower than light. Up until now, tachyons have been entirely hypothetical. Thus, if the experiment at CERN is confirmed at other particle accelerators, then CERN has apparently found the first evidence that tachyons are real. Up til now, they’ve only existed in theory and in science fiction stories.

Possible implications:

1. These neutrinos discovered at CERN would be very massive and thus slow moving tachyons, given how close they are to the speed of light. Those with less energy/mass would be faster–the less energetic, the less massive, the faster they would go. They would likely be hard to detect.
2. Instantaneous communication across interstellar distances would then be possible, assuming we could figure out how to use, detect, and manipulate tachyons.
3. If extraterrestrial intelligence exists and if it is possible to use tachyons for communication, once we figure out how to do it, then first contact will likely be almost inevitable.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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