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CERN scientists prepared to retry neutrino experiments; Jim Al-Khalili prepared to eat boxer shorts

We reported on this blog last month that the laws of Physics had apparently been broken, as scientists at CERN had seemed to make neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light. Einstein’s theory of relativity – along with our entire understanding of the Universe – would have to be completely re-written.

This has turned out to be a controversial and unpopular finding; the validity and reliability of the test have been heavily questioned by Physicists. It is for this reason that the scientists at CERN are set to fine-tune and repeat the test, to make sure they haven’t just made a mistake.

In the original test, a beam of neutrinos were sent on a 720km underground journey from Geneva to San Grasso, and were recorded to turn up sixty-billionths of a second faster than a beam of light would have done. This led to the conclusion that the speed of light (the speed limit of the Universe) had been broken.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Physicist and TV presenter (pictured left), believes the result is an error and will be proved wrong. Summing up the general attitude of Physicists everywhere, he confidently announced to the media: “If the Cern experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.”

The test is scheduled to be repeated before the end of this year. This gives the CERN scientists time to refine their method and calculations, and (as expected by many) conclude that neutrinos cannot travel faster than light. It also gives Professor Al-Khalili some time to invest in some chocolate boxer shorts, just in case.

Full story: The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/oct/28/physicists-check-neutrinos-faster-light?CMP=twt_iph

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Einstein’s theory of Relativity gets its own iPhone app

This is Einstein’s equation of Special Relativity. It states that, for any object moving with a velocity of u, the time that seems to elapse according to the moving object (delta t-zero) is different to the time it takes if measured by an observer at rest (delta t).

Simply put: as you travel through space, you stretch time and make it tick just that little bit slower for you. But, of course, unless you are travelling close to the speed of light (c), you won’t notice a difference.

Nevertheless, if you have ever wondered how many nanoseconds you have stretched when you’ve been for a brisk walk or a long journey, you now have a way to find out. A Japanese developer has invented the Einstein Pedometer, which will measure the time it took for your journey to elapse, and then use the necessary calculations to tell you the time it actually took, in your reference frame, allowing for Relativity.

So, for example, the Einstein Pedometer may tell you that a journey has just taken you 15 minutes and 19.999999999827 seconds, as apposed to the 15 minutes 20 seconds that a regular watch would tell you. The app is a must for physicists and pedants everywhere.

Full story: POPSCI Popular Science http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2011-04/new-ipod-app-calculates-how-special-relativity-affects-your-daily-activities