Sept. 29, 2011, noonView more articles
In the 17th Century Sir Isaac Newton outlined his laws of motion in which time and space are static. Almost 250 years later Einstein theorised that space and time are in fact intertwined, fluid and actually affected by motion – meaning that the closer you travel to the speed of light, the slower you age in relation to your surroundings.
A fundamental tenet of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is that nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum. It is nature’s own universal speed limit. However, scientists working at CERN in Switzerland and the San Grasso research facility in Italy have revealed ‘evidence’ that may disprove this, and as a result undermine the foundation of modern particle physics – not to mention create the possibility of such science fiction as time travel becoming theoretical science fact.
Neutrinos have been shot through the Earth’s crust from the CERN facility to Italy, but are arriving sixty billionths of a second earlier than they should – that’s 0.00000006 of a second. It seems a tiny amount but this fractional difference suggests that light is not in fact the fastest thing in nature as was previously thought. Alternative theories for the result range from the neutrinos travelling in another dimension between Switzerland and Italy, through to them using an unknown field within a vacuum.
Professor Frank Close of Oxford University suggests that the findings may be disproved by accounting for the time differences in GPS and other measuring tools used for the experiment, the impact of which could skew the results because of the tiny fractions of a second being measured.
Nothing is definite yet, and the scientists involved are calling for others to either contest or prove their findings. A team in Japan and one in the US will attempt to replicate the findings, not only because it is needed in order to claim a scientific discovery, but also because neutrino experiments are not historically reliable, according to some scientists.
The potential for change in our understanding of modern science following this discovery is far too big to comprehend, especially since it is yet to be proven one way or another. What it does show, however, is that continuing to ask questions, investigating and finding scientific evidence is as important and exciting as it has ever been.
CERN scientists present their findings to fellow scientists and journalists (Image Cedit: CERN)