In my previous article about the Large Hadron Collider, I identified the fear of some that the experiments “will ignite the creation of a black hole which will destroy us all in an implosive ending of the earth.” While it hasn’t quite gone that far yet, it might as well have as far as the physics community is concerned. As many of you may have seen already, the experimenters at the LHC claim to have accelerated a neutrino (elementary subatomic particle with small but non-zero mass) to speeds greater than that of light (c=3×108m/s=186,000miles/s).
If you’ve taken any physics course past intro physics or have ever heard of this guy Einstein and his theories, then this statement should hit you like a bag filled with bricks. It appears to contradict one of the most well known and fundamentally accepted theories in physics, Einstein’s theory of special relativity which just so happens to follow directly from the basic postulate that the speed of light is the upper limit for the speed of massive bodies.
Luckily, physicists are taught to be suspicious of everything presented to them and seek a proof which puts to rest any personal doubts. Correspondingly we are left with a brief reprieve, as experimenters at the LHC attempt to build their defense of this claim, during which we may maintain our standing upon the pillar of special relativity. During this calm we can take some time to consider what the implications of this discovery (if proven true) may be. Perhaps it will not require as drastic a restructuring as one may conclude. Perhaps we may simply make an addition to our existing theories (they are called theories for a reason). To quote a fellow student at BC, “I am not a particle physicist and I don’t pretend to be,” in other words I truly do not know what the repercussions of this result may be, but I will say that it’s an exciting time in the world of physics.