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Image / Editorial

So did NASA really discover evidence of a parallel universe where time goes backwards?

by Holly O'Neill
22nd May 2020

The truth about “the parallel universe where time flows backwards”

Last night I sat and stared at the headline, ‘Has NASA found a parallel universe where time goes backwards?‘, for maybe five minutes. I couldn’t make it make sense in my head, couldn’t process the words.

“Surely… not,” I thought somewhat dimly.

It’s hard to be profound when you’ve just heard that everything you thought you knew about the world is upside down. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a lot going on in the world right now.

My first question was, why had I just stumbled across this headline? Surely if this was true, a neighbour would have come knocking on my door to shout it into my face, surely there would be an unscheduled government broadcast that interrupted the Transformers 3 movie to let me know.

Someone would have at least sent me a WhatsApp.

Are you telling me that what must surely be the biggest discovery in history is going to make its way to me via an article I stumbled across on my phone, and then I am to just continue, in the normal universe, watching TV and drinking tea and scrolling Instagram?

Also, what does a parallel universe mean? There’s some version of everything that’s happening now, happening somewhere else? Some version of me, somewhere else in the galaxy, sitting confused on a couch in my pyjamas trying to comprehend how a headline could change everything we know about the world?

And what does ‘time flows backwards’ mean? When did time start, in the parallel universe? In the parallel universe, was my retinol usage decreasing over time, and not increasing? Was the first question that really came into my head when presented with the idea that time could “flow backwards” really about retinol?

As I said, it took a few minutes for me to process through an explosion of questions.

Sadly, as Ibrahim Safa, lead author in the misinterpreted study, said on Twitter:

Well, what is it, Ibrahim? Can you be a bit clearer here, please? Is my cat a kitten in the universe where time flow backwards? Can I get some answers?


CNET explains in a detailed rundown of the reporting how a paywalled report by New Scientist titled “We may have spotted a parallel universe going backwards in time,” sparked a ton of misguided reporting. What really happened is a discovery that particles, or neutrinos, were behaving abnormally, based on findings maintained by NASA. These fundamental particles “may defy our current understanding of physics”. But it could just be an issue with how particles interact with ice.

Basically, someone else, like me, read the headline and ran with it. The real news has something to do with neutrinos. No, me either.

Ah. So no parallel universe. We’re stuck here in the one where time flows forwards. No kittens. More retinol.

Can I suggest that, should NASA discover a parallel universe where time does flow backwards, that everyone could get a bit more prepared? Can someone at least send me a WhatsApp and let me know?

Photography by Denis Degioanni on Unsplash.

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