Random Thursday: technology, tachyons, and text files


funny pictures - I tried being reasonable.

Because of the narrow and elusive nature of  Windows of Repairperson Opportunity (WRO), my husband and MIL and I have designed a complicated choreography of overlapping schedules to ensure that someone is home to answer the door between eight a.m. and noon tomorrow morning and that my MIL will not have to answer any questions that the repairperson might ask beyond confirmation of our address.

I cancelled an early appointment, just to make sure.

Said repairperson had better show.  With the right connector.  And the knowledge to replace it.

Or else.




Getting my nerd on:

The bartender says, “We don’t serve faster that light particles in here.”

A tachyon walks into a bar.

Apparently, during the course of an ongoing (since 2006) experiment called OPERA, in which a stream of muon neutrinos are beamed from the CERN Super Proton Synchrotron in Geneva to a lab in Italy’s Gran Sasso mountain  in 2.4 milliseconds for a very important reason I wouldn’t be able to understand if you paid me, the OPERA physicists have discovered that a small percentage of the 10-to-the18th-power neutrinos they’ve sent over the years have arrived about 60 nanoseconds sooner than they should have.

They don’t know why this is happening.  Nothing seems to account for it, not equipment calibration or human error or mistaken identity.  But it’s enough for the word tachyon to have been rumored to have been mentioned in a whisper. Maybe.

In physics, this is apparently the same thing as shouting on a viral YouTube video, because one of the more questionable pundits to whom our newspaper gives editorial space wrote a quarter page worth of disapproval of the possibility a few days ago.

But I can’t blame people for running with the idea and it’s easy to join in the excitement—obviously.

According to someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, the only papers that have been published on tachyons are about how impossible they are.  And if tachyons are proved to exist, physics as we know it* will implode (or explode), because Einstein—on whose work modern physics rests—said that nothing can travel faster than light.  Not never, not nohow.  The mass of an object approaching the speed of light will reach a state where it cannot be moved by the available energy and time stops and even science fiction writers start to look around for a Deus Ex Machina to get their starfleets off the ground.**

Except maybe, you know, not.

This has some physicists worried.***  And when people who are in charge of understanding how the universe is supposed to work get worried, that’s sort of fundamentally worrisome, isn’t it?

Science is supposed to explain things so we know where we stand.  But if the whole of our current knowledge of the universe is  like a flashlight, illuminating only the smallest portion of what’s out there—what happens when the batteries won’t work anymore?  I mean, the universe will still operate the way it always has . . . right?  Isn’t there some kind of clause that an observed object will be changed simply by being observed?  So what if it’s observed . . .  differently?

But I’m not worried about the possible revocation of the laws of physics for three reasons:

1)  I’ve been reassured that the law of gravity will operate as usual, regardless of the outcome.

2)  Future seasons of The Big Bang Theory are going to rock.

3)  Three words:  Tachyon.  Engines.  Dude.

It’s going to be difficult to get independent verification of whatever these speedy neutrinos mean, since not everyone has the equipment to hurtle matter through a mountain without making something of a mess.^^

But it should be a wild ride.


Today, one of my favorite authors, Jeff Somers, called me both old and stupid—indirectly—and made me like it:

Where do you store all your old stuff?


* Or don’t know it, in my case, but that’s never stopped me before.

**I might be paraphrasing that last bit.

*** Although one would think that starting over from scratch would mean serious job security.  Unless there are discredited tachyon scientists just waiting to leap out and say, “Ah HA!!  Who gets the office with the window and the retractable whiteboards, now, sonnyThey thought me mad!  BWAHahahahahahahahaha!”

^ Show of hands—who just thought, potato cannon ?  Be honest.