NASA scientists have detected evidence of a parallel universe, right next to ours, where all the rules of physics seem to be operating in reverse.
Fans of sci-fi and comic books have known all about parallel universes since the early Sixties.
But while physicists have been debating since 1952 whether we actually live in a ‘multiverse’ – when quantum science pioneer Erwin Schrödinger gave a lecture that he himself admitted might “seem lunatic” – there’s been little evidence so far of dimensions beyond our own.
But now a cosmic ray detection experiment has found particles that just could be from outside our universe.
NASA ’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA) uses a giant balloon to haul delicate electronic antennas high into the cold dry air above Antarctica – where there is little or no radio noise to distort its findings.
There is a constant “wind’ of high energy particles coming from outer space – some of which are a million times more powerful than anything we can generate ourselves.
Low energy particles – neutrinos – can pass completely through the Earth, barely interacting with the substance of our planet at all. But higher energy objects are stopped by the reassuringly solid matter of the Earth.
That means that high energy particles can only be detected coming “down” from outer space. To detect a heavier particle – a tau neutrino – coming “up” out of the Earth would imply that these particles are actually travelling backwards in time.
And that is exactly what the ANITA scientists have seen.
Peter Gorham, an experimental particle physicist at the University of Hawaii and principal investigator at ANITA, is lead author on a Cornell University paper describing the bizarre phenomenon.
Pointing out the sheer impossibility of the tau neutrino’s behaviour, Gorham suggests that the only way it could happen is if the particle changed into a different type of particle before passing through the Earth and then back again.
It’s a billion-to-one shot that might just happen once.
But the ANITA team have seen several of these “impossible” events.
Even as the team wrote their paper they knew the shapeshifting particle idea was a bit of a stretch.
“Not everyone was comfortable with the hypothesis,” Gorham told New Scientist.
The simplest – and therefore scientifically the most elegant explanation is this: at the moment of the Big Bang two universes were formed – ours, and another one that from our perspective is running in reverse.
Of course if there were any inhabitants of this mirror universe, they’d see ours as the backwards one.
If the team’s findings aren’t the result of a bizarre experimental error, the implications are incredible.
Ibrahim Safa, who also works on the experiment, says: “We’re left with the most exciting or most boring possibilities.”