You wait decades for discoveries that could revolutionise physics, then three come along at once
"The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose," as geneticist J. B. S. Haldane once remarked. In recent decades, physicists have done their best to prove Haldane wrong, by supposing some very queer universes indeed.
Their speculations may seem fantastical, but they are well motivated. Physics poses some formidable questions that we are so far unable to answer. Why is the universe dominated by matter not antimatter? Why does our universe appear to be "fine-tuned" with just the right properties to give rise to galaxies, stars, planets, life and physicists?
The existing edifice of physics, built upon the twin foundations of general relativity and quantum mechanics, is clearly in need of renovation. We have been waiting for years for cracks to appear that might tell us how to go about it. But up to now, nature has remained stubbornly unmoved.
In the past few weeks, however, promising cracks have opened up. In September came stunning news of neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. Sceptics withheld judgement but now a new analysis has affirmed the initial result (see "More data shows neutrinos still faster than light"). We still await independent verification - doubts have already been cast - but if it holds up the implications are enormous, opening the door to a new and very different picture of the cosmos.
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