The Discovery of particles that travel faster than the speed of light: Could it perhaps be the most embarrassing claim that the scientists have made in the recent times?
Scientists worldwide are baffled and shocked at the claims made by physicists at CERN, the world's largest physics lab near Geneva on Thursday night. They announced that they have found tiny particles called neutrinos that can travel faster than light.
If the claim turns out to be true, it will prove Einstein's theory of special relativity wrong- a theory that's the basis of the modern physics that states nothing can travel faster than light.
Under Einsteinian physics, nothing exceeds the speed of light, and so far, nothing has challenged that conclusion. At particle accelerators over the decades, subatomic particles are pushed to ever-higher speeds, but it takes ever more energy to attain each new fractional step toward the speed of light. Instead of going faster when driven with higher-energy accelerators, the particles get heavier. That phenomenon is described by Einstein's famous equation linking energy (E), mass (m), and the square of the speed of light (c): E=mc2, news.cnet.com reported.
Not just that. The discovery is so huge that it would have an unparalleled impact on our understanding of science and the world around us.
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Brian Cox, the TV presenter and physicist, told BBC Radio 6 Music: If it is confirmed it will be the most important discovery in physics in at least the past 100 years. It is a very big deal, it requires a complete rewriting of our understanding of the universe ... it is such an extraordinary claim that it is difficult to believe.
Scientists around the world are so sure about the claims being wrong that a British physicist even said that he would eat his boxer shorts on live TV if the theory turned out to be true.
That's possible, but it's far more likely that there is an error in the data. If the CERN experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV, Prof Jim Al-Khalili, professor of Physics at Surrey University said according to The Telegraph.
Also, Prof Stephen Hawking, the world's best-known physicist, expressed doubts, saying: It is premature to comment on this. Further experiments and clarifications are needed.
Researchers at the CERN university themselves were shocked with what they found and took several months checking their data before inviting the world to challenge their work.
Scientists working on the project known as OPERA emphasized on the need of checking the data carefully before drawing any conclusions about our understanding of the universe.
The scientists are right to be extremely cautious about interpreting these findings. If the neutrinos have broken the speed of light, it would overturn a keystone theory from the last century of physics.
The claim has been openly criticized by many, including Dr John Costella, an Australian-based physicist, who accused the researchers of making an embarrassing gaffe in their calculations.
Any physicist worth even a fraction of their weight in neutrinos will be shaking their head, knowing intuitively that the OPERA result is simply wrong, he wrote in a paper published online, the report said.