The science-fiction-predicted future is almost here, at least where light-speed travel is concerned.
Two weeks ago, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced the likely discovery of the elusive "God particle," the Higgs boson. The announcement was met with a standing ovation and tears of joy.
"We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature," said CERN director General Rolf Heuer.
Last December, Robert Orr, founder of the Higgs boson research team at the University of Toronto, explained the role of the particle to the Toronto Star:
"If you go back to the very early universe, just before the Big Bang, particles didn't have any masses, according to our understanding. There was one very large force that all these particles interacted with. There was just a fireball," he said.
"As the universe cooled down, particles gained mass (by) interacting with the Higgs boson. The reason you can't push a car…is because of the mass of the particles in the car interacting with a Higgs field."
One CERN scientist, Albert de Roeck, likened the discovery of the Higgs boson to that of electricity, the National Post reports. He says that just as humanity couldn't fathom the future applications of electricity, we can't yet comprehend the applications of the Higgs boson, the particle thought to help explain why matter has mass.
"At this moment my imagination is too small to do that," he said.
Scientists are hoping this discovery of the particle — still in the early stages of its confirmation — will unlock mysteries of the universe, including dark matter and light-speed travel.
Scientists speculate that the Higgs boson might one day allow the "un-massing" of objects or the launching of huge items into space by "switching off" the subatomic particle.
Without mass, the likelihood of things traveling at light-speed may be possible.
The scientific community is now campaigning for Peter Higgs, the man who published "the conceptual groundwork for the particle" in 1964, to be awarded the Nobel Prize.
Last fall, CERN scientists recorded neutrinos that broke the speed of light, challenging Einstein's 1905 theory that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, a "cosmic constant."
There's no knowing (at this point) if we'll see significant light-speed travel in this lifetime. But with scientists working on unlocking the secrets to mass and the speed of light, we can justify dreaming about it a bit.