Thursday, September 29, 2011

29/09 VOX POPULI: If time travel is possible, I want to return to the morning of March 11

Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of the vernacular Asahi Shimbun.


"And you cannot move at all in Time, you cannot get away from the present moment."

"My dear sir, that is just where you are wrong."

The above lines are from "The Time Machine," a short story by H.G. Wells (1866-1946). The novel, released in 1895, is regarded as a masterpiece that dealt with time travel not with mysticism but as a science.

Ten years later, real science showed that no substances can travel faster than light and it is impossible to go back in time. It is the theory of relativity established by young Albert Einstein (1879-1955). Thus, the time machine was confined to the realms of imagination.

But an international team of scientists recently came up with a finding that could overturn this long-accepted theory. They reported that subatomic particles called neutrinos travel faster than light. When they repeatedly shot them from an accelerator in Switzerland and measured the time it took them to reach detectors in Italy, they found that the particles had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done. In terms of speed, it is 0.0025 percent faster than the speed of light.

It is potentially a major discovery that could shake the foundation of modern physics developed by Einstein and proved in every area of science. That is why many people are skeptical of the finding, saying there must have been an error of measurement. The research team also plans to reconfirm the finding with a different set of scientists.

"If possible, would you go to the future or the past?" "If I can start over again, I want to be such-and-such an age again." "I want to deliver a message to myself as I was 10 years ago."

We can enjoy such harmless and lighthearted banter because time travel is a dream. I don't know if I want the idea to remain a dream or to travel faster than light to see how stupid I look from the future.

There were nights when I thought about the beginning and the end of the universe and questioned my own existence. If I could go back, I want to be that age again. If I could go back to sometime this year, without hesitation, I would fly back to the morning of March 11 carrying a microphone.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 28

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

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