A new era in science?

Sep 24, 2011, 09:33 IST | MiD DAY Correspondent
Every few years, science undergoes an overhaul and a new era dawns in our understanding of the universe. Yesterday, scientists at the Switzerland-based European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they have tracked neutrinos (one of the many subatomic particles detected so far) that travel faster than the speed of light. The difference is minimal, almost infinitesimal, but it is still faster than light.

If this research is peer-reviewed and found to be true with the help of several more experiments, then mankind is at the cusp of history where an entire school of physics -- in this case, Einsteinian physics --  would have to be overhauled. In the first decade of the 20th century, Albert Einstein challenged Newtonian physics, which was the standard for close to 300 years, and changed the world forever with his General Theory of Relativity and Special Theory of Relativity. As part of this world-changing science, Einstein predicted that nothing can exceed the speed of light.

This 'law of physics' was treated as gospel until now; nobody had found evidence to the contrary for a 100 years. Based on this, even fantastic concepts such as time travel were thought impossible, as it would take an infinite amount of energy to propel a rocket at the speed of light or exceed that (time travel is theoretically possible only if you travel faster than the speed of light).

Which is one of the reasons that the new discovery -- if confirmed by independent observations -- could lead to an exciting new era in science. The last five to seven decades have perhaps been some of the most remarkable in terms of advancement of our knowledge of ourselves and of the universe we exist in. And as the legendary scientist Stephen Hawking may put it, this brings us one step closer to understanding the mind of god.

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