The sciences, specifically the world of partical physics, is abuzz with news of a recent discovery that seems to refute some of our most deeply held natural laws.
Scientists at the Gran Sasso laboratory in central Italy have reportedly discovered neutrinos, elementary sub-atomic particles (like electrons but having no electrical value), travelling faster than the speed of light, contradicting fundamental laws of physics.
Indeed, Alberet Einstien’s seminal E=mc2 equation, which neatly illustrated the idea that mass (m) and energy (E) were correlative, rests on the belief that the speed of light (c) is insurmountable. Likewise, the hithertofore unchallenged belief in Science generally, that light photons are the fastest thing in the universe and that an object with any kind of mass would need near-infinite energy to travel at light speed.
However, an experiment carried out by the Italian team has apparently come up with an astounding result. The Opera (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment timed neutrinos travelling from the famed European partical physics centre Cern on their 730km journey to the Gran Sasso lab. Time and again, the neutrinos have been showing up fractionally ahead of schedule.
If the neutrinos were travelling at the speed of light, the journey across Europe would take roughly 2.4 milliseconds to complete, but after running the experiment for three years and tracking the speeds of nearly 15,000 neutrinos, the scientists have discovered particles arriving sixty billionths of a second earlier. Irrespective of the 10 billionth of a second margin of error, the team can now claim that they have discovered neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light.
This is no small matter. One of the underlying laws of causality is that things cannot happen faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. If that were so, light’s relative relationship to space-time would be upset and effect could be said to precede cause. Imagine the logical mindbending needed to appreciate that something could happen before it’s own cause, and you begin to get the idea.
One of the best quotes thus far, as the Gran Sasso team prepares to formally unveil their findings, has been from Subir Sakar, Head of Oxford University’s Department of Partical Physics. Professor Sakar has stated that ‘Cause cannot come after effect and that is absolutely fundamental to our construction of the physical universe. If we do not have causality, we are buggered.’
‘If this is proved to be true it would be a massive, massive event. It is something nobody was expecting. The constancy of the speed of light essentially underpins our understanding of space and time and causality, which is the fact that cause comes before effect.’
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