CERN discovery throws a wrench into physics laws
Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 21:10
Groundbreaking measurements with potential to upend the fundamental laws of physics were recently announced by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. When measuring the speed of neutrinos along the 730 km underground lab for a separate experiment, researchers recorded that the neutrinos traveled .0025 percent faster than it would take for light to complete the trip – the neutrinos had seemingly exceeded the speed of light.
Scientists performed the experiment by colliding packets of tiny particles called protons down a target chamber in the Swiss laboratory. After colliding, the protons broke down into other, highly unstable quantum particles. This instability caused the particles to split into much more stable muon neutrinos as they went down the decay tunnel. Finally, they arrived at the Italian end of the lab, when they were recorded to be traveling at a speed faster than light.
The discovery created a furor in the scientific community because it contradicts Einstein's special theory of relativity, which states that nothing in the universe can travel faster than light. The discovery of particles that travel faster than light would wreak havoc with our current understanding of cause and effect in physics.
The implications of this potential discovery are far-reaching. And with any extraordinary finding, extraordinary evidence is required to confirm it. The CERN laboratory has reported that they have been unable to find any errors in their rigorous calculations or with their enormously sensitive and accurate equipment. However, don't throw away your physics textbook quite yet: CERN's results will need to be checked by outside researchers and replicated at another laboratory before scientists discount Einstein's theory and begin rewriting the fundamental model of the universe.