In her Spotlight presentation Monday, September 26, Dr. Sutherlin referenced a discovery made by scientists in Italy that neutrinos (sub atomic particles that are found throughout the universe) fired at a receptor 500 miles away arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than light would have. Here is an excerpt of an article from Reuters News Service that explains the discovery (the full article is here):
A total of 15,000 beams of neutrinos — tiny particles that pervade the cosmos — were fired over a period of 3 years from CERN toward Gran Sasso 730 (500 miles) km away, where they were picked up by giant detectors.
Light would have covered the distance in around 2.4 thousandths of a second, but the neutrinos took 60 nanoseconds — or 60 billionths of a second — less than light beams would have taken.
“It is a tiny difference,” said Ereditato, who also works at Berne University in Switzerland, “but conceptually it is incredibly important. The finding is so startling that, for the moment, everybody should be very prudent.”
Ereditato declined to speculate on what it might mean if other physicists, who will be officially informed of the discovery at a meeting in CERN on Friday, found that OPERA’s measurements were correct.
“I just don’t want to think of the implications,” he told Reuters. “We are scientists and work with what we know.”
This last sentence is pretty amazing, since the implications of faster-than-light travel could be enormous: undermining Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity, removing the constant speed of light (c) from various equations (such as e=mc2), reversing cause and effect, and (my favorite) time travel.
I respect the fact that Ereditato (ironically a cognate of erudite – look it up if that’s a new word) is more concerned with observable facts and theoretical propositions than with warp drives or time machines, but to dismiss the implications completely seems irresponsible and arrogant.
What do you think?
Should scientists concern themselves with implications of their findings as much as (or more than) the findings themselves? Is doing so ethical? Is not doing so irresponsible? Can you be a critical thinker and NOT consider the implications? Chime in…