Spool up the FTL (Faster Than Light) drive, we’re breaking the laws of physics again.
I’ve been so caught up in science fiction that I didn’t have a chance to share this tidy little science fact:
Neutrinos Go Faster Than Light (maybe)
Scientists, being conservative types, are still taking measurements, double and triple checking their slide-rules to make sure they didn’t measure something else by accident or possibly turn on the microwave while running the 1300-metric-ton particle detector, and thus hose up the very delicate measurement of how fast a nearly massless particle can go. Or maybe the GPS wasn’t calibrated. But after 3 years and 16,000 neutrino measurements, it might be possible that Einstein Was Wrong.
(Of course the scientists won’t say this yet. They need to run more tests.)
Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity says that nothing can go faster than light – if it does, either time goes backwards or you become infinitely heavy. Which seems impossible (maybe).
That maybe is where science fiction writers live.
Last week I finished up a critique of a new crit partner’s YA SF manuscript. I’m generally open (if I have time) to swapping crits with someone new, because I think you have to continually seek out fresh eyes for your work. And because I like to pay forward all the great crit help I’ve gotten in the past. But when I found out her MS was a historical-SF with Nikola Tesla as a character, I was practically begging her to let me crit. She wanted feedback on the science in her story, so it was a great match.
(Also: the story ROCKED. She is now on my Critiquers of Awesome list.)
If you don’t know who Nikola Tesla is, you need to fix that. He’s the prototype for all our models of mad scientists, an actual (crazy) inventor in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s who dreamed up alternating current (AC) (as Edison’s bitter rival), wireless radio (Marconi? No, not him), and quite possibly a Death Ray. He also was afraid of round things and loved pigeons with an unhealthy zeal.
In my critique, I tried to point out places where the story-science was implausible or contradicted by real-life known science. Of course this is science fiction, but it’s important to build a world that hangs together and doesn’t willy nilly toss off things that can’t possibly happen. You want to be scientifically plausible, so that it pulls people IN rather than OUT of your story. Sometimes this means you need to be especially skillful in your descriptions, but sometimes less is more. Overexplaining the intricate details of your Death Ray may simply make it less plausible. It’s a tricky balance.
If you don’t want to be bothered with scientific plausibility, well, that’s what magic is for. (But you still don’t escape the need to be consistent in your worldbuilding. Sorry.)
I actually think the best science fiction takes a page from the fantasy playbook and doesn’t limit itself to something that seems “likely” to be invented someday. Dreaming big shouldn’t be limited to writers who play with magic wands and sorcery. In fact,speculative fiction writers need to dream even bigger, otherwise those pesky scientists will catch up to you with their invisibility cloaks.
Maybe neutrinos actually go a bit faster than the speed of light. Maybe not. But for the next science fiction novel that I dream up, I’m going deep into the maybe zone to see what I can find there.