From many-worlds to multiverses, physicists have had to come up with some pretty bizarre theories to explain the strange world of quantum mechanics, many of which sound less like science and more like science fiction. Now you can add parallel worlds to that list, according to

A reanalysis of experimental data, originally obtained by the research group of Anatoly Serebrov at the Institut Laue-Langevin in France, has shown that when some free neutrons are 'lost' during experiments where they are subjected to a magnetic field, those neutrons might have disappeared from our world and 'traveled' to a mirror world, or a parallel reality.

The explanation might sound outlandish, but so were some of Serebrov's original experimental data. Italian physicists Zurab Berezhiani and Fabrizio Nesti, who performed the reanalysis, posited this hypothetical mirror world because the potential loss rate of free neutrons in Serebrov's data could not be accounted for by known physics.

Basically, the loss rate of free neutrons-- unstable neutrons that have broken free of a nucleus-- is usually expected to occur within the timescale of their rate of decay. Neutron decay operates under a half-life of about 10 minutes. But the reanalysis of Serebrov's data showed that some neutrons could be lost within a timeframe of just a few seconds depending on the strength of the magnetic field applied.

One way of explaining this anomaly is to posit a hypothetical parallel world consisting of mirror particles. In such a scenario, each neutron would have the ability to transition into its mirror twin, essentially having the ability to oscillate from one world to the other.

The theory amounts to more than just a fanciful mind trip, too. Because this hypothetical oscillation can be effected by the presence of magnetic fields of varying strengths, it could even be detected experimentally.

So what might this hypothetical parallel world look like if we could travel there too? No doubt that depiction remains strictly the fodder for science fiction authors everywhere.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Quantum experiment could offer proof of a parallel world
Experimental results that seem to defy known physics might be explained by positing a parallel world.