The VANCOUVER COURIER, Dec. 2
Last month CNET reported the arrest of a “would-be saboteur” at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Eloi Cole said he had traveled back in time to prevent the particle-smashing behemoth from wrecking the future. The young man was “wearing a bow tie and too much tweed for his age,” according to police.
“Countries do not exist where I am from. The discovery of the Higgs boson led to limitless power, the elimination of poverty and Kit-Kats for everyone. It is a communist chocolate hellhole and I’m here to stop it ever happening,” he reportedly said.
The guy’s routine sounded more like performance art than mental illness – or perhaps a viral marketing scheme originating with the candy bar lobby. Within days, CNET updated this overtweeted tale, informing readers that an accident at the LHC had shunted April Fools’ Day to 1 November 1. The time-warping mishap had leaked “a dangerous amount of comic radiation into the atmosphere.”
CNET’s newsprank almost topped true tales from the sober side of science. A few weeks ago, scientists in Sweden succeeded in creating light out of a complete vacuum. In other words, producing something out of nothing is no longer the exclusive domain of Simon Cowell.
If that’s not crazy enough, back in September a team of Italian physicists announced experimental evidence that subatomic particles called neutrinos travel faster than light. They fine-tuned the experiments, and last month announced they had repeated the initial findings. Within days a team of physicists from the same laboratory cast doubt on the findings. For science geeks, the controversy is either super exciting or seriously disturbing. Two months ago, BBC science presenter and physics professor Jim Al-Khalili expressed his refusal to take any subatomic insurgents lightly. He announced that if the initial results “prove to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.”
For over a century, the speed of light – Einstein’s uppermost limit for communication – has been a prime building block in our understanding of the cosmos. If anything can go faster than photons, all sorts of paradoxes become possibilities – like messages traveling backwards in time, or live broadcasts of physics profs eating Calvin Kleins marinated in chagrin.
Neutrinos, generated by nuclear reactions in our sun and in distant stars, are bizarre entities unto themselves. At any moment, an unknown number of these ghostly particles are flowing from space right through your body, into the ground and back out into space from the opposite side of Earth. Their stand-offish relationship with matter inspired John Updike’s 1962 poem, Cosmic Gall: “Neutrinos, they are very small/They have no charge and have no mass/And do not interact at all/The earth is just a silly ball/To them, through which they simply pass/Like dustmaids down a drafty hall/Or photons through a sheet of glass.”
As far as I’m concerned, it’s no business of the microscopic world to compete with the macroscopic world for strangness. In fact, when it comes to current events, time travel is a totally redundant proposition. Wait long enough and the front page headlines will recycle, with a few minor changes. One example is the renewed effort to paint Iran’s President Ahmadinejad as Saddam 2.0, trotting out the same routine about weapons of mass destruction and sanctions that prefaced the war against Iraq. Even the subprime crisis of 2008 is back, at a higher turn of the screw in the Eurozone. The international banksters are exploiting unstable sovereign funds for profit, in a manner similar to how they gamed home mortgages during the US real estate bubble.
The worldwide derivatives market – essentially bets on bets – is estimated at an insane 870 trillion dollars, twenty times greater than global GDP. Just as mysterious ‘dark energy’ is fueling the expansion of the universe, the expansion of the global economy has been fueled by shadowy speculators using opaque financial instruments, with little transparency and no oversight.
We don’t need some guy in a bowtie and tweed warning us about a scary Swiss supercollider. We need Terminators tumbling out of a Stargate like gumballs, with a prime directive to Occupy The Past and kick some pinstriped asses. Here’s hoping there’s a future for someone or something helpful to arrive from.
CARTOON, VANCOUVER COURIER NOV. 23