Saturday, February 9, 2008

Time travel

The Large Hadron Collider comes on line shortly, and already the idiots with nothing better than a degree in ‘Media studies’ (A non subject if ever there was one) are posting dire predictions about what such a device will do. There is much speculation about ‘Time travel’ becoming possible and 'rifts in space time', which shows how weak a grip on reality some people have.

What these prophets of doom fail to notice is the singular lack of time travel at other, similar but far smaller installations. In essence, the principle of the big one at CERN is a bigger and more sophisticated machine than previous incarnations. A charged plasma is accelerated round and round in a superconducting magnetic circle before being ‘fired’ into a ‘target’, or made to collide with a dissimilarly charged plasma going in the opposite direction at a given point in the circuit. The resulting reaction is then examined, and postulates compared to the results. Of course, it’s all a lot more sophisticated than that, but as far as basic principles are concerned, that description is close enough.

Current theory on Time Travel indicates that a huge dense mass would be required to make it possible, and whilst accelerating particles to near light speed might increase their mass, that takes energy, and all the power stations in all the world wouldn’t even come close to the energy levels required to move more than a molecule a day back in time. Even my schoolboy physics is sufficient to tell me that.

Upon reflection over that last paragraph, I would insert a qualification; ‘within the current framework of knowledge”. New stuff is being discovered every day, technical problems overcome, workarounds found for sticky problems; ergo, at a given energy level within an environment such as the LHC, the principles enabling a much sought after artificial wormhole generator might be discovered. The only certainty is that framework of knowledge is constantly changing. Old assertions are challenged and disproved, others may be found to be true all along. Others may be only found to be true under a highly specific set of circumstances. Only careful experimentation by the guys at Stanford, CERN, and a few other places will tell.