Scientists making discoveries that defy the laws of physics seems to be something of a theme this month. Now the eggheads at CERN say they’ve observed subatomic particles moving faster than the speed of light, which might theoretically allow us to travel back in time. Eryn Brown and Amina Khan report for the LA Times:
Albert Einstein had the idea. A century of observations have backed it up. It’s one of the cornerstones of physics: Nothing travels faster than the speed of light.
But now a team of experimental physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, says that one exotic particle possibly can.
The scientists reached their conclusion after sending streams of tiny, subatomic particles called neutrinos hurtling from an accelerator at CERN outside Geneva to a detector at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, about 450 miles away.
The neutrinos seemed to get there too soon — 60 nanoseconds too soon, give or take — than they should if they’d been traveling at the speed of light.
That slight edge, if it holds up under scrutiny, has enormous implications for our understanding of the laws of nature, physicists said.
“Basically, all of special relativity would be wrong,” said Drexel University physics professor Dave Goldberg, referring to Einstein’s 1905 theory establishing that light travels at a constant speed, regardless of how fast an observer is traveling, and that nothing in the universe can go faster than it.
“If you have particles traveling faster than the speed of light, you can in principle go back in time. So you can be your own grandmother. As you can imagine, that causes some problems,” said Stephen Parke, a theoretical particle physicist at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill…
[continues in the LA Times]