It is fair to say that most people have no understanding of the theory of relativity. When scientists at CERN announced that they might have measured neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light, the world of physics was understandably rocked by the news. More surprising is the way it has captured the attention of the world media.
Many reports focus on the huge personality cult of Einstein, perhaps this is the answer…
Einstein wrong (in theory) (declares The Sun, a UK tabloid). The Daily Star, another UK tabloid has an Einstein quiz, asking questions about Einstein’s life. The front page of the printed Economist magazine front page asks “Was Einstein Wrong” and includes a leader article, plus two science articles around the subject.
Or perhaps it is the tantalizing thought that time travel may soon be possible…
Faster than light discovery set to turn science fiction into reality, says Australian paper Adelaide Now.
Light Speed – flying into fantasy? reads one of many articles from the BBC.
Or perhaps it is the scientific debate itself that is of interest?
There are also many theories out there that will save Einstein’s reputation – possibility of worm holes through a fifth dimension are this week being openly discussed in the main stream press.
There is also a great deal of scepticism, expressed openly in many articles including in the Los Angeles Times, where the results are said to “bewilder” scientists. It should be said that the CERN physicists can hardly believe the results themselves. They are publishing the results hoping someone in the wider community will spot the mistake they have missed.
Several more serious papers include contributions from heavy-weight physicists.
“Professor Einstein, you can relax. E still equals mc2. Probably … “
writes Frank Close, Professor of theoretical physics at Oxford University in an involved article in the Guardian newspaper.
Others were more colourful. Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, said:
‘Let me put my money where my mouth is: 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.’
Professor Stephen Hawking, the worlds’ most famous living physicist has said nothing so headline grabbing.
“It is premature to comment on this,” Professor Hawking told Reuters. “Further experiments and clarifications are needed.”
So the media, the scientists, and the rest of the world will just have to wait for them along with Professor Hawking.