We could be welcoming our first time-travellers from the future this year after a giant scientific experiment is switched on in May. Or that is what a couple of Russian scientists would have us believe.
The giant, international, £2 billion underground laboratory near Geneva, called CERN, will investigate the tiniest particles in the universe making up atoms. Skymania visited the centre last year.
It will accelerate them close to the speed of light and smash them together in an attempt to recreate conditions that existed in the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang that created the cosmos.
But the forces unleashed could tear the fabric of the universe, causing a rift in space and time like that in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood, whose star, John Barrowman – time agent Captain Jack Harkness – has also visited CERN.
That would turn the experiment, called the Large Hadron Collider, into the world’s first time machine, say Irina Aref’eva and Igor Volovich, of the Steklov Mathematical Institute in Moscow.
Laws of physics dictate that time travel into the past is only possible as far as the point when the first time machine was invented. That means that any time travellers in the future will be unable to travel back earlier than 2008 – a date termed Year Zero by scientists.
The respected Russian experts’ predictions are reported in New Scientist this week. They say the energy contained in particles a trillionth the size of a mosquito will be enough to do extraordinary things to its surroundings.
They say each particle travelling in the LHC will create a kind of shockwave that distorts space and time around it. Under certain conditions, the colliding waves will rip a hole in space and time – called a wormhole.
This wormhole acts like a time tunnel that advanced civilisations might be able to manipulate to travel through and pay us a visit.
Dr Brian Cox, of the University of Manchester, is one of Britain’s leading experts in particle physics and will work on the UK’s Atlas detector on the LHC. He is highly sceptical about the Russian claims.
He told Skymania today: “Cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere are far more energetic than anything we can produce at the LHC. They have been occurring for 5 billion years, and no time travellers have appeared.
“Stephen Hawking has suggested that any future theory of quantum gravity will probably close this possibility off, not least because the universe usually proceeds in a sane way, and time travel into the past isn’t sane.
“So – whilst with our current understanding of General Relativity it’s true that these anomalies exist, to suggest that the LHC will have anything to say on the matter is in my opinion nothing more than a good science fiction story.”