Imagine a world where everything is exactly the same as this one but no one knows of its existence, even though it could be staring you right in the face. These are called mirror universes – a parallel world in a different time space. While this prospect may seem a bit fetched to many, Leah Broussard believes that these parallel universes are actually very real. In fact, she, along with her colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, is on the hunt for a mirror universe and plans on opening portals to them.
Broussard is attempting to open a portal to a parallel universe by, what she calls “oscillation” which would eventually lead her to mirror matter. To conduct these experiments during the upcoming summer, Broussard will send a beam of subatomic particles down a 50-foot tunnel, past a powerful magnet, and into an impenetrable wall.
So what’s the point of that? Well, if the setup is just right, some of those particles will transform into mirror-image versions of themselves, allowing them to tunnel right through the wall. If it works, this would be the first proof of a mirror universe. The whole experiment will only take around a day but analyzing the data will take many weeks afterward. Either way, it won’t be long before the results are published.
The Mirror Universe
Assuming they actually exist, these mirror worlds would have their own laws of mirror-physics and its own mirror-history. While there isn’t going to be an evil doppelgänger of everyone on Earth, scientists might find mirror atoms and mirror rocks, maybe even mirror planets and stars. They may even form an entire world, similar to this one, but completely cut off from it.
How did this come about?
Many people would be wondering how such an idea would even come around in the first place. As with many scientific discoveries, it started with nothing more than a tiny discrepancy, which the majority of people would disregard. Researchers found that neutrons created in particle beams, similar to the one Broussard will use, last 14 minutes and 48 seconds, on average, before “decaying” into protons. However, neutrons stored in a laboratory bottle seem to break down a bit faster, in 14 minutes and 38 seconds.
That’s all there is to it. Ten seconds. It might not sound like much, but the difference should be zero as all neutrons are exactly the same, and they should decay at exactly the same rate no matter where they are or what they’re doing. This links into the idea from about a decade ago from Anatoli Serebrov of Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia.
Serebrov came up with the idea that ordinary neutrons sometimes cross over into the mirror world and transform into mirror neutrons, where they would no longer be detectable – as if they had vanished. Broussard goes on to explain that this is why the life of the neutrons would look wrong and shorter. They would have actually been disappearing from the test equipment while the researchers were studying them, giving the impression of them decaying faster.
What if mirror universes were real and Broussard and her team did find them? What if they manage to open a portal? The world would never be the same again and everyone would see it completely differently as they do now. Who knows what waits for us on the other side?