Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why Faster than Light Neutrinos are not a Problem for Relativity.

When CERN reported measuring neutrinos going faster than the speed of light it created speculation that it showed a problem withSpecial Relativity. The measurement was about 20 parts per million faster than light so since the speed of light is 299,792,458 m/s the neutrinos were going 6 km/s faster than light which could easily be an experimental error.

If it is confirmed it would still not be a problem for Special Relativity since not traveling at or faster than the speed of light only applies to particles with a real non zero rest mass. A particle like a photon that has a zero rest mass travels at the speed of light. Particles that travel faster than light have been speculated for years under the name tachyons. Tachyons would have a negative imaginary rest mass giving it a real non zero mass at speeds above the speed of light. It would however be incapable of being decelerated to the speed of light below it.

Furthermore quantum effects such as quantum tunneling provided another way around the light barrier by allowing particles to instantly skip over an area of space without actually going through it while traveling sub light through the space it does go through thus not violating Special Relativity. 

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