Neutrinos are tiny particles with no electric charge and almost no mass. They drift through the universe, rarely interacting with ordinary matter, possibly doing weird stuff that’s beyond current science’s power to observe. But damn it, scientists are determined to observe that weird stuff anyway, and recently they got a real surprise.
Researchers at CERN, one of the world’s leading institutions in particle physics, fired some neutrinos down a long tunnel connecting Geneva, Switzerland to a laboratory in Italy. The neutrinos arrived a fraction of a second sooner than expected. In fact, they arrived faster than a beam of light would have.
If this is true, it changes everything we know about physics. Suddenly, Einstein’s theory of relativity is unreliable, and the speed of light is no longer the intergalactic speed limit. Maybe we could start building faster than light spaceships powered by neutrinos.
Don’t get your hopes up. More than likely, this is a mistake in the measurements. I’ve read enough articles about amazing discoveries that turned out to be false alarms, and I think this one’s a false alarm.
However, there is one thing that does travel faster than light, or at least scientists say it could. The universe is expanding at an increasing rate, and eventually it will expand faster than the speed of light. Since space is basically nothing, there is no limit to how fast it can grow.
Now if only we could come up with some way to make space shrink or grow at our command… with some special engine, we could warp space to bring distant objects closer, thus overcoming the limitations set by the speed of light. A “warp engine” like that would be pretty cool.
For more information about the neutrino experiment, click here. For more on the expanding universe, click here. In tomorrow’s post, there will be another discovery—or in this case the lack of a discovery—that could also shake the foundations of science.