Faster Than Light Particles Discovered By European Scientists?
If this report is true then pretty much everything we know about physics could turn out to be wrong:
A startling find at one of the world’s foremost laboratories that a subatomic particle seemed to move faster than the speed of light has scientists around the world rethinking Albert Einstein and one of the foundations of physics.
Now they are planning to put the finding to further high-speed tests to see if a revolutionary shift in explaining the workings of the universe is needed – or if the European scientists made a mistake.
Researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research outside Geneva, who announced the discovery Thursday are still somewhat surprised themselves and planned to detail their findings on Friday.
If these results are confirmed, they won’t change at all the way we live or the way the universe behaves. After all, these particles have presumably been speed demons for billions of years. But the finding will fundamentally change our understanding of how the world works, physicists said.
There is, quite obviously, a lot of skepticism about this result, even from the Europeans themselves because the implications of it being correct are fairly revolutionary:
Going faster than light is something that is just not supposed to happen according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity – the one made famous by the equation E equals mc2. The speed of light – 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) – has long been considered a cosmic speed limit.
“We’d be thrilled if it’s right because we love something that shakes the foundation of what we believe,” said famed Columbia University physicist Brian Greene. “That’s what we live for.”
The claim is being greeted with skepticism inside and outside the European lab.
“The feeling that most people have is this can’t be right, this can’t be real,” said James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN.
CERN provided the particle accelerator to send neutrinos on a breakneck 454-mile (730-kilometer) trip underground from Geneva to Italy. France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research collaborated with Italy’s Ran Sass National Laboratory for the experiment, which has no connection to the atomic-smashing Large Hadron Collider, which is also located at CERN.
Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that “they are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they’ve done and really scrutinize it in great detail.”
That will be necessary, because Einstein’s special relativity theory underlies “pretty much everything in modern physics,” said John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at CERN who was not involved in the experiment. “It has worked perfectly up until now.” And part of that theory is that nothing is faster than the speed of light.
CERN reported that a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab in Italy traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds, making the difference statistically significant.
As Bryan Preston notes, this finding probably isn’t going to hold up to scrutiny simply because it’s so counterintuitive to everything that we’ve learned in physics and because, as one of the scientists said, it contradicts Einstein and, so far, Einstein’s theories have held up to scrutiny. This is a great example, though, of how science works. Consensus is challenged, but when a result that contradicts that consensus is found it’s checked and re-checked. If it does turn out to be correct, then we’re going to have a new consensus, and someone will be challenging that someday. As intriguing as the idea of particles that travel faster than light might be, though, I think this is one time where the consensus is going to win in the end.