Tachyons, hypothetical sub-atomic particles which travel faster than light, once attracted a lot of publicity yet we do not hear much discussion of them today. Whatever happened to tachyons?
An artist’s impression of the Fomalhaut system, some 25 light years from the Sun. Could tachyons take us there? (Image credit: NASA)
Over a century ago, Albert Einstein anticipated odd things happening on a spaceships travelling at speeds close to that of light (roughly 300 000 km/s) and impossible things happening at the speed of light. It is not necessary to go into why this should be, but these predictions are enough to convince much smarter people than me that material objects attaining or exceeding the crucial speed is impossible. The speed of light is a fixed, fundamental speed limit in the Universe.
Some theoretical physicists have gone for a walk on the wild side by speculating on the possible existence of particles which always travel faster than light, avoiding the complications of acceleration past the cosmic speed limit. Physicist Gerald Feinberg even gave them a name, tachyons (from the Greek takhus, meaning “fast”, and the English ”-on”meaning “elementary particle” (yes, really)). There is a history of particle physics ...