If you’ve ever seen a single episode of Star Trek, you’ve heard Captain Picard talk to his crew about Tachyon particles. So as not to disrupt the storyline, you continue watching, nodding along as if you know what he’s talking about. You don’t know, though. “Tachyon” sounds like technical space jargon. And, well, it is.
Allow me to introduce you to the tachyon particle in some ways that are easier to digest.
What are tachyons? The basics:
- Tachyons are hypothetical and they move faster than the speed of light. Discovered in 1962 by Arnold Sommerfeld, they were given the name tachyon from the Greek word “tachus” which means “speedy”.
- Gerald Feinberg is credited with the accepted concept of a tachyon. Feinberg theorized that tachyons held the key to precognition and psychokinesis, though, no scientific evidence has proven his ideas.
- Some reasons they stay hypothetical are because: In physics, quantum particles such as tachyons have unknown limits (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal) because a tachyon’s speed can’t be quantified. They also violate causality since they could theoretically be sent into the past. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa. Tachyons as hypotheticals, retain many unknowns. This makes it a challenging particle to predict or manipulate.
- Tachyons and time travel are often linked since nothing else has ever been believed to move faster than the speed of light. In the quantum world, however, it is a possibility. Because it can’t be proven or disproven, it remains in limbo. This example provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald sheds a bit of light on time travel and tachyons. His diagram shows that because of a tachyon’s speed, it is possible to send them into the past. The video below expands upon the notions of time travel:
Let’s imagine for a moment that tachyons are real.
What could we do with them if we harnessed their observable powers?
Some scientists theorize that tachyons hold the key to space communication. If a tachyon could be sent throughout all points in space, a reply could be retrieved, even if the responders were light-years away. We could finally get an answer to the question we’ve been asking the entire time we’ve been alive: Are we alone in the universe? If we expanded upon Feinberg’s ideas of psychokinesis (communicating via brain waves), could we yoke the tachyon’s muscle to bridge the gap to potential other lifeforms?
In the world of science fiction, tachyon particles have already changed many worlds and dimensions. In the following microsite (click on the banner image below) we have explored some of the applications and impacts of tachyons in popular culture:
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