Faster than light?

Cern, the largest physics laboratory in the world, has recently come up with some rather distressing and perplexing results regarding the maximum speed of the Universe.

To simplify, the scientists and Cern, Switzerland were performing an experiment involving the nature of neutrinos. A neutrino, by the way, is an elementary subatomic particle; this is a small electrically neutral particle than is able to be broken down into any other particles, and so is a “Universal Building Block”. Being electrically neutral gives neutrinos the ability to pass through matter almost seamlessly. Cern scientists were testing an odd habit of neutrinos to spontaneously change their types, by firing a beam of muon neutrinos through the Earth to a laboratory in Gran Sasso, Italy, to detect what proportion would arrive as tau neutrinos (a different type, in what way isn’t important).

The neutrinos received in Gran Sasso travelled over 700 km in less than 2.5 milliseconds. This might seem meaningless, but it turns out that this works out to mean the neutrinos were tachyonic. The existence of tachyons is as of yet purely hypothetical, but these particles essentially travel faster than light, and muon neutrinos may have this property. Of course a lot of modern physics relies on a maximum Universal Speed, for example Einstein’s theory of special relativity incorporates a maximum speed (c; the speed of light) into the well known equation E=mc2, as well as the addition of velocity equations disallowing any relative velocity exceeding the speed of light. Put simply, if the idea of a universal maximum speed was found to not exist, or exceed the speed of light, it would be shall we say a slight upheaval for the world of physics.

Now, the immediate conclusion was that there must have been a mistake, and so Cern has made sure to continue and repeat the experiment… a lot. In fact, the experiment was repeated around 16,000 times. Cern decided then to hold meetings to address these results, and has published the findings in the hope that other scientists may be able to find a reason for the neutrinos behaviour, or preferably find any errors or mistakes the Cern team may have made. Tests and analysis are ongoing, but no one wants to commit to or even expand upon the notion that these neutrinos have actually reach superluminal speeds.

It is however, expected that results will be published in the near future with some kind of explanation; this will almost definitely be an acknowledgement of some kind of error. Special relativity states for a particle accelerate to the speed of light (from a lower speed), it requires infinite energy (however special relativity does allow the existence of particles that travel faster than the speed of light at ALL times i.e. tachyons). Previous studies have recorded neutrinos travelling slower than the speed of light, if both concepts are true, i.e. neutrinos have been clocked at travelling above and below the speed of light; then special relativity would break down. None of the scientists want this, and testing may well be ongoing until errors are found. As of yet, no conclusions have been drawn.


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