Friday, September 23, 2011

CERN: Speed of light broken

Prof Jenny Thomas, of University College London, says the claims, if proven true, would call into question our very understanding of physics and the universe.

She said: "It would turn everything on its head. It is too awful to think about.

"The basic thing it that would be questioned is that there is an absolute speed limit which is the basis of special relativity and that is a huge building block of modern physics.

"It permeates everything to do with how we have modelled the universe and everything. It would be very hard to predict what the effects would be."

UPDATE: The ‘discovery’ was made by the OPERA experiment while the neutrinos were beamed from Geneva to a lab in Gran Sasso in Italy. The pre-print of the report, prepared by CERN and published today (23rd September) can be found here:

Special relativity is integral to the understanding of particle accelerators and the creation of particle beams, which are of crucial importance in fields like medicine and engineering, she said.

It could even be that the most famous equation of all time, E=mc2, turns out to be incorrect because it is based on the law of special relativity, Prof Thomas said.

Before any conclusions can be drawn, the CERN team's results will be checked by scientists across the globe including at Fermilab near Chicago, where a similar experiment known as Minos is based.

Prof Thomas – the co-spokesperson for the Minos project – said the team had thrown up similar results several years ago but had discounted them because the possible margin of error was too high.

She said: "Our errors were rather large so we dismissed it. Nothing is further from your belief than that the results might be correct.

CERN Press Release by CMS:

"When I heard about the Cern results my first thought was that they must be wrong, there must be something they have not taken into account."

Potential errors could occur in the measurement of distance between the point the particle was created and where it was detected; the time it took to travel from one point to the other; or in the structure of the accelerator which the whole measurement relies upon.

Prof Thomas added: "I think everyone is sceptical. The scientists themselves have admitted they are sceptical but they cannot see what they have done wrong.

"We will repeat our experiment with higher precision, hopefully in the next six months."

The Fermilab team will then begin a second stage of their experiment, called Minos Plus, which is even more similar to the Cern trial and will deliver results accurate to one nanosecond, she said.

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