“Tachyons to be seen in 2019”

THE ABOVE PREDICTION WAS MADE 2/12/19. Regrettably, I was wrong on the timing, but I continue to believe the prediction will ultimately be proven right. For the current situation, see KATRIN experiment news under the news tab.

The possibility of speeds faster than light was ruled out by Albert Einstein in his original paper on relativity at least for particles whose speed were initially slower than light.   George Sudarshan and colleagues O.M.P. Bilaniuk and V. K. Deshpande showed in 1962 how particles that were always faster-than-light now called tachyons might exist without violating 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 might 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.  In fact, the model is consistent with the KATRIN experiments initial results. Ehrlich has also written a popular level book “Hunting the Tachyon: and finding three unicorns and a herd of elephants. Many physicists 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 to be seen 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: See KATRIN experiment news under news tab