Since 1915, the scientific community has generally accepted Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity: E = MC2. This equation explains that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. When matter travels at speed, it gains mass and thus requires more energy to accelerate. As matter approaches the speed of light – the universe’s ultimate speed limit – propelling its huge mass would require infinite energy.
However, scientists at Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, believe they may have found that subatomic particles called neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light. As BBC’s Jason Palmer explains, “Neutrinos come in a number of types, and have recently been seen to switch spontaneously from one type to another. The team prepares a beam of just one type, muon neutrinos, sending them from Cern to an underground laboratory at Gran Sasso in Italy to see how many show up as a different type, tau neutrinos.” In a series of experiments spanning three years, Cern’s scientists have found that the neutrinos reached their destination a few billionths of a second before light could cover the same distance. The scientists, unable to find an error in their calculations but assuming one exists, have opened their results to the scientific community to help them understand, and perhaps falsify, their results – wikiscience! If Cern’s observations are correct, the scientists will blow open a whole century of physics research.
To learn more about the evolution of physics, here is a brief history – up until 2011: