Saturday, September 1, 2012

Faster Than LIght Travel: Neutrinos May Be Faster Than Light!

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When we zoom in on energies and matter
in outer space they look like variations of
this. There's more to that star or nebula
you like to look at!
Somehow, at the CERN laboratories near Geneva, Switzerland, neutrinos shot through the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-t Racking Apparatus (OPERA) are traveling the 453 mile tunnel 60 nanoseconds faster than they should be able to. This may not sound like much, but nearly all astronomical theories are based on the speed of light being the fastest speed within our universe, and to change this even slightly would open the doors to a near-complete revision of astrophysics, quantum theory, astrochemistry, and just about anything relating to travel, outer space, or speed. Astronomers hinge just about everything on Einstein's theories of general and special relativity, and since his theories are the foundation of astronomy and most sciences, a re-working of his theories would be in order to accommodate these new findings if they prove true. In fact, if the findings do hold true, new doors may open up other doors thought to be closed, such as other theorized space particles like tachyons. Probably of more interest to those who share the love of astronomy is how these neutrinos bring us one step closer to realistic space faring, even time travel, although the grounds to achieve time travel would probably change also, since the theories are based on Einstein's relativity as well. Dang!
Behold! Neutrinos! Depending
on what instruments
are used to visualize them,
they can look different
To elaborate more on just how ground breaking this is, the average reader probably doesn't realize how helpful and necessary theories are. Often, they might think, "Oh, just change the theories then," yet it's not that simple. Theories often act as a scope on a gun, allowing scientists to zoom in on phenomena in an otherwise too-vast-to-explore universe, giving them a framework in which to conduct their observations. If this framework were to change, then the interpretation of what is being observed would also change. This poses a problem when science itself has thousands of observations all interpreted within a given framework (Relativity, for example). So, to change the framework after so long a time has passed would completely change all the observations, forcing us to all start over with a new focus, and build a new frame again. It's been about 94 years since Einstein's theories on General Relativity reshaped our entire world-- the world of atoms, bombs, speed and travel, particles, physics, and all realms of astronomy. To change any of this would shatter nearly the last century of scientific discovery and achievement.

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