If, like me, you love your science fiction and the science that goes behind it, you can’t have failed to notice the astonishing news stories in recent days about the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) team. They have recorded neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. Is this truly evidence of faster-than-light (superluminal) travel?
At first I couldn’t help thinking this was evidence that my son has god-like powers. He’d built a Lego spaceship the week before and I’d taught him that superluminal is a better word than superfast because nothing travels at superluminal speeds. Then, after a week where my lad uses superluminal in every other sentence, CERN proves me wrong.
Except CERN haven’t proven anything, not according to Large Hadron Collider scientists themselves. Despite having the biggest and best particle accelerator in the world, with all the corresponding recording equipment, the team bent over backwards to stress that they are merely presenting their findings for peer review.
Wouldn’t it be great, though, if peer review confirmed the LHC team’s findings! Fans of science fiction fans and fantasy have long enjoyed stories of travel between dimensions or various forms of FTL spaceship drive, stories with varying degrees of attention to the mechanics of that travel. That is doubly true for science fiction authors. In another personal coincidence, the news resonated with me last week as I published a novella called Last Man Through the Gate, which deals with travel between dimensions. Like many other authors, I evade the issue of how the travel is possible; instead I concentrate on how making the journey isolates the traveller.
So, to return to the original question, has the LHC team given us evidence of travel through higher dimensions? At present, we have to conclude: ‘no’ — or, at least: ‘not yet’.
However, the LHC team did provide compelling evidence of something else: that despite the rise of anti-science in recent years, the scientific method is alive and well in even the most expensive and prestigious teams. Is the Large Hadron Collider good value for the taxpayers who funded it, or could human knowledge have been advanced more efficiently by avoiding the lure of the being able to say: our particle accelerator is bigger than yours? I’m not longer sure where I stand on that. However, I do know that, in a world of austerity that seems to shrink further into mistrust and ignorance with every day, the manner in with the LHC team have reported their findings shines a beacon of truth and excellence into the suffocating blanket of ignorance. Well done to you all!