26 Sep 2011

Scientist may eat shorts on TV!

Over the last week there has been excitement in the media about the speed of light barrier being broken by speeding neutrinos. This is essence means that the laws of physics as written/discovered by Einstein may have to be re-written.

A neutrino is a very tiny particle with a very low mass – lighter than electrons. Basically the experiment in CERN shot them over several hundred meters and then timed them very accurately. The results showed that they arrived at their destination 60 billionths of a second earlier the equivalent of 60 feet ahead of anything moving at the speed of light. They did this with 15,000 neutrinos. The scientists have overchecked their results and found that they are well within margins of error. The first and usual response of scientific communities has always been to postulate error in the science or a hoax.

It’s not the first time neutrinos have been found breaking the speed limit. They were first caught doing so in 2007 in the Minos Experiment in Chicago’s Fermilab. But on that occasion the measurements were not statistically good enough to give them a speeding fine. (FT 2011-09-23)

Prof Jim Al-Khalili, professor of Physics at Surrey University, reportedly said in The Telegraph 2011-09-23 "The scientists are right to be extremely cautious about interpreting these findings. If the neutrinos have broken the speed of light, it would overturn a keystone theory from the last century of physics.

"That’s possible, but it’s far more likely that there is an error in the data. If the CERN experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.

Their reputations are on the line, quite clearly. So, it is unlikely that any scientist hoping to upset what Einstein had laid down in stone, is going to make a silly mistake on a calculator.

The Independent has done a good coverage of what this could mean if the Theory of Relativity falls. Almost the whole of modern physics may need to be rewritten. It raises the possibility of new technologies, faster than light travel in the distant future and unusual manipulations of the space-time continuum.

The Captain will be most certainly watching this space very carefully. I hope I get the opportunity to offer the Professor some Brown Sauce!!