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What If Einstein Is Wrong? January 12, 2012

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We'll have to recalibrate everything -- the age of the universe, the age of stars, the distance to the stars, the basic structure of modern electronics, the GPS, nuclear weapons -- all of that would have to be recalibrated and rethought ...


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Many physicists had a heart attack when we got news from Geneva, Switzerland that Einstein might be wrong. All hell broke loose in the physics community. Every physicist I know was taking a position on this hot topic, because relativity is the foundation of modern physics, along with the Quantum theory.

Now what they found was, if you take a beam of neutrinos from the Atom smasher in Geneva, Switzerland - shoot the beam through the mountains from Switzerland to Italy over a distance of 454 miles, the Neutrinos outraced a light beam by a distance of 60 feet. 60 feet over a distance of 454 miles - well that doesn't sound like much, but to a physicist this is a disaster. It means that the foundations of modern physics have to be called into question.

First, it means that time travel could become commonplace 'cause as you approach the speed of light time slows down; if you exceed the speed of light, time goes backwards. Remember that scene in Superman 1? When Lois Lane dies and Superman goes in to outer space and goes around the planet Earth in the opposite direction. The Earth stops and then rotates in the opposite direction and then all of a sudden Lois Lane springs back to life. Well, that kind of scenario might be possible if the speed of light is not so special; if particles can exceed the speed of light. Not to mention that we will have to recalibrate everything. The age of the universe, the age of stars, the distance to stars, the basic structure of modern electronics has to be changed - the GPS, nuclear weapons, all of that would have to be recalibrated and rethought through if Einstein's theory of relativity is wrong.

So what's the solution to the problem? Well the solution to the problem is obviously they goofed, they made a mistake. I remember when I as a grad student years and years ago at Harvard, my adviser at Harvard was Professor Pound, and he had the famous Pound replica experiment where they shot a light beam from the top of Jefferson Hall to the bottom of Jefferson Hall. Now there was a rival group - a rival group that also did the same experiment and they had to calculate the speed of light in the process. They found that the speed of light actually rose in the morning, peaked at noon time, then the speed of light began to slow down at dinner time and reached a minimum at midnight.

Wow, this was shocking. The speed of light that which governs the universe all of a sudden is wedded to lunch time and dinner time? So what's the problem? The problem is that this counter experiment, this rival experiment was done outdoors. And the sensors were temperature dependent and of course it's warmer at lunch time and colder at midnight, whereas Professor Pounds experiment was done indoors and therefore didn't have that kind of variation.

The lesson here is that systematic errors creep into very delicate calculations.

Some people think they found the source of the error. How do we know that from Switzerland to Italy the distance is 454 miles? Well, you used GPS right? Obvious, but GPS is a relativistic system. It uses relativity and some physicists have claimed that they mis-calibrated the distance from the sensors to the Satellite and the Satellite back down to Italy - a triangle. That one of the legs of the triangle was mis-calibrated in the process of doing these experiments.

Now there is another counter-example - back in 1987 light from a gigantic supernova in the Magellanic clouds hit the planet Earth, and simultaneously with that neutrinos were detected in gigantic neutrino detectors in Japan. So we had a double whammy - light from a supernova right near the Milky Way galaxy hitting the Earth at the same time as neutrinos from a galaxy tens of thousands of light years from the Earth.

So here's the rub - why should we believe this CERN experiment over a distance of 454 miles when over a distance of tens of thousands of light years neutrinos and light beams hit the Earth at the same time? That's why many physicists believe that they must have made a systematic error someplace - and the weak link, the weak link in this whole chain of reasoning is the GPS system. And the GPS system itself is a relativistic system; so in some sense they are using relativity to defeat relativity and I think there is something circular about that.

Courtesy of Big Think

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What If Einstein Is Wrong?- January 12, 2012

- Michio Kaku
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