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Story's by O.Frank

Tachyons and the speed of light

If you watch Star Trek much you have already heard the term tachyons. Well, they're not made up, there really are Tachyons. At least according to a group of maverick physicists, there really is a particle called Tachyon. As you may or may not know physics lives and dies by mathematics. The math has to fit experimental data. It's been discovered that by manipulating the math we can discover things in the underlying reality that we wouldn't otherwise know about, things that are outside our everyday experience.

This is the case with the tachyons. In the process of trying to discover what is called a unified field theory, which is a theory that will bring all known forces together, the math keeps saying that there is a particle that physicists don't like. This particle has been named the tachyon. The reason that most physicists don't like it is because it does weird things. For example, it travels faster than light. Surprisingly Einstein's relativity does not forbid things from traveling faster than light. It only forbids things from accelerating faster than light. If a particle were already traveling at the speed of light, and did not have to accelerate up to that speed, then Einstein's relativity would accept it.

Another thing that physicists don't like about tachyons is that they violate time order. For example, two observers might disagree on which of two tachyon events came first. If one observer sees tachyons fired from a hand-held tachyon gun at point "A" and it disintegrates at a target Point "B", another person might see it leave in reverse with tachyons leaving Point "B" and entering the gun at point "A". This is called a causality problem. Tachyons also create a serious problem, not because they're weird, but because most physicists refused to accept them. To truly accept something you need experimental data to back it up, but first you have to believe in something enough to do the experiments. There appear to have been some experiments done but it appears they were a half-hearted job. When something is as elusive as tachyons it may take a long time to find.

The history of physics is full of this type of story. I'm betting that, when they get around to testing for it, they're going to find that the tachyons really exist. The reason that I feel this way is because they appear to be so pervasive in the math. This is what happened to Einstein when he was developing relativity. There was a constant that was pervasive in his math. It is now called the cosmological constant. Einstein couldn't accept it so he did some funny math to get rid of it. The constant predicted that the universe was expanding. At the time it was believed the universe was in a steady state. Einstein called this his biggest blunder.

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copyright 2005 O.Frank