Tachyons to be seen in 2019

THIS PREDICTION WAS MADE 2/12/19. They may have been seen then but not recognized as such! For the current status of tachyons, see final paragraph below.

The possibility of speeds faster than light was ruled out by Albert Einstein in his original paper on relativity.   Despite Einstein’s assertion, George Sudarshan and colleagues O.M.P. Bilaniuk and V. K. Deshpande showed in 1962 how faster-than-light particles now called tachyons might exist based on an extension of Einstein’s theory.  Without any sighting of such beasts in over half a century, most physicists are extremely skeptical, especially after a retracted report by a CERN group in 2011. Now an experiment at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany known as KATRIN should give a definitive result when it measures the mass of the antineutrino with ten times the accuracy of previous experiments.  If they find an imaginary value for the mass, or a negative value for its square, that would indicate the antineutrino is a faster-than-light tachyon.  An imaginary mass is nonsensical for objects that can be placed at rest on a scale, but for antineutrinos their mass is found indirectly by counting the numbers of electrons emitted with different energies in nuclear beta decay – a process in which an antineutrino is also emitted.

Artwork is by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha and appeared in Symmetry Magazine.

Nearly all physicists expect the experiment to find a mass less than four millionths that of the electron. But Robert Ehrlich, a retired physics and astronomy department chair from George Mason University, who is not associated with KATRIN, believes they will find three specific larger masses, one of which is imaginary.  The three masses, part of his unconventional “3 + 3” neutrino model, should each create a distinctive feature in the electron spectrum, so if they are all observed there should be no doubt as to the model’s validity.

Ehrlich first proposed his model in a 2013 paper, and more recently he wrote a 2019 paper published in Advances in Astronomy, which summarizes all the evidence since found in support of the model.   Confident that KATRIN will validate his model, Ehrlich has been writing a popular level book “Hunting the Tachyon: How faster-than-light particles stayed hidden for over a century. Many neutrino experts have dismissed Ehrlich’s work as coming from someone who sees tachyons wherever he looks. “Guilty as charged,” he recently replied. “I have seen tachyons wherever I looked — because I have looked for them exactly where one would expect them if they really exist.”   He goes on to note that: “A finding that one type of neutrino is a tachyon will require a radical revision in our understanding of both subatomic particle physics and cosmology.  Some have suggested it even raises the possibility of using tachyons to send messages back in time.” 

CURRENT STATUS OF PREDICTION:

The first results of the KATRIN experiment based on 21 days of data came out in the late summer of 2019 and they were consistent with both the 3 + 3 model and the standard model of a single effective mass less than 1.1 eV as discussed in this paper. At the end of about a year of data-taking I believe that KATRIN should have enough data to either confirm or disprove the model. An excellent video about this magnificent experiment can be found here.