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Relatively Speaking…

By: Aaron Breunig to physics

Could Einstein be wrong?

Apparently the answer depends on the findings of a group at the Fermilab accelerator complex, near Chicago. Early last week physicists at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, reported that evidence from about 3 years of data and 15,000 calculations shows that the sub-atomic particles called neutrinos can actually travel faster than the speed of light. According to their data the ghost-like neutrinos, which can pass through most matter without being absorbed or otherwise affected, traveled from Geneva, Switzerland 457 miles to Gran Sasso, Italy in 60 nanoseconds less than it would take photons (light particles) to travel the same distance. These baffling results carry some astounding implications that could have a profound effect on a century’s worth of established physics. The Fermilab team is re-examining some old data from an experiment they conducted in 2007 that showed the same phenomenon and are planning to replicate the experiment and (hopefully) results using a more sophisticated GPS system and atomic clock.

As exciting and groundbreaking as this all sounds, it’s very possible that the measurements were off and nothing consequential will come from this frenzy. Or, it could be that an effect already known to physics accounts for the extraordinary results. Perhaps these cunning little neutrinos really are traveling faster than photons. Whatever the case turns out to be I, for one, am ecstatic to be alive at a time where the technology exists to be able to answer these compelling questions. A time when we question everything, especially what we know to be “true”, in a joint effort to understand the universe around us and our role in it. If Einstein was alive today to witness what could very well be the pivotal point in our understanding of physics and the universe, I’m positive that the revolutionary physicist would be enthralled at this conjecture and itching to get back to the drawing board. The great man himself said it best, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”.

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