|Photo by Amy Kushner|
I try to stick to law-related topics, but every once in a while I’ll delve into matters that are way over my head, like college sports and even physics. In a post from the not-too-distant past—titled Time’s Up, Einstein—I wrote about how physicists created the concept of “dark matter” simply to keep Einstein’s theory of general relativity alive. In other words, they made up this dark matter—matter that we can’t see or detect in any way—so that Einstein’s equations will continue to hold true. The alternative would be to discard Einstein’s theories and start from scratch—an option “too scary to contemplate.” But now, Einstein’s theories may have been dealt another blow: some things can move faster than the speed of light.
The speed of light, Einstein had said, was the fastest speed at which anything could move. If an object could move faster than that, then Einstein’s theories would be proved incorrect. And now, subatomic particles have apparently exceeded what was previously thought to be the cosmic speed limit. In a recent test at CERN, the European particle accelerator, “subatomic particles called neutrinos” were clocked moving faster than the speed of light. While scientists still haven’t ruled out the possibility that their own error contributed to this finding, Einstein’s theories could, once again, be on the ropes.
Hopefully scientists won’t continue to cling to Einstein’s theories if it’s not warranted. The hallmark of science has always been its willingness to discard what no longer works when new evidence comes along. And toward that end, here’s an admittedly uneducated suggestion: abandon Einstein’s quest of unifying the quantum with the cosmic. Why? There are at least two reasons. First, even though a unified theory would be “elegant”—a stated desire of theoretical physicists that seems completely irrational—there is no reason to believe that things on a tiny, subatomic scale would obey the same laws as things on a grand, universal scale. And second, even if seeking a unification theory was the proper course of action, it appears that such an attempt is doomed to failure because one of the theories they’re attempting to unify is wrong.
Back to the drawing board.