ALPHA cooperation conducted the most accurate experiment of all in measuring the behavior of neutral antimatter in a gravitational field. Depending on the results, it can open doors for incredible new technologies. Many science-fiction technologies will remain in the field of fiction for a long time (or forever), unless physics changes. But in fact many experiments can check this?
The dream of instant communication, interstellar spacecraft and the ability to navigate through time – the battered stamps of science fiction. In many ways, they represent the greatest hopes of humanity, and yet rely on technology that goes beyond what is known at the moment. Nevertheless, new experiments are constantly conducted and are being developed. If we are lucky, what can we find beyond the horizon? Ethan Siegel with Medium.com answers the following question:
"Provided that we are lucky, what scientific experiments that will be carried out in the next few decades can open up to us science-fiction opportunities?"
There are several fantastic possibilities that can shake up our reality by the end of the 21st century.
Any rockets that were ever created require fuel. But if we created an engine on dark matter, new fuel could be found literally at every step leading through the galaxy
Dark matter can be an unlimited source of fuel, which we do not need to carry with us. One of the greatest mysteries in science is, in fact, the nature of dark matter. We know that it exists, thanks to indirect observations, and we know that there are many. If we sum up all the usual matter in a large galaxy, it turns out that the dark matter is five times larger. And it almost certainly consists of particles with some common properties:
- they have a mass
- they do not have an electric or color charge
- they interact gravitationally
- they must, at a certain level, collide with each other and / or with ordinary matter
From the famous Einstein formula E = mc 2 we learned that in dark matter there is a huge amount of energy: five times more than in all ordinary matter in total. If the universe is good to us, we could try to extract it.
Mass distribution of the cluster Abell 370, reconstructed using gravitational lensing, shows two large, diffuse halo masses corresponding to the dark matter of two merging clusters. Near and inside any cluster of ordinary matter there is five times more dark matter
Within the framework of many experiments, dark matter collides with both ordinary matter and itself. In general, there are two types of particles: fermions (with half-integral spin) and bosons (with an integer spin). If dark matter is a boson, it means that it is most likely its own antiparticle, which means that if we take two particles of dark matter and force them to interact with each other, they will mutually be destroyed. And if they are destroyed, they will produce pure energy. In other words, it is a free, unlimited source of energy that is available everywhere and in plenty. And you do not even need to take it with you if you decide to cross the universe. Therefore, when you hear about experiments on the search for dark matter, unlimited, free energy is our ultimate, desired goal.
Illustration of a warp field from the "Star Trek", which reduces the space in front of you, lengthening the space behind you
Antimatter can have a negative mass, which means that it can be the key to the warp engine. If you want to travel to the stars, the usual sources of energy and fuel will take you only from the fence and before lunch. Or they will not move faster than the speed of light. The nearest star of the Sun type with potentially inhabited worlds, Tau Ceti, is about 12 light years away from us. That is, one trip to and fro will take at least half a lifetime. But if we could squeeze the space in front of us, traveling along interstellar space, while expanding it behind, we could get there much faster. It was this idea that occurred to the astrophysicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994, who subsequently formalized it according to the canons of strict science.
Only here a negative mass is needed to solve Alcubierre
In order to achieve the correct configuration of the space-time necessary for the acceleration of the warp engine, it is necessary to fulfill two conditions: a colossal amount of energy and the existence of a negative mass. This negative mass, which until now is known only on paper, is needed for the correct curvature of space-time, and hence for the warp movement. But we have never measured the mass of antimatter particles; They fall "down" or "up" in the gravitational field, it is still unknown. CERN's ALPHA experiment is currently measuring the gravitational effects of antimatter and its behavior in the gravitational field. If the answer is "up" in the gravitational field, we will simply get our negative mass and collect the warp engine.
Instrument Virtual IronBird allows you to create artificial gravity, but it requires a lot of energy and allows you to provide only a specific centripetal force. True artificial gravity will require a negative mass
A negative mass would also allow us to create artificial gravity. The same possibility – the existence of a negative mass in the universe – would allow us to create an artificial gravitational field. The existence of positive and negative charges in electromagnetism allows us to create conductors, manipulate electric fields and screen these electric fields. Gravity, as far as we now understand, has only one type of charge: a positive mass. The existence of a negative mass would allow us to create a true environment with zero gravity and would enable us to create an artificial gravitational field of any magnitude between two systems of positive and negative mass.
The idea of time travel constantly pops up in science fiction. But if there are closed timelike curves in the universe, it is not only possible, but inevitable
A rotating universe could allow us to go back in time. At the same time, time travel is not only possible, but inevitable … in the direction forward. Since space and time are united by a space-time fabric, a significant shake-up of the physics known to us will be required to make the time flow in the opposite direction. In space, to return to the starting position is simple enough: the Earth itself does this when it makes a revolution around the Sun, but there is a significant distance ahead in time, that is, time passes, about one year. "A closed spatially similar curve" is easy to make. However, to return to the starting point in time, something unusual is needed: "closed timelike curve" is a feature that in our expanding, filled matter of the Universe does not exist. If only the universe does not rotate.
In the Universe that rotates, there is an exact solution, in which the density of matter and the cosmological constant (the same dark energy) have definite values, and the Universe should have closed timelike curves. So far we have only imposed restrictions on the general, global rotation of the universe, but did not exclude it completely. If the universe rotates at a certain speed, which is balanced by a given density of matter and a cosmological constant, it will be absolutely possible to go back in time and return to the exact place from which you started, not only in space but also in space-time. Large-scale surveys of structures of deep space that can provide observations of observatories WFIRST or LSST, can reveal such rotation, if any.
The conceptual image of the satellite NASA WFIRST, which will go into space in 2024 and provide us with the most accurate measurements of dark energy, and will make other discoveries
There are always more exotic possibilities than the science allows – teleportation of physical objects, instantaneous movement between open locations (wormholes) or communication faster than light speed – but this will require much more complex dances with tambourines than a simple experiment with two possible outcomes . Nevertheless, we continue to search. Science is not a story with one end. This is a continuing detective where every discovery, every data point and every experiment inevitably leads to deeper issues in the future. During this journey it is important to keep the mind open.