Coping strategy for revolutionary scientific breakthroughs: XKCD's "Neutrinos"

In today's XKCD, a nicely illustrated framework for managing the cognitive disruption entailed by hard-to-understand scientific breakthroughs, such as the news of a faster-than-light particle.



  1. Assuming the results are accurate, wouldn’t it now be possible to send near instantaneous messages across the solar system, or even deep space?

      1. Ourselves. Think about it; whats the point in building an engine that could take you to the farthest reaches of the universe if you cannot send a message the across the same distance.

        This discovery could (and probably will) lead to faster than light communications, and if the communications can go faster than light, how far behind is FTL travel?

        1.  And what was the point to sending sailing ships on long voyages if the sponsors could not communicate with them?

          Near real-time communication over long distances are less than 200 years old.

          1. The point to sending sailing ships on long voyages was that a long voyage was less than a year.  Sure you couldn’t talk to the guys in real-time but you’d still be around when word eventually got back to you. 

            Same can’t be said of long-range space travel.  If we send a crew off to seek new worlds and all that, we’ll probably never see them again.

          2. Exactly. Even sending a ship to Alpha Centari with a theoretical nuclear pulse propulsion, it would take a life time to get there (85 years), and another life time to get back. By the time you got there, the entire trip point of the trip would be trumped by new technology allowing you to do the same thing in a third of the time.


            @LightningRose:disqus : our ancestors didn’t circle the globe in a canoe, they explored further and further with what they had until they built ships capable of the task.

        2. I guess if you take the long view then yes, that’s reasonable.  I was thinking of near-term applications, since I have this sinking feeling that if we launched a ship with FTL communications today it would get passed by a ship with FTL travel tomorrow.  Then those poor souls need to schlep all the way back…

          But while we’re talking about FTL travel, there’s no guarantee it’s possible.  Maybe neutrinos are as good as it gets.  Still, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

    1. Assuming the results are accurate, wouldn’t it now be possible to send near instantaneous messages across the solar system, or even deep space?

      That’s not how ansibles work.

      1. Ansibles are a pretty generic concept.  They wouldn’t work on the idea of getting information from point A to point B through normal space-time.  Imagine a dimension consisting of a singularity which is contiguous to every point in our space-time. That would mean that every point in our space-time is separated from every other point by a singularity. Of course, there might be a few tiny technical details to work out.

    2. I dunno about that, but if we can harness quantum entanglement you could rig up a network that would allow instantaneous communication across any distance.

  2. People, get it together here. Let’s focus on what is important for a change! Light speed is TOO slow (Light speed is too slow?). Neutrinos have to go right to LUDICROUS SPEED.

  3. It is funny that scientists pretend they knew all new discoveries all along, yet resist it like the plague.  I think people are just lazy and don’t want the paradigm to change too much.

    1. Yes, surely it is because they are lazy.  Not because the rules they know have worked for a really long time and they want to be absolutely sure of things before they re-write all the books.

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