Thursday, March 1, 2012

Questioning Einstein's Theory - better check your tools

Past six months have seen hope, excitement, and disappointment - the full circle. An experiment purporting to show that subatomic particles can travel faster than light has scientists' heads spinning. Theses particles called Neutrinos have been reported to travel (made to travel from Italy to Geneva) 60 nanoseconds  faster than light — an apparent breach of the cosmic speed limit set down by Albert Einstein more than a century ago. Einstein's theory of relativity incorporates his crucial idea that the speed of light—about 186,000 miles a second—is a barrier that can't realistically be breached. In the famous equation E=mc² that equates mass with the energy contained within it. If particles go faster than light, things become troublesome.
Put things in perspective, here is a comparison of speeds of different objects.

Fastest Plane
Space Shuttle
768 mph
13,000 mph
17,600 mph
671 million mph
Time to circle the earth
32 hours
2 hours
90 minutes
0.134 seconds
Neutrinos are particles with almost no mass and no charge, and they can pass through ordinary matter unaffected. At any given moment, billions harmlessly stream through a person's body.The result may have turned out to be a leap into a science fiction territory where particles theoretically travel backward in time. 
However, it now turns out that a flawed cable could have been responsible for garbling the result - BUMMER.

CERN - the European Organization for Nuclear Research now says it had identified two possible effects that could have affected the interpretation of the data. One relates to a device known as an oscillator that plays a role in synchronizing clocks at the Swiss and Italian ends. If the oscillator was wrongly calibrated, that would mean the neutrinos had actually traveled slower than light, and all would be right with the world. A separate—and more troublesome—glitch may have occurred in a fiber-optic cable that brings a Global Positioning System, or GPS, signal to a master clock.
This is the beauty of science where one day you find that you have discovered answer to one of the most fascinating problems and later it is proved that the study needs to be checked. objective and so transparent esp when it comes to studies that have the potential to change century old facts.
The most funny part of this story was a statement  by Prof. Khalili, who said "There's a small part of me that's disappointed that I won't have to" consume underwear on TV, said Prof. Al-Khalili, a well-known broadcaster in the U.K. "The public humiliation would have been a small price to pay for a revolution in physics" if the CERN results were confirmed.
Note: He actually promised that if this was true he will eat his underwear in public.

Till then, hats off Mr. Einstein, you still rule the roost !!

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