FIRST PAGE: Sci-Fi & Romance
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“The unusual results of the latest experiments with neutrino have returned us at the beginning. For more than a century the limited speed of 299.792,458 metres per second … or 186,282 miles per second … which is as we all know defined by the speed of light, was considered the maximum speed at which all matter, energy, and information in the universe can travel. However, as first the OPERA experiment showed and after it the whole string of others: ICARUS, BOREXINO, LVD, and MINOS, neutrino seems to travel even faster. With this a cornerstone of the modern understanding of physics is seriously shaken. And today’s generation of physicists is presented with an exceptional challenge: how to explain this? How drawing on these results can we understand the universe? None of us knows the answer to this yet. But I believe that none of us who are present here on this conference, and many of our colleagues who are not with us today, can really relax until we find the answer.
“Let the game begin.”
Loud applause accompanied me when with these words I ended my presentation and walked of the stage.
It was the third day of the International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics held in Kyoto, Japan, this November. Its primary purpose was the presentation of reports about the experiments with neutrino, the elementary particle which about a year ago put the whole physics community on edge. It breached the speed of light and since then this became the main topic in the world of my profession.
My report was the last one during the morning schedule and after it there was a pause for lunch.
I was in Kyoto with my four colleagues from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, or shorter: Fermilab; a research centre which main task was to explore what the universe was made of and how it worked. As a theoretical physicist dealing with elementary particles I had been splitting my working time between Fermilab and the University of Chicago where I was a professor. Darrell Bradshaw, my best friend, who was also with me on this conference, was in the same position. I had got this job mainly thanks to him because through my collaboration with Darrell the administration of the UChicago followed my previous work in Sweden.
I didn’t actually start my career as a theoretical researcher of the secrets of quantum mechanics. In my small Swedish institute in Gothenburg, where I previously worked, we were practically oriented, doing researches and projects for different customers, mostly in the field of computing technology. My earlier theoretical contributions to the science of physics were actually carried out in addition to my regular work. The exploration of the essence of existence always interested me and this was the real reason why I had become a quantum physicist.
“You were great, Christer, especially your last sentence: ‘Let the game begin’. You have probably got the idea for it from the Harry Potter movie, haven’t you?” said one of my four colleagues, Frank Thomson, as we were leaving the conference room.
“Actually, yes. I know them by heart. My children were tireless in watching those movies.”
“You would remember everything even if you saw them only once; your memory is outstanding,” he noted.
“‘Let the game begin’ is an excellent expression. Research teams worldwide will be falling over each other now to find the solution to this problem. This conference is in fact an official declaration that the light speed has more than obviously been breached,” commented Sharon who was walking beside us. Sharon Page was one of the leading scientists at Fermilab and my close friend.
Before we were able to leave the building, a young woman had stopped me. Slim figure, straight short red hair, a “Press” badge. “Professor Sandersson, I’m Kathy Woodward, BBC news. Your lecture was truly inspiring even for us non-physicists. Could I have an interview with you?”
“Our schedule is pretty full. Right now I’m heading for lunch…”
“I know. I was actually wondering if we could meet in the evening. Then we’ll both have more time.” She gave me a contact card.
“I would very much appreciate if you would call me.” She was watching me straight in the eyes. Then she slightly smiled, turned and walked away.
Tom Hutt, another colleague of mine, silently whistled. The others were snickering, clearing their throats and such things.
Tom peeked at the card. “A card with her private cell phone number on it. And what did she scribble here?” He stretched his neck. “The name of her hotel … and even the number of her room. Oh, man, I can plainly see what kind of an interview she has in mind.”