Key takeaways

  • Introduced by Albert Einstein and named by physicist Gerald Feinberg in 1967, tachyons are hypothetical particles that travel faster than light.
  • Light travels at an unparalleled speed because it has no mass. Objects with mass can’t reach this speed due to increasing energy requirements.
  • If tachyons exist and travel faster than light, they could potentially enable communication backwards in time, leading to fascinating time travel possibilities.
  • No known mechanism in the universe allows for faster-than-light travel or backwards time travel, making the existence and implications of tachyons purely theoretical.
  • Scientists continue to investigate the tachyon’s potential, though solving the faster-than-light challenge and the unidirectional nature of time remains a significant hurdle.

The tachyon particle has practically legendary status in the scientific community, owing to the fact that we do not know whether it exists. But if it does, the tachyon has some intriguing parallels to time travel.

Albert Einstein introduced the concept of the speed of light, as well as a particle capable of traveling faster than the speed of light, in 1905. In 1967, physicist Gerald Feinberg coined the term “tachyon” to describe these hypothetical particles. We’ve always been intrigued by the promise of the tachyon, and now, owing to a recent Discover Magazine piece, the mysterious particle is back in the spotlight.

The gist is that there is currently nothing faster than the speed of light. Light has no mass, so it does not grow in size as it speeds up. Meanwhile, as an item accelerates, it gains mass, indicating that it lacks the energy to keep up with the speed of light. So, because everything in our world travels at a slower rate than light, every cause that occurs within our known universe occurs within the time constraints of light.

However, a tachyon is a particle that travels faster than light—at least in theory. The tachyon must maintain a constant speed greater than that of light, which means it can never slow down. For the time being, that appears to be a daunting challenge.

But here’s where time travel comes in. If you can travel faster than the speed of light, you could theoretically transfer messages faster than time, allowing you to send a message backwards. That communication could then reach you before you even considered sending the initial message. It’s a little difficult to comprehend.

As argued in the Discover report, the fundamental question is whether the tachyon’s time travel component is just unproven or impossible. Not only do we have to solve the whole faster-than-light conundrum, but another tricky issue is that our universe does not currently have a mechanism to travel in any direction other than the future.

We merely need to work out both of those possibilities so that the hypothetical tachyon can travel back in time as well as faster than the speed of light. You’d better start trying.

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