Physicists across the world are aghast. Not content with blowing up a fuss the first time round, the physicists at the OPERA collaboration in Switzerland have had the indecency to repeat their results using a more accurate method, and have stumbled on a potentially profound, but nonetheless fairly irritating discovery. They are fairly sure now that physics isn’t working.
To summarise, because physics tends to be small-town news, the OPERA collaboration have fired neutrinos at a detector and, despite using extremely sensitive equipment, checking their calculations carefully, and praying to all the gods they have ever known, the team have, for the second time, found that neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light. Truly, they are quaking in their boots.
It is very easy to imagine that physicists are heroes among men, warriors for a valiant truth, who will strike out against fallacies and untruths. However, physicists tend to be rather conformist. It’s not nice to be working on a minor theoretical aspect to the conductivity of superfluids in zero-gravity ionic-array structural solvents, only to find that one of the modelling assumptions you’ve made turns out to be wrong. Plus there’s a bit of hero-worship going on. Einstein was quite a cool physicist, and, let’s face it, how many times have you looked at Stephen Hawking and thought ‘wow, he’s totally rad man’?
Indeed, after a long and arduous freedom of information request, and five minutes of extremely quick easy phone-hacking, I can now produce a transcript of the initial meeting where the OPERA collaboration team realised that, for the second time, something was going wrong…
“So, ah guys, we got the results, and, well, I’m sorry to say that we’ve done it again.”
“What, our neutrinos went faster than light? I thought we had rigged the experiment so that they couldn’t do that. It was embarrassing last time…”
“Yeah, clearly it didn’t work. The fundamental laws of the universe are clearly having an off day. Does anyone know if something weird has happened? I dunno, a temporal instability, or the Merkel and Sarkozy agreeing on something? I wonder if something has triggered the collapse of the universe?”
“You know, why don’t we just pack the whole thing in? Blame it on a dud satellite and campaign for an improvement to the GPS service.”
“I invented a new form of mind-wiping machine the other day, we could try using that. And if you want to get your memories back, you just reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”
“Neutrons don’t have a polarity.”
“They don’t? Bother. I’ve just discovered a new impossible thing.”
“What was the point of this whole experiment anyway?”
“You know, I’m not actually sure. I was just trying to see if I could aim for Berlesconi’s head.”
“Well I was trying to destroy the pope.”
“Wait a second, who are you?”
“I’m, ah, Richard Dawkins.”
“But you’re a biologist!”
“I am? Ah, sorry, probably the wrong room. Never mind…”
“Who actually published the results? We should have kept things a but quieter. Apparently physics has even been mentioned on Radio Four! Physics? On the BBC? I thought they dealt more with the social things. Why people congregate around the water cooler, and all that.”
“Oh, sorry, that was me. I had an intern in, and I clearly didn’t explain to them about the whole impossible thing, so they went ahead and published.”
“Ah well, nothing we can do, really. Just got to grin and bear it. Does anyone want a cup of stone cold tea in a mug that they haven’t washed since the early 90’s? Good, I’ll go and get some then.”
As the physicists file dejectedly out of the room, the only positive thing in their lives being ionised nuclei, a solitary figure, half shrouded in think, velvety shadows sits. A white cat rests in a box on his lap, in a state of perpetual uncertainty. The person smiles, and his teeth glint slightly in the dim light.
“Excellent,” He says, his accent a combination of old Soviet Union and German Nazi. “Everything is going to plan…”