Spurs-a-jingle boffins in America say that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), most puissant matter-rending machine ever assembled by humanity, may also turn out to be the first time machine ever built. According to the physicists' calculations, instruments at the mighty particle-smasher may soon detect signs of "singlets" which it has not yet generated, sent back from their creation in the future.
"Our theory is a long shot," admits physics prof Tom Weiler, "but it doesn’t violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints."
According to calculations by Weiler and his colleague Chui Man Ho, if the LHC manages to generate the long-theorised but never actually seen Higgs Boson (aka "the god particle" – confirmation of its existence was a major reason for the Collider's construction) it should also create another mysterious particle dubbed the "Higgs singlet"*. These singlets, according to Weiler and Ho, might be able to move in a fifth dimension transverse to our existing four-dimensional continuum – thus they could pop out of our universe and subsequently re-enter it elsewhere in time.
This thinking relies on the idea that the 4-D continuum we can perceive exists within a 10- or 11-dimensional universe, rather as a flat two-dimensional membrane could float suspended in normal three-d space. Versions of the so-called "M-theory" in physics hold that this is the case, but that almost all kinds of forces, waves, particles etc are stuck to the four-dimensional membrane, aka the "brane" for short.
Higgs singlets and possibly certain other things might be exceptions to the general rule, not stuck to the brane like almost everything else. Weiler and Ho are already quite well known for suggesting back in 2007 that a type of special neutrino could do this. Thus, if their theories are correct, the LHC might soon detect Higgs singlets popping back onto the brane before the collision which generated them.
Weiler insists that proper speculo-fiction time travel, faster-than-light transport etc still isn't on as only ultra-bizarro sub-subatomic particles can perform these extradimensional feats. However he does raise the possibilities of communication using such particles.
"Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example," says the prof. "However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future."
The LHC, then, might function as a transmitter for communicating across time – or, it would seem, as a possible means of sending messages across the three-dimensional universe faster than light can travel through it.
To the dull workaday minds here on the Reg boffinry desk, this would still seem to present the same paradoxes as conventional time travel. In years to come one might employ the Collider or some similar future singlet-transmitter branephone to call up somebody in the past and persuade them to murder your dad or similar – meaning that you could never have made the call in the first place. But we would candidly admit that our grasp on the notion is tenuous at best.
In the idea's defence, Weiler and Ho's multidimensional version of M-theory is apparently one of the few pictures of the universe which can explain all the types of particle and force which we know to exist. Those with the knowledge to understand it can find the two physicists' ideas on brane-bouncing singlet time travel laid out here on arXiv. We recommend some kind of reinforced hat to prevent head explosion.
Those who would like a simpler outline may care to read this handy press release from Weiler and Ho's university, Vanderbilt. ®
*Insert your own joke about string vest theory here.