Neutrino and the New Comedy of Errors
The fascinating world of physics never failed to captivate inquisitive minds with its wonders but seldom aroused a debate so strong that finally lead to public declaration made by a scientist to eat his underwear.
The Opera collaboration had conducted an experiment under highly controlled situation in September 2011 at the Cern laboratory and the findings took the world by storm. Einstein’s revolutionary special theory of relativity which says that nothing could beat the speed of light suddenly seemed vulnerable. The research confirmed that neutrino; a subatomic particle is capable of travelling faster than light posing challenge to certain fundamental understandings of classical Physics.
This was some news for scientists which did not fail to fuel great controversy and debate across the world among people from different walks of life. There was excitement all around with Tweets pouring in and every major Switzerland newspaper verbose with the awesome achievement of “the little neutral one” that finally gave light particles some tough competition.
This seemed too much for Jim Al-Khalili, a British professor of theoretical physics, who denied the results vehemently and said that if the results are proved to be correct he’d eat his boxer shorts live on TV. This remark caused some fresh uproar and when probed further by journalists, the professor opined that it’s quite impossible to refute Einstein’s postulate of nothing being faster than light.
The experiment was conducted again in the month of November and strikingly it yielded similar result.
The New Year however came with a new twist and on February 2012 the earlier experiments were confirmed to be inconclusive due to faulty wiring of optical fibers. Though apparently this seems embarrassing, there are so many minute intricacies involved in these highly sophisticated experiments that chances of human or technical errors could not be ruled out in totality.
The streams of particles were sent through 730Kms of rock from Cern in Switzerland to an underground laboratory in Italy. Array of sophisticated computers, global positioning systems and particle accelerators facilitated the experiments and the entire setting had to be fine tuned painstakingly for more than three years. Despite all the caution and care there was fault in the cable between the GPS devise and the main clock that timed the neutrinos resulting in erroneous reading.
Opera scientists are looking forward to rectify their paraphernalia and organize fresh series of experiments. However until then Einstein’s mundane world remains well fortified and so does Al Khalili’s underwear.