Faster Than Light Particles? Slow Down a Minute…

I have been fascinated by all the media hoopla following the stunning announcement last month by scientists working at the OPERA project in Italy. Scientists there think that they may have discovered particles called neutrinos traveling at speeds faster than light.  That is, the particles arrived at the detector earlier than light would have arrived when traveling in a vacuum.

Needless to say, if true that would appear to stand modern physics and the universe as we understand it upside down!  So much of modern physics is based upon Einstein’s theory of relativity, which holds that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.

There was an immediate spate of reporting and opinion declaring that “Everything we know about the universe is wrong”.

I thought to myself, “Really?”

Ever since the media hyping of “cold fusion” back in the 1980s, I have learned to be cautious when hearing reports of stunning new scientific discoveries.  We all want to believe in amazing new revelations and the happy fact is that credible reports of fantastic advances in science and technology arrive on an almost daily basis.  But when something is reported that seems “too good to be true”, or that doesn’t at all fit into our current understanding of the world…open-minded but healthy skepticism is warranted.

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