Could Einstein Have Been Wrong?

Alice Zhu


The  entire universe is pondering the answer to this question: could Einstein have been wrong? I was shocked when I read an article on the discovery of a particle that may travel  faster than light. But at that instant, I thought back to all of the other instances where  a phenomenon  had been uncovered that eventually was just a bluff. There was the rumour that global warming was caused by aliens, there were the many dates on which all humans were destined to perish, and, of course, there was the love affair between Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

But this issue is serious. If something does travel faster than light, then that would change the world of physics. Right now, scientists in Italy claim that they have found a particle that travels faster  than light, which Albert Einstein, the “Father of Physics”, proved is the fastest  in the universe. These scientists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) have been working on a project known as the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (OPERA), which includes scientists from Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, and Switzerland. They claim that a particle called the neutrino travels “20 parts per million above the speed of light”.

The neutrino is one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe. It acts like an electron, yet it does not have a charge. In fact, it  interacts very weakly with matter, which makes it very difficult to detect its presence.

According to a report, the scientists at CERN working on OPERA conducted their experiments with a GPS, atomic clocks, and other instruments that gave them the parameters of time and distance, which give the velocity. The calculations were simple enough; the distance had an error range of 20 cm and the time 10 ns. The results were acquired by firing muon neutrinos from the Super Proton Synchrotron at the headquarters inGenevaa distance of 730 km under the Alps to a detector inGran Sasso,Italy.

When it was discovered that neutrinos traveled 20 parts per million (0.002%) m/s faster than the speed of light, even the researchers were shocked. Scientists from all around the world expressed disbelief, and some just chuckled. Professor Dave Wark, who was part of the T2K experiment inJapan, cautioned that scientists would “require a very high standard of proof and confirmation from other neutrino experiments around the world”.

 It does appear that back in 2007, the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) project in theU.S.obtained similar results to the results of OPERA. It looked at 473 neutrons that traveled from Fermilab inChicagoto a detector in northernMinnesota. However, their findings possessed huge experimental uncertainties. So, at this moment, scientists at CERN are conducting the same experiment again and hoping to compare their results with results obtained from other research facilities. This means that the results have not been duplicated  yet.

But of course, how can this be possible? Einstein himself said that if you could travel faster than the speed of light, then you could “go back in time.” No other scientific firm has produced the same results yet, and there are many experimental and random errors that could’ve occurred throughout the discovery.

Mr. Kinoshita also believes that the findings are rubbish. “It will be shown to be untrue in some future day,” he says. As incredible as this sounds, I suppose only time will give us an answer. And when that time comes, be prepared…