What are Tachyons?

April 18, 2024

Physicists recently proposed the radical idea that our universe is dominated by tachyons, a hypothetical kind of particle that always moves faster than light.

About Tachyons:

  • Tachyons are hypothetical subatomic particles that move faster than the speed of light.
  • The term "tachyon" was coined by physicist Gerald Feinberg in 1967.
  • They are distinguished from "bradyons," particles that travel at less than the speed of light.
  • While bradyons are familiar and include protons, electrons and neutrons, tachyons have never been observed.
  • According to special relativity, particles with mass cannot reach or exceed the speed of light in a vacuum because their energy would become infinite.
  • However, tachyons are thought to have imaginary mass, meaning their mass squared is a negative value. This implies that they could potentially travel faster than light without violating the laws of physics as we currently understand them.
  • Tachyons would slow down if they gained energy and accelerate if they lost energy. 
  • There have been a few experiments to find tachyons using a detector called a cerenkov detector.
    • This detector is able to measure the speed of a particle traveling through a medium.
    • Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. However, in other mediums, particles can potentially move faster than light.
    • If a particle travels through a medium at a speed that is greater than light for that medium, cerenkov radiation occurs.
    • This is analogous to the sonic boom produced when an airplane travels faster than the speed of sound in air or the shock wave at the bow of a ship.