Can We Have the Enterprise Now?

by wjw on July 25, 2018

So researchers at CERN have broken the speed of light, but only with neutrinos.

If confirmed, the discovery would undermine Albert Einstein’s 1905 theory of special relativity, which says that the speed of light is a “cosmic constant” and that nothing in the universe can travel faster. That assertion, which has withstood over a century of testing, is one of the key elements of the so-called Standard Model of physics, which attempts to describe the way the universe and everything in it works. The totally unexpected finding emerged from research by a physicists working on an experiment dubbed OPERA run jointly by the CERN particle research centre near Geneva and the Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy . . . 

The findings were such a shock that CERN’s scientists spent months checking their data before making their announcement. But they have asked American and Japanese teams to confirm the results before they are declared an actual discovery. The data will also be put online overnight so that it can be scrutinised by experts across the world.

So I guess we can have starships, if they’re made of neutrinos, and they’d arrive at Alpha Centauri a few seconds ahead of anything traveling at the speed of light.

Now I’m looking with trepidation to the really bad science fiction that’s going to be written around this idea.

In the meantime, Kathy reminded me of this poem by John Updike.

Neutrinos they are very small

They have no charge and have no mass

They do not interact at all

The earth is just a silly ball to them

Through which they simply pass.

Like like dust maids down a drafty hall

Or photons through a sheet of glass.

(There’s more to this poem, I just quoted the good parts.)

chris heinz July 25, 2018 at 5:32 pm

c is still c. Maybe neutrinos’ concept of vacuum is different that of photons.

wjw July 25, 2018 at 9:32 pm

Someone pointed out the date on this story was April 1.

Never mind.

Steve Pritchard July 25, 2018 at 9:50 pm

That’s ok. Keeping the dream alive. We’ll show Albert laws are meant to be broken, or at least worked-around.

wjw July 26, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Turns out it wasn’t an April Fool, but based on an old experiment.

From Brian Borchers:

“This is actually based on an older story from 2011. The experimental results in 2011 ultimately turned out to be the result of a technical error in the setup of the timing equipment.”

Etaoin Shrdlu July 26, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Damn it, I trusted you, fool that I am.

I may as well hijack this to ask if you’re going to write that Metropolitan #3. I read them last month, and was surprised to enjoy them (that type of fantasy isn’t really my sort of thing). I remember seeing somewhere here that you’d pitched it to a publisher but that it was during one of those drought periods.

I also thought it was interesting that the main character was basically Sula. 🙂

wjw July 26, 2018 at 11:09 pm

Let’s just say that Aiah and Sula end up in very different places.

Which you don’t know because neither series has come to an end, but that’s how these things go.

An editor has expressed interest in reprinting the first two along with the new third, but I went and signed two three-book contracts, and I won’t be free for another three years or so. We’ll see if he’s still interested then.

Theophylact July 27, 2018 at 11:25 am

The whole poem is brilliant (though I think Updike’s take on science is wrong).

wjw July 27, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Updike’s science is correct for the early Sixties, from when he wrote the poem. We’ve learned more about neutrinos since.

Etaoin Shrdlu July 27, 2018 at 6:35 pm

Hey, it turns out you weren’t wrong!

Aiah did have more of a conscience, sometimes. Thanks, looking forward to the books. 🙂

Etaoin Shrdlu July 27, 2018 at 6:37 pm

(Note: the screenshot is, or was before the correction, real, the story is typical Newsweak “journalism”.)

DensityDuck October 3, 2018 at 3:16 pm

“I won’t be free for another three years or so. We’ll see if he’s still interested then.”

I’ve been interested in a third Metropolitan book for twenty-plus years now, so, “another three years” isn’t really that big a difference…

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