Sunday, September 25, 2011

Has CERN Observed Particles Traveling Faster Than Light?

According to a report from the associated press, researchers at CERN may have observed a particle traveling faster than the speed of light, and are now seeking confirmation of their findings from outside sources. Note that the emphasis in that sentence should be on the phrase, "MAY HAVE".

Now, while I would be willing to claim that I posses a better understanding of particle physics than your average person on the street, the truth is, I'm just some random geek on the Internet with a thing for science. And while I am both aware, and at least have a basic understanding of many of the basic principals and theories associated with particle physics, I SERIOUSLY lack the expertise to try and explain to you in technical detail exactly what's been going on inside the particle accelerators at CERN, so I won't even try to get too technical. But the basic gist of things is this:

The observation in question was made a few months ago during an experiment in which sub-atomic particles called neutrinos, were generated By CERN in Geneva, and fired across 454 miles to a particle detector in Italy. According to the results of the experiment, CERN's neutrinos managed to arrive at their destination in Italy, 60 Nanoseconds faster than a photon; a measurement well outside the experiment's 10 nanosecond margin of error. Now, I realize that 60 nanoseconds may not sound like much, mostly because, on a macro scale, it isn't. But, ANY amount of acceleration beyond the limit of light speed is a big deal, as it is -as far as we know anyway- physically impossible to travel faster than light.

Einstein's theory of special relativity, and the speed limit it imposes, is one of the most well-established, and thoroughly tested concepts in physics. One which has been challenged, and repeatedly proven true, for over a century now. So one unconfirmed data point, from one unreplicated experiment, is not likely about to send it crashing down. But, there is always the chance, however unlikely it may seem, that other researchers will be able to both confirm and replicate these results, and change one of the fundamental laws of physics. But just for the record, my money, along with that of basically everyone else who's chimed in on this subject, is still on Einstein.


Source: AP, Bad Astronomer
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For more info on CERN's findings, and what it would mean if proven true, here's an Interview from the BBC with physicist Brian Cox on CERN's findings:

Posted by Youtube user: SuperRorylewis

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