February 9, 2008

Ripping the fabric of the universe

Not quite the Rudd Rapture, but awfully close.

Russian mathematicians claim that time travel is almost a heartbeat way, well, if you have a very slow heartbeat. Three months away, to be almost precise.

Our Russian friends believe that a scientific nuclear experiment to be carried out in underground tunnels in Geneva in May this year could create a rift in the fabric of the universe.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) is going all gung-ho on a little "atom smashing", with the aim of recreating the conditions in the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang.

This is making Irina Arefeva and Ifor Volovich, of Moscow's Steklow Mathematical Institute a little nervous.

The energy produced by forcing tiny particles to collide at close to the speed of light could open the door to visitors from the future.

According to Einstein's general theory of relativity, any large amounts of matter or energy will distort the space and time that surrounds it.

If the energy or mass s large enough, so the theory goes, time can be distorted so much that it folds back on itself, creating a wormhole, or time tunnel between the present and the future. (Yes, yes, you've seen the telly show too, right?)

But Dr Brian Cox has already scoffed and scuttled the ripping of the universe's fabric, pointing out that cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere are more energetic than anything we can produce on Earth, and they've been occurring for five billion years without any time travelers turning up and demanding a welcome party.

The other little complication is that Einstein's laws of physics suggest that time travel is only possible into the past, to the point when the first time machine is invented.

Which doesn't sound nearly as much fun as popping into the future for a bit.

I already know what the past looks like, I was there.


  1. Anonymous1:19 AM

    They're wasting their time. The 4th or 5th billionth of a second after the Big Bang is when things get really interesting.

  2. "It would be very difficult to postulate any meaningful order in the universe, as a whole. One can, of course, ascertain various regular tendencies for certain things to blow up and other things to collapse, but at the molecular level this apple-pie order breaks down into an atomic game of chance, Quantum Physics According to Hoyle. Many have attempted to refute this principle by quoting Einstein's remark "God did not shoot dice with the universe." But they neglect to include his next sentence, "He did, however, plan a fair hand of gin rummy." Frankly, scientific evidence cannot be ignored. And the scientific evidence instructs us conclusively that earth and its inhabitants enjoy that class of relationship to the cosmic whole which we formerly reserved for red ants and two-headed brine shrimp."

    P. J. O'Rourke, 1971 - editorial to Harry

  3. Two-headed brine shrimp? Arh! Finally, St Kilda is explained to my intellectual satisfaction. Didn't believe that mystery would be solved in my lifetime.

    I'm partial to knowing what happened in the 8th and 11th billionth of a second Jacob. Hope they don't keep me dangling.