CERN REPORTS PARTICLES TRAVELING FASTER THAN LIGHT, PHYSICISTS ...September 24, 2011
Yesterday in my News and Views from the Nefarium I discussed the CERN claim to have recorded particles moving faster than the "relativistic speed limit" of the velocity of light, and I'd like to record my comments, or at least memorialize them, in written form here. The article at phys.org may be found here:
As I noted in my comments, 60 nanoseconds, both is and is not significant. The value of "c", like all constants of physics, is a theoretical value calculated from several measurements, and these measurements have been recorded over time. As the article itself points out, the experiment will certainly need confirmation. For this reason, physicists are correct to be skeptical of having to rethink the metric theories of Relativity.
But as I also pointed out, some physicists attempted to construct cosmological theories on the basis of the idea of variable constants, and notably, this effort began in Nazi Germany with such famous names as Pascual Jordan, Ott Christian Hilgenberg, and others. Jordan is perhaps the most interesting figure here, for he was not only an ardent supporter of the Nazi regime - a fact that probably cost him a Nobel prize in physics - but one of the significant contributors to the elaboration of quantum mechanics.
Jordan, during the Nazi era, abandoned quantum mechanical pursuits for reasons that are unclear - and which certainly invite speculation - for cosmological pursuits. For our purposes, he was one of the first big names to begin to theorize on the possibilities that the measured variations of physical constants may represent something significant. In this respect he joined others entertaining such notions inside of Germany, most notably Dr. Ing. Ott Christian Hilgenberg, who himself published a number of papers in the 1930s on this idea, coupling it to the idea of vortex mechanics.
Einstein was not without his critics in the American physics community either, the most notable contemporary being Dr. Herbert Ives of Bell laboratories, who viewed the Special Relativity theory as a kind of philosophical dogma, and who wrote a number of papers critical of the theory in its philosophical assumptions. It should be noted that Ives in turn had his critics, who informed him that his own experiments confirmed Einstein's views.
Dr. Herbert E. Ives, ca. 1913
The point I am trying to emphasize here is that Einstein had his critics, and if CERN's experiment should be confirmed by further testing, then we may expect to see some old theories perhaps being re-examined by the scientific community, and a lively debate over its interpretation. But this also means - contrary to some of the discussion already occurring - that it is far too early to be speaking of the collapse of Einstein's relativity theories within the edifice of the contemporary standard model. But if it is confirmed, the debates will be an extraordinarily interesting process to watch.