Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Warp Factor

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” says the bartender.

A neutrino walks into a bar.
(That's a joke circulating on the web - explained below)
There was nothing more confusing than a Star Trek story where time travel was used as a plot device, and there were lots of them. 
Of course TV and movie screen plays and books don't need to conform to reality. So the idea of time travel has been very common in science fiction plots from the days of Jules Verne to well, the other night on TV.
This is an example of reality that doesn't conform to theory. A major scientific group discovered that neutrinos "seem" to travel faster than light, that seems to break some "theoretical rules" discovered by Prof. Einstein over there.
Relativity theory predicts that things that approach the speed of light develop infinite mass. Neutrinos aren't very heavy to begin with - mass is non-zero, so, that leaves lots of room for speculation. 
This discovery, if its true, is not yet support for Star Trek's warp speed, but it makes you wonder about neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered, and it upsets most of modern-day physics.

1 comment:

  1. I found the silliness of the joke to be that, while the neutrino travels backwards in time, the bartender doesn't. So how can he refuse service to the neutrino before it enters the bar?

    Thinking about that gives me a bit of a solution to the dilemma. If things are travelling backward in time (because they're going faster than light), then we wouldn't be able to interact with them -- since we'd exist in any state of affairs (same time and place) for only a brief instant (which might not even be long enough for us to even perceive them). In the physical (ie,sensory) world - what Rand liked to call "this world" - Einstein's theory would hold.

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