The scientist in me is alive and kicking. My feelings about the recent ‘We might have broken the light speed barrier’ range from astonishment to absolute excitement. There are not many big scientific discoveries that are coming to light. This one, the mother of all rules of existence, changes everything about you and me from hereon. Well, atleast I think so. Was Einstein wrong? What happens now? Mommy, can I time travel please?
Read on to find answers to these questionsSource: Geek.com
Let me try to start from the basic, but if you have any question, please post them as a comment.
What is the Speed of Light?
The speed of light (generally considered in reference to vacuum) is maximum speed at which all energy, matter and information in the universe can travel. The speed of light in vacuum (denoted by c) equals 299,792,48 meters per second, approximately 186,282 miles per second. If you want some idea of how long the distance is, consider this - if you were to travel from one point on the equator and come back to the same point – you would have traveled 24,901 miles. You need to make over 7 such trips to equal the distance covered by light in 1 second.
Ginormous! Right? It sure as hell is!
Light travels really really fast.
Still need more? Consider this. Next time you (try to) look at the sun, just remember: The light that you can see left Sun’s surface 8 minutes and 12 seconds ago. That is how far the Sun is from Earth.
Ok, I know what Speed of Light is now, why is everyone talking about it now?
Good question. For over 100 years, we all have been living by the ideals that Einstein taught us (The Theory of Relativity).
The science world has been left in shock after it was announced that CERN scientists had recorded subatomic particles travelling faster than the speed of light in a finding that could overturn fundamental law of physics.
This discovery could upend not only 100 years of trust in scientific notions that were be-all, but they could also bring into question MANY theories that were formulated based on these findings. Ironically, science is not exact science. It is like the domino effect. If one scientific theory is falsified, even after 100 years, all the theories depending on it are questioned too.
The scientists at CERN ran the same experiment over 15,000 times to get statistically sound results, and they did. Interestingly, they are now begging the scientific community to prove their results wrong – somehow, anyhow – so that they are not ones to break rules that were set in stone 100 years ago. This humility from their end is commendable, their claims seek approval and understanding, rather than reeking of arrogance. Kudos!
So will we get new textbooks?
Possibly. If the results are proven to be correct than history and science text books will be rewritten. Not just with new sections at the end of the chapter (like when Pluto was taken off the Solar system planetary list), more like rewritten chapters. This discovery, if proven to be true, will redefine how we see science and life. Here is what Prof. Jenny Thomas at University College London said:
The basic thing it that would be questioned is that there is an absolute speed limit which is the basis of special relativity and that is a huge building block of modern physics.
It permeates everything to do with how we have modelled the universe and everything. It would be very hard to predict what the effects would be.
E=mc² could be incorrect. How tragic would that be? It could be another 6 months before we know what’s what. I am hopeful that the discovery would stand. It would be, simply put, exciting!
Explain what it would mean to us
Aha! The million dollar question? Possible answers include:
- No, food will not be cheaper
- Petrol costs will probably go up again (no correlation to this finding, just saying)
- You still won’t be able to outrun a cheetah.
But will we be able to travel into the past? Or into the future? Well, theoretically, it is more likely now (that we know the figures) than it was 6 months ago. But rest assured, a lot of things are still undiscovered. This article within 6 months (if we survive 2012) might be completely redundant.
Till then, enjoy. And don’t speed while driving. Its neither cool nor clever. Unless you have a Porsche, then its cool.