Recently the world of particle physics was shaken by a group of CERN scientists who reported tracking sub-atomic particles traveling at faster than light (FTL) speed during an experiment called OPERA. It's a universal speed limit that none other than Albert Einstein said is impossible to violate.
"If it's true, it's fantastic. It will rock the foundation of physics," Stephen Parke of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois told New Scientist during an interview about the claim. "But we still have to confirm it."
The measurements the CERN scientists stand by—after checking and rechecking their data—tracked the neutrinos shot from their laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland to Italy's INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory. The data confirmed the particles reached the Italian lab 60 billionths of a second faster than they would of had they been traveling at light-speed.
A call has gone out to other labs to see if they can confirm the data. Other experiments are in the works like an experiment called MINOS at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois and the upcoming T2K experiment in Japan.
If the measurement is confirmed by other physics labs, however, all of physics will be turned on its head-including a reworking of Einstein's special relativity theory.
The ramifications of that are almost beyond comprehension. A rewrite would affect everything from the accuracy of scientific instruments to the red-shift calculations of stars (a measurement used to calculate their distance from Earth) to the age of the universe itself.
Theorist Marc Sher of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia doubts the neutrinos violated the rule governing FTL travel. He just doesn't think it's reasonable.
But wait, maybe the particles—called neutrinos—didn't violate FTL speed after all. Maybe they just circumvented the laws of our universe altogether and jumped across dimensions, he said.
Crossing dimensions is one incredible conclusion that can be reached if the CERN data is independently confirmed.
Sher mentioned that some mathematical theories express the likelihood of extra dimensions.
Multiple dimensions and universes are also embedded in the new math emerging from the study of quantum physics and the concept of what's called entanglement where sub-atomic particles are linked dimensionally.
Dimensional hopping—or tunneling—would account for the apparent violation of special relativity without actually violating it. If true, it presents a simple and eloquent answer and would also open the door to intense investigation into the new dimensions.
The Josephson junction
During some experiments with a device known as the "Josephson junction" back in the 1980s, some researchers noted an effect with electrons shot from one electrode to another. Measurements suggested that for the briefest of instants some electrons "winked out"—or went inter-dimensional—before appearing again at the other electrode.
Because the scientific instruments were not accurate enough to confirm the phenomenon, no follow-up studies were done.
If the CERN data is proven to be accurate, perhaps physicists should consider revisiting the Josephson junction experiments. Doing so might provide further data on the existence of hidden worlds.