Particles Traveling Backwards Through Time? Watch Out DeLorean Motor Company.

On March 14, 2018 Stephen Hawking passed away leaving an enormous intellectual legacy behind. Ten days prior to his death Hawkins was still working on his final paper titled, “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation.” The co-author, Thomas Hertog, made a few small revisions to the paper, but nothing significant after Hawking’s death. The paper was officially published on May 2, 2018 in the Journal of High Energy Physics. The paper addressed an extremely complex topic many physicists struggled with, the theory of the multiverse. 

Multiverse theory states after the big bang inflation occurred causing the rapid expansion of space and time. This expansion continues on forever in most areas, but in some small areas it did not. This formed new universes running parallel to that in which we exist.  

Hawkin’s original theory of “no boundary” stated the multiverse was infinite. This meant there were infinite parallel universes and they kept multiplying as expansion happened. This theory was abandoned during his final paper in order to simplify the theory, making the multiverse tangible and measurable. However, this paper did not prove the multiverse theory, nor did it give any way to test the theory. So until recently, the multiverse theory was still a far reach in theory only. 

Almost exactly two years later physicists working in Antarctica may have stumbled upon evidence which confirms parallel universes, in which everything is moving in the opposite direction relative to our own.  

Peter Gorham and a team of researchers were working in Antarctica with the instrument ANITA.  They were measuring cosmic radiation and neutrinos which are constantly bombarding us on earth. These microscopic particles rain down from space constantly, some interacting with matter here on earth and some, like low energy neutrinos, do not.  Neutrinos have the ability to pass through earth as if it wasn’t even there. 

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Diagram of the operation of ANITA

The research involved flying a large balloon high above the frozen landscape while attempting to gather readings from the high energy particles entering the atmosphere from space. Initially, the research was fruitless and only flashes of background radiation were being recorded. These were ignored and the experiment was repeated a second time. Again it produced the same results, or what was thought to be lack thereof.  

After the team decided to review the data of the initial flights again, they found the “background noise” they had initially ignored were indicative of high energy particles. These particles were not coming from space, rather they were jettisoned from the earth itself. This shocking discovery was made back in 2016 and propelled research by numerous teams and individual physicists to explain the mysterious particle’s origin. 

Modern physics could not explain what the researchers were finding. Presumably, the particles being recorded were entering through the earth on the opposite side and exiting through the ground in the Antarctic. Based on the standard model this did not make sense. 

As I have explained briefly before, low energy neutrinos would have no problem traveling through the earth unobstructed. The issue was that the readings from the equipment did not show interactions with low energy particles.  The energy recorded was from high energy particles. 

These high energy neutrinos would not be able to pass through the earth, like their low energy counterparts. They have the tendency to collide with matter here on earth. Cosmic rays can not pass through the earth either, due to their high energy and similar inability to avoid interaction with the earth. 

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Photograph of neutrino collision. 

Initially the researchers proposed the neutrinos were transforming from a tau neutrino to a tau lepton and then back again.  This was a shaky explanation of the findings of the team and many were not satisfied with it. The chances of this transformation allowing the particles to survive their entry through earth was possible, but unlikely. 

In 2018 another burst of high energy particles was recorded by the Gorham’s team. The data was then analyzed by a third party, Derek Fox of the Pennsylvania State University. 

These new findings complicate matters. Fox found that the chances of this phenomenon occurring on two separate occasions was dubious. The likelihood of a neutrino making its way through earth and successfully exiting the other side are said to be one in a million. For this to happen twice is an impossibility. The team needed to find a better explanation for their findings. 

Particle physics is governed by the standard model. This is a list of known particles and their specifications which are known to be extremely accurate. The standard model has been confirmed time and time again in laboratory tests. In some cases, such as the ANITA discovery, researchers are often forced to broaden the search of possible particles involved because the standard model can not account for the experimental findings. 

Supersymmetry has been called upon as a possible explanation. Supersymmetry is a theory that states all particles have a twin, which is more massive, and that these twins would be more likely to act as those high energy particles the team found did.  The problem with this theory is that no attempts to create and observe the “twins” have been successful, thus many physicists do not consider supersymmetry viable. 

Neil Turok at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, is a theoretical physicist who bases his work in simplicity. He is not an advocate for the tendency some physicists have to manufacture tons of new particles to explain what we find. His work was able to lead the researchers to their current understanding of what they found in Antarctica.  

Turok was working on how CPT symmetry would have affected the early universe if present during the big bang.  They found what particles would have been created. One of these was the heavy right-handed neutrino. The neutrino gets its name due to the direction it spins. Turok research found the right-handed neutrino’s mass fit our universe’s most elusive substance, dark matter. The mass of this dark matter candidate was directly in line with that which was found by the researchers in Antarctica. This went unnoticed for sometime until eventually the connection was made.

Luis Anchordoqui at the City University of New York made the connection first. He theorized these particles were collected by earth’s gravity and they were stored in the center of the earth until they decay into Higgs boson and tau neutrino pairs and released, which was being observed by the researchers in Antarctica. 

Turok’s prediction of the multiverse states that after the big bang the majority of matter settled in our universe and the majority of antimatter settled in another. Anti matter is opposite of matter, thus would appear to travel backwards through time. Everything in the alternate universe would be opposite of how we see our own.  Stars and planets would consist of antimatter, but what is even more mind bending is the theory the universe itself would be contracting rather than expanding.

Big Bang - Wikipedia
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Photo depicts the time line after the big bang: How our universe is expanding

Our perception of what is forwards, backwards, up or down is relative to our own experience. So the universe’s behavior is relative to the one experiencing it. There is no way to tell what universe we are in, that which consists of the “right” or “wrong” matter. The only thing we can predict is that the alternate universe would be opposite of what we experience. 

A second research team set out to confirm Gorham’s findings but were reportedly unsuccessful.  IceCube’s team were looking for a flash of light present when a neutrino crashed through the ice in Antarctica, however they found no high energy neutrinos in the area Gorham’s team found them.   It is believed that high-energy tau neutrino can be mistaken for that of a lower-energy muon neutrino. If this was the case, IceCube has spotted at least one low energy neutrino thus supporting the multiverse theory.

Photo Credit:
Diagram of the experiment/observation being conducted in Antarctica by IceCube

Today in Antarctica, Gorham and his team have continued with their research. They are attempting to track larger particles escaping from the ice and are currently analyzing newly collected data from the fourth balloon launch. We are eagerly awaiting the release of their data once they have completed their review. 

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