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Einstein's theory threatened:CERN scientists discover particle traveling faster than speed of light

 
 
sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 08:07 am
@Chinspinner,
This is a good overview of the situation; it's generally pessimistic about whether the results will stand up, but it does include a theoretical "But what if it's right?" section:

http://news.discovery.com/space/reality-check-what-are-those-naughty-neutrinos-really-up-to-110924.html
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 11:59 am
@rosborne979,
Quote:
1. Cherenkov Effect

One way to go faster than light is to make the light slow down! Light in vacuum travels at a speed c which is a universal constant (see the FAQ entry Is the speed of light constant?), but in a dense medium such as water or glass, light slows down to c/n where n is the refractive index of the medium (1.0003 for air, 1.4 for water). It is certainly possible for particles to travel through air or water at faster than the speed of light in the medium, and Cherenkov radiation is produced as a result. See the FAQ entry Is there an equivalent of the sonic boom for light?.

When we discuss moving faster than the speed of light, we are really talking about exceeding the speed of light in vacuum c (299,792,458 m/s). The Cherenkov effect is thus not considered to be a real example of FTL travel.


http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SpeedOfLight/FTL.html

If the neutrinos travel faster than light speed in a vacuum then it is something serious.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 12:49 pm
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:

The world would be a very different place if we had to wrap our physics around faster than light particles.


How so and for whom?

If this discovery is confirmed, I'm assuming that no one will contend that these extraordinarly fast moving particles didn't just come into being or that laws of physics which we have relied upon for years just suddenly changed. Of course, someone might very well be contending these things and so my assumption could be in error, but until someone sets me straight though, I'm going to stick with the assumption.

If the discovery is confirmed, and my assumption is correct then the only thing that will have changed is our understanding of the universe, not the universe itself. Unless one argues that changes in our understanding of the universe literally change the Universe the world will not be a very different place, it will be the same place; better understood by us.

Of course I appreciate that you are probably speaking figuratively and that the world will become a very different place to people who make an effort to understand how the universe (and our world within it) operates.

For the overwhelming majority of human beings, the day before the discovery is confirmed will be generally the same as the day after. The moon will not go spinning of into space, time travelling dead relatives will not turn up at family picnics, we will not meet multiple versions of ourselves in the shopping mall, and men will not begin to bite dogs.

The people who spend their lives trying to understand in their minds and explain on big chalkboards how the universe works might tear a few chunks of hair from their heads and tear up hundreds of notebooks, but their brains will not explode, nor will they find themselve transformed into cosmic fetuses.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not minimizing the potential impact of this discovery if it is confirmed, nor have I climbed onto a soapbox to declare that a change in our theoretical understanding of how the Universe works is nothing compared to the question of where a North Korean mother will find food today for her starving child.

I am though wondering if any of you have given thought to what the long term practical implications of this dramatic change in what we know will have on how we live?
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 01:03 pm
@sozobe,
I love the juxtaposition of hard science with photo captioning.....

sozobe
 
  3  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 01:11 pm
@DrewDad,
Yeah, I particularly liked "pics or it didn't happen."
0 Replies
 
Zarathustra
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 05:16 pm
@Chinspinner,
You can forget about String and M-Theories even if this doesn’t pan out. No one can say where to go from here if it is true. It is not, by the way. It will not be possible to “tweak” current theory and no current theory that includes tachyons (which is what this particle would be) is a viable model of nature.

Current theory would have to be scrapped. QM is far too structured; it would all fall if this were true. In fact a major foundation point of QM is broken if this turns out. There is an energy related to the vacuum, called...err...the vacuum energy. According to QM, in a perfect vacuum this value is zero. In fact it is the most accurately measured value of zero that exists. We know that the vacuum energy is equal to zero out to about 20 decimal places: 0.00000000000000000000!

Yet if tachyons exist they can (must) then also be created during virtual particle pair production, meaning that the energy of the vacuum is actually infinite, which would be a bit embarrassing as we have taken the trouble to measure it so closely. And pronounced it zero.

In common terms if this is true according to current theory the vacuum should just explode with infinite energy into tachyon particles. It is not doing that so the theory would go away. There are no other theories that work that can explain this particle and those that contain tachyons don’t work. It is too soon to even know what the particle’s basic properties are so even if there was a plausible theory we don’t have the info to plug into it yet.

So if it is true scientists will start observing nature to see what new knowledge has been gained and will begin to theorize and test until they find the next (better) theory.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 05:37 pm
And thus spake he . . .
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2011 05:48 pm
@DrewDad,
The best was:

The bartender says: "We don't serve tachyons in here."



A tachyon walks into a bar.
igm
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Sep, 2011 09:30 am
@Setanta,
See there is some of that humour I was talking about even if it's second hand but funny I must say. Oh and I've posted to you on our recent topic.. so I'm not running ... are ... you?
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Sep, 2011 10:09 am
@igm,
Quote:
.. so I'm not running ... are ... you?


You've described Setanta to a T, Igm.
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Sun 25 Sep, 2011 10:52 am
@JTT,
My this is the first thread in a long time that you had not found some way to attack the US!!!!!!
0 Replies
 
gungasnake
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 07:07 am
Einstein claimed information cannot be passed around faster than C. Nonetheless gravity propagates instantaneously to within our ability to measure and, clearly enough, any time you take one step you are sending a (gravitational) message out into the cosmos in real time.

http://metaresearch.org/cosmology/speed_of_gravity.asp
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 07:21 am
@gungasnake,
In Einstein view of the universe gravity forces are not communicated by particles faster then light or not but is a distortions of space time instead.

gungasnake
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 09:18 am
@BillRM,
Gravity is the most major area in which Einstein blew it.
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 10:00 am
@gungasnake,
Quote:
Gravity is the most major area in which Einstein blew it.


That is an interesting stand to take now could you let all if us all know what your background is in that area of human knowledge that would allow you to judge Einstein and can come up with such a statement?
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 03:16 pm
Further to my thoughts regarding faster than light phenomenon: There are 3 things to be considered with earth and light experiments. 1. Medium: Air 2. Earth's curvature. 3. Gravity affects light as well though minimally.

I wonder if the scientists took the distance from maps. If this is the case 730 km is the curved path along the surface of the earth. If the neutrinos followed the same path then it is a problem. If the neutrinos somehow were aimed at the Italian Lab from CERN in a straight path then the length of the path is not an issue. Could the path itself being conditioned affect the result?
igm
 
  2  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 04:06 pm
@talk72000,
If they dashed off an email or text immediately after they got the neutrino time taken v the speed of light then yes but they know their reputations are on the line. I think they’ve got your scenario covered.
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 04:52 pm
@igm,
You are right if there is an error it likely to be a very subtle error indeed that a large numbers of very bright people had not yet seen.
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 04:59 pm
@igm,
My concern with the path is that the curved surface of 730 km is like the bow. The straight path is the string. The straight or string path is shorter so it could appear to be faster i.e. a sprinter running 90 meters but registered as 100 meters will appear to be faster in print. 20 parts per million of approximately 186,000 miles per second comes to about 4 or 5 miles/second faster. 20 parts per million of 730 km is .0146 km or 14.6 meters. It meant the neutrinos travelled 14.6 meters less in a straight path if the 730 km distance is from maps and not measured by lasers.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2011 05:00 pm
@talk72000,
Yeah, 60 ns at speed of light is approximately 69 feet.....
 

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