To C or not to C, that is the question


#1

CERN has released data suggesting they have propelled neutrinos to 300,006 kilometers per second, or roughly 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. If true it would shake one of the fundamental assumptions upon which rests the theory of special relativity itself, that nothing can move faster than light in a vacuum.

This could mean that fundamental physics are still waiting to be found because for this particular pinnacle assumption to called in to question means many others would need to he reevaluated. Foremost among these in my mind is the prohibition against the propagation of information faster than light. If neutrinos can do it, and they are information contained in mass, quantum theory and the whole of the standard model has some serious 'splaining to do.

Of course this doesn’t mean Mass Equivalence or the equivalence principle itself is flawed, but it does mean we should never look unquestioningly at ostensibly settled science and theory when so much of it rests on fundamental assumptions regarded as empirical because of experiments which are themselves abstract representations at a certain point.

Take the expansion of the universe for example. Einstein’s equations derived an expanding fabric, which makes sense if you needed a moving reference frame for everything in the universe to explain gravity those equations will show you one. Einstein found this counter intuitive and disregarded it, adding a cosmological constant to his equations to keep matter and energy density equal.

When Hubble finds the linear relationship between redshift and distance in galaxies Einstein disregards the cosmological constant, calling it his greatest blunder. But was it?

After all when you peel back the layers you find Newton’s equations are always there in one form or another. General relativity can always be reduced to Newtonian mechanics where the force of gravity propagates at less than the speed of light. Milgrom took Newton’s equations and applied a Shwarzchild radius to the force and said after a certain distance the attraction could be measured as the inverse of the distance rather than the inverse squared and Modified Newtonian Dynamics was born. When applied to galaxies Milgrom’s law works better at predicting the speeds of stars in a galaxy than Dark Matter theory.

Of course this in no way invalidates decades of rigorous thought and experiments by people orders of magnitude smarter than I am. The evidence for gravity as force is simply growing, and we can ignore that reality only so long as other pinnacle assumptions remain unassailed. That force, rather than having a rigid unassailable structure acting instantaneously, may be dynamic in ways we don’t understand but the evidence for which is beginning to mount and stand in stark contrast to some of our most fundamental assumptions about the mechanisms of the universe itself.

Often it is years before an unexpected result is either replicated or an error in the methodology or equipment to reveal itself, and this result was no different, it was chalked up an equipment issue. However just the fact that it is something that can be brought up for discussion implies our understanding of the how the universe works may rest upon fundamental assumptions we need strongly reflect on.


#2

I think the FTL neutrions were attributed to faulty measurements.


#3

I know, I mentioned that the bottom. Really my broader point is much of what we consider empirical science is often assumptions which gets taken for granted as absolute. Lofty claims come and go but they serve as a reminder that we are working with assumptions that are not in fact absolute and there is still plenty of room for the story to tell us where it’s going rather than us trying to prove what we think we already know…


#4

Layman here. It is logical that we can not see any thing moving faster than light. But is that a limit? May be after some time, we can see it having reached a destination where it collides and comes to a stop. If this is observed, it should mean things can travel faster than light, but can not be seen during such motion.


#5

The short version is quantum mechanics is a mess. While incredibly accurate at predicting small scale behaviors the equations which govern it lead to often counterintuitive answers that simply have not yet been reconciled in many ways to the physical reality we experience and therefore has a really, really hard time explaining itself. Einstein used the empirical velocity of light as a boundary for the velocity of energy transmission in the universe. Quantum mechanics views all quanta as information bound to energy, which is bound to C, however information is an abstract which is hard to extricate from the concept of knowledge. After all one simply needs to engage in an experiment in non local entanglement to know the state of something further than a light year away instantaneously. Information happens, the question really is does it limit itself to energy, or does it erupt spontaneously from the fabric of the universe like primordial hydrogen, and we as of yet simply don’t know.