Yeah yeah, old news is old. Suck my dick and comment, biatches.
‘You cannae break the laws of physics, Cap’n’.
This is what the Starship Enterprise’s irascible Caledonian engineer Scottie used to say whenever Captain Kirk ordered that his ship be stretched beyond its limits.
One wonders what Scottie would have said at the news that a team of real life scientists had managed to get a stream of subatomic particles to break the most fundamental law of the Universe: thou shalt not travel faster than light.
Physicists at CERN, the international nuclear research facility near Geneva, are saying that an experiment in which a beam of neutrinos were sent 500 miles from CERN to a laboratory in Italy has thrown up a quite staggering result.
Specifically, they found that the particles got there 60 billionths of a second quicker than the light speed limit allowed.
This was not a one-off; 15,000 neutrinos were detected and the results collated over three years.
The scientists say the result is so extraordinary that it may well be a mistake but they also say they cannot see where they might have gone wrong and have thrown open the doors to the international scientific community to check, double-check and triple-check what is going on.
Because make no doubt about it, if these neutrinos really are travelling faster than light, this will overturn everything we think we know about the basic physics that underpins the way we think the Universe works. Back in 1905, Albert Einstein, in his Special theory of Relativity, demonstrated that the speed of light which is equal to 186,000 miles a second or around six hundred million miles per hour, is a universal constant. Einstein’s genius was to weave together space, time, velocity, energy and mass into a fundamental interconnected whole.
Breaking the light speed limit is not just some piece of awkward physics bureaucracy. The limit is actually a fundamental reflection of the way space and time are put together. One outcome of travelling faster than light is that the mass and energy of the object travelling this fast become infinite. This is clearly absurd.
Another consequence is that anything travelling faster than light also goes backwards in time. This would violate another basic tenet, not only of physics but of our basic philosophical comprehension of how the world works. If we go back in time, we violate the principle of causality which says cause must precede effect.
In a Universe where you can travel faster than light, omelettes can become eggs, your nose will start bleeding before I punch you and someone could go back in time and murder their grandparents and thus prevent their own birth.
Clearly, this does not appear to be the world we live in so what is going on?
It is possible, as the scientists freely admit, that they’ve made a mistake. After all, these neutrinos only broke the light speed barrier by about 12,000 miles per hour, a tiny fraction of light speed. But intriguingly, the result of the ‘opera’ (oscillation project with emulsion tracking apparatus) seems to have been mirrored in a couple of other experiments in the US.
If the result stands, we have to assume that they have discovered something truly extraordinary, perhaps as significant as Einstein’s original findings.
If things can travel faster than light, the Universe cannot be as physics assumed it to be for 106 years. Rule books will be torn up, hair will be torn out and new careers will be forged, explaining what on earth is going on.
Ironically, the one thing that was permitted in the Universe of Star Trek was faster-than-light travel. Who knows, if these results are real and can be replicated, they may open the door to a future where we can zip between the stars in a matter of hours or days, just like Captain Kirk, his grumpy engineer and brave crew.