A 2010 light installation entitled ‘Speed of Light’ in London. Ben Stansall /AFP/Getty Images
I was watching a Mystery Science Theater 3000 or MST3K movie about my favorite kaiju Gamera. I do remember, just not sure which movie – perhaps Gamera vs Zigra, where there were “space women” talking about how far their planet was from Earth. It was something in the 100k light years which the Earth scientists thought that it would be impossible to travel because it would take over 100k years to travel it. However, the “space women” countered with the fact that space was curved. With that bit nugget of information, I did a bit of research and came up with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. I’m not going to go into details but he was the one that said that nothing can go faster than the speed of light. Apparently, the new findings may poke holes in Einstein‘s Theory.
The AP is reporting results from a group of Italian researchers using equipment from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) that claims they’ve measured particles traveling at a speed greater than the speed of light.
The experiment is called OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus), and lies 1,400 metres underground in the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. It is designed to study a beam of neutrinos coming from CERN, Europe’s premier high-energy physics laboratory located 730 kilometres away near Geneva, Switzerland. Neutrinos are fundamental particles that are electrically neutral, rarely interact with other matter, and have a vanishingly small mass. But they are all around us — the Sun produces so many neutrinos as a by-product of nuclear reactions that many billions pass through your eye every second.
The 1,800-tonne OPERA detector is a complex array of electronics and photographic emulsion plates, but the new result is simple — the neutrinos are arriving 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light allows. “We are shocked,” says Antonio Ereditato, a physicist at the University of Bern in Switzerland and OPERA’s spokesman.
If this result were true (it has not been published, and thus not peer-reviewed, yet) then the structure of the world might be very different from what we believe. Einstein’s theory of relativity is built on the idea that there is an absolute cosmic speed limit — that light is the thing traveling at this speed is beside the point. Among other things, the existence of that speed limit sets the structure of causality in the Universe.