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Another science fiction principle inches closer to science fact

Photo by: Maximilien Brice CERN

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Time travel has long been a staple element of the stories of writers like Ray Bradbury and H.G. Wells (as well as The Terminator and Back to the Future movies), but new research by scientists at the CERN research institute near Geneva, Switzerland shows the discovery that some sub-atomic particles may be capable of traveling faster than the speed of light.

The particles in question are called neutrinos – and CERN’s research over 3 years showed that some of these neutrinos may have traveled a scant but significant 60 nanoseconds faster than the 186,000 miles per second that marks the speed of light. If verified, this discovery threatens the validity of Einstein’s famous special theory of relativity that states that nothing can travel faster than light - and would likely change physics as we know it. As a bonus, it means that it might be theoretically possible to send information to the past. The physics community is abuzz with speculation about the discovery, but preeminent physicist Stephen Hawking was more circumspect about the announcement, stating “Further experiments and clarifications are needed.” So maybe we won’t be making plans for any prehistoric hunting trips just yet.


What does this discovery mean for the future of physics? Was Einstein right or will humans someday be able to book a trip to anytime?


Brian Greene, Professor of physics and mathematics, Columbia university

James Gillies, head of communications for the CERN research institute near Geneva

Martin Rees, world renowned cosmologist and astrophysicist, Cambridge University