“Our theory is a long shot,” admitted Weiler, who is a physics professor at Vanderbilt University, “but it doesn’t violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints.”
One of the major goals of thecollider is to find the elusive Higgs boson: the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some scientists predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time.
According to Weiler and Ho’s theory, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifthdimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past.
“One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes,” Weiler said. “Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future.”
Unsticking the “brane”
The test of the researchers’ theory will be whether the physicists monitoring the collider begin seeing Higgs singlet particles and their decay products spontaneously appearing. If they do, Weiler and Ho believe that they will have been produced by particles that travel back in time to appear before the collisions that produced them.
Weiler and Ho’s theory is based on M-theory, a “theory of everything.” A small cadre of theoretical physicists have developed M-theory to the point that it can accommodate the properties of all the known subatomic particles and forces, including gravity, but it requires 10 or 11 dimensions instead of our familiar four. This has led to the suggestion that our universe may be like a four-dimensional membrane or “brane” floating in a multi-dimensional space-time called the “bulk.”
According to this view, the basic building blocks of our universe are permanently stuck to the brane and so cannot travel in other dimensions. There are some exceptions, however. Someargue that gravity, for example, is weaker than other fundamental forces because it diffuses into other dimensions. Another possible exception is the proposed Higgs singlet, which responds to gravity but not to any of the other basic forces.
Answers in neutrinos?
Weiler began looking at time travel six years ago to explain anomalies that had been observed in several experiments with neutrinos. Neutrinos are nicknamed ghost particles becausethey react so rarely with ordinary matter: Trillions of neutrinos hit our bodies every second, yet we don’t notice them because they zip through without affecting us.
Weiler and colleagues Heinrich Päs and Sandip Pakvasa at the University of Hawaii came up with an explanation of the anomalies based on the existence of a hypothetical particle called the sterile neutrino. In theory, sterile neutrinos are even less detectable than regular neutrinos because they interact only with gravitational force. As a result, sterile neutrinos are another particle that is not attached to the brane and so should be capable of traveling through extra dimensions.
Weiler, Päs and Pakvasa proposed that sterile neutrinos travel faster than light by taking shortcuts throughextra dimensions. According to Einstein’s general theory of relativity, there are certain conditions where traveling faster than the speed of light is equivalent to traveling backward in time. This led the physicists into the speculative realm of time travel.
Ideas impact science fiction
In 2007, the researchers, along with Vanderbilt graduate fellow James Dent, posted a paper titled “Neutrino time travel” that generated a considerable amount of buzz.
Their ideas found their way into two science fiction novels. Final Theory by Mark Alpert, which was described in the New York Times as a “physics-based version of The Da Vinci Code,” is based on the researchers’ idea of neutrinos taking shortcuts in extra dimensions. Joe Haldeman’s novel The Accidental Time Machine is about a time-traveling MIT graduate student and includes an author’s note that describes the novel’s relationship to the type of time travel described by Dent, Päs, Pakvasa and Weiler.
Ho is a graduate fellow working with Weiler. Their theory is described in a paper posted March 7 on the research website arXiv.org.
For more news about Vanderbilt research, visit Research News @Vanderbilt at researchnews.vanderbilt.edu
David F. Salisbury | Vanderbilt University
Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy
24.03.2017 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy