Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bite Me, Speed of Light Nazis!

There is a certain sort of person who, when confronted with stories of galactic empires or, really, any SF which proposes traveling faster than the speed of light, will whine, "But nothing can go faster than the speed of light. Noooothing."

I have always dismissed such arguments on two grounds: one, there may turn out to be some as-yet-unguessed-at method of bypassing or working around this limitation. ("But it's a basic tent of phyyyysics," they whine.) Two: it makes for a good story, stop whining and enjoy the ride.

So it was with great pleasure that I read this article, which essentially said that scientists at Cern have detected neutrinos traveling FASTER than the speed of light.

Let me repeat that:

FASTER than the speed of light.
FASTER than the speed of light.
FASTER than the speed of light.

Now I know that a test result that seems to overturn a basic tenet of physics is going to take a LOT of verification before the rule books have to be rewritten. But as one commentator pointed out: the scientists at CERN knew their results are likely to be highly controversial, and so they've undoubtedly checked the experiment over as carefully as they can, which, being scientists at a top research lab, is pretty darned carefully.

In the meantime, I am going to reread one of my favorite short story collections, "Galactic Empires Volume One," edited by Brian Aldiss, a work which I now feel free to consider speculative fiction. And as I read it, a little part of my brain will be going, "Bite me, speed of light Nazis!"


Sasha said...

You are correct, sir. I believe there are other subatomic particles that move faster than LS.

Pat Powers said...

Yeah, tachyons, but tachyons don't have mass. Neutrinos have mass, just very little of it. Getting anything with ANY mass faster than light is not within the laws of physics as we know them.

Sasha said...

Which is why a lot of SF writers use wormholes to work around the issue. You can't move faster than light,so you compress the space you're traveling through via a gateway that folds space. You don't have to travel point A to point B when you can bring point B to you.