Posts Tagged ‘Einstein’

Faster Than Light 2

September 26, 2011
Cropped image from a larger one of Michio Kaku...

Michio Kaku

In an article in the Wall Street Journal, physicist Michio Kaku has something interesting to say about the recent experiments at CERN in which neutrinos seemed to have traveled faster than light.

The CERN announcement was electrifying. Some physicists burst out with glee, because it meant that the door was opening to new physics (and more Nobel Prizes). New, daring theories would need to be proposed to explain this result. Others broke out in a cold sweat, realizing that the entire foundation of modern physics might have to be revised. Every textbook would have to be rewritten, every experiment recalibrated.

Cosmology, the very way we think of space, would be forever altered. The distance to the stars and galaxies and the age of the universe (13.7 billion years) would be thrown in doubt. Even the expanding universe theory, the Big Bang theory, and black holes would have to be re-examined.

Moreover, everything we think we understand about nuclear physics would need to be reassessed. Every school kid knows Einstein’s famous equation E=MC2, where a small amount of mass M can create a vast amount of energy E, because the speed of light C squared is such a huge number. But if C is off, it means that all nuclear physics has to be recalibrated. Nuclear weapons, nuclear medicine and radioactive dating would be affected because all nuclear reactions are based on Einstein’s relation between matter and energy.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, it would also mean that the fundamental principles of physics are incorrect. Modern physics is based on two theories, relativity and the quantum theory, so half of modern physics would have to be replaced by a new theory. My own field, string theory, is no exception. Personally, I would have to revise all my theories because relativity is built into string theory from the very beginning.

In other words, much of what we think we know about the universe is about as accurate as views of the people back in the middle ages who believed that the Earth was the center of the universe and everything was made up of the four elements; earth, fire, air and water. Of course, the most likely outcome is that the findings at CERN are erroneous. Kaku ends his piece by declaring this to be a victory for science however it turns out.

Reputations may rise and fall. But in the end, this is a victory for science. No theory is carved in stone. Science is merciless when it comes to testing all theories over and over, at any time, in any place. Unlike religion or politics, science is ultimately decided by experiments, done repeatedly in every form. There are no sacred cows. In science, 100 authorities count for nothing. Experiment counts for everything.

So, if a theory as well established as Einstein’s Theories of Relativity can be cast into doubt, what does this say about hypotheses regarding global warming, which are based on very incomplete understandings of the Earth’s atmosphere?

I want everyone out there who believes that global warming/climate change/ climate catastrophe is settled science to repeat after me one hundred times. The science is never settled.

You can find Michio Kaku’s books here.

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