The first test shook up physics, the second that affirmed the original results of particles traveling faster-than-light (FTL) may just shake down the house.
CERN physicists confirmed last week that subatomic particles did indeed violate one of Einstein's bedrock equations that nothing can exceed light speed. The math in the famous physicist's Special Theory of Relativity makes up one of the pillars of modern physics and until recently was considered inviolate.
Now perhaps that pillar is on the verge of collapse.
Fernando Ferroni, president of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics released a statement November 17 that the “positive outcome of the [second] test makes us more confident in the result.
Ferroni is working on a project called the Oscillation Project with Emulsion Tracking Apparatus (OPERA), an international group of 160 physicists experimenting with the limits of current knowledge. Their test earlier this year seemed to break through the leading edge of knowledge and it was not something done intentionally.
When the data for the September 2011 test was analyzed they discovered a disparity of 60 billionths of a second. The impossible seemed to have occurred: FTL particles were found.
Doubting themselves that the results were accurate and that the particles did not actually arrive sooner than Einstein's equations said they could, the OPERA scientists double-checked the data and their own math.
It was correct.
Physicists around the globe immediately expressed skepticism and called for a second experiment to test the first.
Despite the confirmation of the original test results a lot of skepticism still remains. Many physicists believe the September results culminating in the announcement of FTL particles is erroneous.
Ferroni finds understands their doubt. In his statement he addressed the disbelief by admitting that while the second data set “has made an important test of consistency of its result a final word can only be said by analogous measurements performed elsewhere in the world.”
Meaning that independent tests conducted by other physicists at other laboratories should resolve the issue.
On November 19 the CERN ICARUS project scientists challenged the OPERA data claiming it is faulty. The debate rages on…
Whether FTL particles actually exist can be decided by the confirmation of one of three things:
1. The mechanics of the experiment—was it set up correctly? And the robustness of the data generated by the experiment or,
2. Other experiments prove the first and second experimental results were correct and FTL particles do exist or,
3. The particles arrived 60 billionths of a second faster than they should have, but they didn't violate Special Relativity.
How can number three be true? It's correct if the particles traveled inter-dimensionally and were able to circumvent the speed limit in this universe. Few physicists are pondering this possibility. To be fair, most are still waiting to see if other experiments will confirm OPERA's results. If the new experiments do confirm the data, then obviously an inter-dimensional jump is definitely something to check for as confirming that may be bigger than confirming FTL particles. [See Faster-than-light neutrinos may jump dimensions]
A whole new branch of physics would be launched.
Yet more rewriting of physics books needed?
Meanwhile, another group of physicists at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) facility, smashed atoms and discovered particles that may also force physics to be rewritten.
The scientists report the discovery of subatomic particles that behave differently from their anti-matter "twins." Except for the charge, matter and anti-matter were always thought to be identical opposites.
If their finding is true, it may go a long way to resolve the ongoing mystery that's haunted physicists for generations—namely, the riddle of why the universe is mostly composed of matter instead of antimatter. [Source]
Second experiment confirms faster-than-light particles
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