IS TIME TRAVEL SCIENTIFICALLY POSSIBLE?
CERN fired the neutrino shot heard around the world
Ann Siracusa is popping in today to talk about one of my all-time favorite subjects, time travel!
Is Time Travel scientifically possible?
Naw! It’s fun to write and read, and the idea of time travel stimulates the imagination, but it’s fantasy.
Hmm. Maybe…but maybe not.
I originally planned this guest blog to be about how I was inspired to write the time travel romance novella A Time For Melody, released in July by Sapphire Blue Publishing.
And then…Wow! I read in the newspaper (yeah, on a real piece of paper) that European researchers had detected and measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light.
Do you know what that could mean?
Ho hum. Well, most romance authors and readers aren’t much into physics (unless you’re a science fiction buff) but I’m sure most of you know that, until now, the “laws of physics” dictated that nothing could travel faster than light. Not even subatomic particles. Hence, all theories of Time Travel were rendered pretty light in the scientific and real physics departments. Pretty much pure fantasy.
On September 22, 2011, the European Organization for Nuclear Research reported that the OPERA project (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) has accelerated and recorded (for the second time in four years) sub-atomic particles (neutrinos) moving faster than light.
The experiment that has created all the stir zapped neutrinos from CERN laboratory in Geneva all the way to the INFN Gran Sass Laboratory in Italy, then clocked those particles outrunning light by 60 nanoseconds over 453.6 miles.
Now, sixty nanoseconds isn’t a lot (a proportionately minute difference), but according to Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, neutrinos shouldn’t even be able to match light speed, much less break it — even by one nanosecond.
Headlines like the following have been all over the news since the announcement:
• “Faster Than Light’ Particles Make Time Travel Possible, Scientist Says”
• “Faster-Than-Light Discovery Raises Prospect of Time Travel”
• “Time travel possible? E=mc2 wrong?”
• “Faster Than Light Particles Threaten Einstein”
Jeff Forshaw, a professor of particle physics at Manchester University, said the results, if confirmed, would mean it would be possible in theory “to send information into the past. In other words, time travel into the past would become possible … (though) that does not mean we’ll be building time machines any time soon.”
Nonetheless, the report has the potential to rock the foundations of modern physics and the way scientists think about time travel.
Of course, writers have been thinking about time travel for a long time. It’s a prominent theme in folk stories throughout the world, from Hindu and Japanese mythology to Walter Map‘s 12th century Courtiers’ Trifles, from Samuel Madden’s 1733 Memoirs of the Twentieth Century to the 1819 classic Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving and The Time Machine by H. G. Wells published in 1895.
Time Travel literature (which has been primarily in the Science Fiction genre) falls into a several sub-genres, or at least general themes.
• Changing the past / Creating an alternate future
• Guardians of Time / Protecting time from being changed
• Preventing a bad future / Changing something in the present to prevent a bad future
• Unintentional change or fulfillment
And if the human mind can imagine it, I truly believe that sooner or later (maybe a whole lot later), human beings will figure out how to do it. Whether intentionally or not, the scientific community is doing just that…figuring out how.
It’s interesting to see all the articles already refuting the experiments and assuring the demised Einstein that he doesn’t need to turn over in his grave, or declaring that it’s insignificant even if neutrinos can travel faster than light because they are so tiny. Or that sending them into the past or future wouldn’t change anything. (Everyone who writes time travel fiction has used that last theory in a plot at some time or another).
The official announcement of the research findings created significant human reactions from a profession for whom the speed of light’s unbreakability has been a core belief for generations. For example, Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for OPERA and a professor at the University of Bern, stated, “This result comes as a complete surprise. The potential impact on science is too large to draw immediate conclusions or attempt physics interpretations.” Jim Al-Khalili, a theorist at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, vowed to eat his boxer shorts on live television if the result held up in retesting. I liked that one.
If repeat experiments do uphold the findings, this wouldn’t be the first time scientific beliefs have been upended. Some scientists contend that Einstein’s work has held up superbly under decades of verification and challenge, but others claim the theory has been eroding for decades.
There’s a lot more changing out there than just the advent of the e-book and complexion of the publishing industry. Keep your eyes and ears open, and keep writing those time travel novels.
Time Travel Romance
A TIME FOR MELODY
By R. Ann Siracusa
ISBN # 978-1-934657-70-6
Format: e-Book; Length: 28,000 Words
She appeared out of nowhere, blown into Red Gulch, a decaying mining town, on the crest of a desert breeze like the ever-present tumbleweeds that filled the empty streets in the blink of an eye. Except everyone knew where tumbleweeds came from.
Brandon O’Donnell never figured out where Melody came from, but she captured his heart with her flaming red hair, hypnotic light-grey eyes, and intense but distant way of speaking. As though, Brandon had thought for years, she knew a lot more than she let on. Now, Brandon is about to find out how much more that really is.
Red Gulch City
Earth Province of America
Monday, February 1, 2500
“And furthermore, as a matter of world security, it is imperative that such a breach of protocol never happen again,” boomed the Supreme Director of the Intra-galactic History Department. “The existence of a functional temporal chronometer, here or anywhere else in the solar system, must remain classified information. From now on, the Solar System Security Agency will authorize all jumps to other time periods. Any history student, regardless of status, found guilty of unauthorized use of the department’s temporal chronometer will be expelled immediately from Red Gulch University—with no possibility of reinstatement—and turned over to the SSSA.”
The heavy-set man shot his cuffs and glared from under bushy gray brows, his gaze sweeping across each of the graduate students. “Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
Twenty-five heads bobbed up and down.
“Good!” He turned on his heel and stormed out of the computer research lab, slamming the door behind him.
The grim-faced students remained rooted to their seats until the translucent borosilicate glass stopped ratting in its frame.
“You old fart!” one of the young men shouted.
“Stifle it, Stryder.” The red-haired woman next to him stood and punched the youth lightly on the shoulder. “He’ll hear you.”
Stryder sprang to his feet and shoved her. “Cut it out, Red. Why can’t the old fart just call it a time machine? That’s what it is. But no-oo, this is some big secret so we can hide the truth behind fancy scientific terms. Bullshit!” He kicked the chair she’d been sitting on, sending it sliding across the slick floor.
“Haven’t you done enough damage already?” Her face flushed pink with anger and frustration. “It’s your fault RGU is being investigated by the SSSA. Now, none of us will get authorization to travel again.”
“Big fucking deal!”
“It’s a big deal to me.” She poked a long blue fingernail at his chest. “I need to make jumps to complete my thesis research so I can graduate and get out of here.”
Grumbling with discontent and irritation, the other students rose from their seats and gathered around them.
“Cut the holier-than-thou crap, Red.” Stryder glared at her and sneered. “You’ve been taking unauthorized jumps, just like everyone else. And you don’t even need to visit your time period. That’s why the old fart denied your request in the first place.” He shook his head and uttered a disgusted-sounding snort. “I don’t know what you find so fascinating about the damned twentieth century. It’s a waste of energy to study the history of Red Gulch City when there are new worlds out there to explore and millions of years of hist—”
Fisting her hands in growing anger, she interrupted. “In case you didn’t know, Red Gulch City happens to be the Mineral Capital of the Solar System. It’s important history.” She piled on the sarcasm without restraint. “I like it because it’s our heritage. Besides, the records aren’t all that complete. All the personal documentation about the founding father and the early history of the mining industry is based on that one detailed account. No one knows who wrote it or if it’s accurate.”
“The one you think is phony?” another girl asked.
Red swung around and nailed the speaker with an indignant glare. “I’ve never claimed it was phony…exactly.” She tossed her mane of red hair. “Only that it’s not complete. I mean, the document is, well, awkward. Like the author knows a lot more and isn’t telling everything for a specific reason. I just know there’s some important information that’s being hidden. I have to find that secret in order to finalize my work. There’s no other way to do it than to visit the time period.”
Stryder exaggerated a groan. “Yeah, right. And that’s so fucking important? What’s it going to change?”
Several of the students picked up their belongings, uttering disgruntled good-byes as they left. Others settled in front of their computers to resume their research. All of them nailed Stryder with glares of anger and disappointment.
Red, not ready to retreat from the argument, gritted her teeth. “Nothing is going to change. It’s already happened. But how important depends on what the secret is. At least, I’ve always been careful to stay out of sight and avoid damaging anything when I jump. And I’m not going to be stupid like someone I know―who shall go unnamed―and bring an artifact back from another time period.”
Stryder stiffened. “Who told you that?”
Red shrugged. “Rumors. The word gets around. Everyone knows that’s what got the university into trouble.”
The youth glared at each of his colleagues through eyes narrowed to a squint. “One of you effin’ jerks ratted me out, didn’t you?”
An older student slammed his computer case on the table. “That’s enough, pal. Clean up your mouth. Maybe you don’t care about history, but you’ve messed things up for the rest of us who do. Singled handedly, you’ve set the History Verification Program back at least a hundred years.”
“Yeah,” another girl piped up. “The rest of us have never brought back any souvenirs.”
Stryder frowned defensively. “The wendo is just a cute harmless little creature. What can it hurt? There are zillions of them in that time period.”
Another grad student looked up from his computer screen. “And now they’re extinct. Maybe because of you.”
“He’s right. You never know what it can hurt,” Red insisted. “Any little thing could change history, even wipe out our reality.”
“Do you believe that crap?” Stryder threw his things into his backpack. “The old farts have been using the chronometer in secret for over a hundred years, and we’re still here, aren’t we? What a gutless bunch you are. I dare you to use the time machine again. I don’t think you’ve got the balls.”
Red bristled, the roots of her hair tingling with indignation, teeth clenched, jaw tight. “Don’t count on it, asshole. And if I have to do another trimester at RGU because of you, being investigated by the SSSA will be the least of your problems.”
Links if you’re interested in reading about the experiment: