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Breaking the Laws of Physics

In school, students are taught the laws of science--the rules of how things work, if you will. Within this there is a perhaps minor issue that at times needs clarification: there are, even technically speaking, no pure laws in science. This is because scientific theory is not based on truth and cannot discern truth; just probability, based on experimentation. Science exists to prove things wrong, and to give us the most probable truths about life that it can give--but never any absolute truth. There is no way in science to prove something is absolutely true. Yes, if I toss my pen up into the air, I will bet a lot of money that it comes back down, and the law of gravity tells me it will. The theory of gravity explains why this is to me. However, it is only highly probable that it will come back down with that theory's understanding; not absolutely true. This theory seems to be the most true right now, and until it is proven wrong, is the theory that we most like to work with. This does not mean that someday, somehow, the theory cannot be overturned. No where else is this oft-forgotten part of scientific pursuit being revealed this week than at CERN, the large laboratory in Europe whose experiments of late were cosmic enough to cause people to seek shutting them down for fear that they would create a black hole with their Large Hadron Collider.

For a century, the scientific world has lived mostly under Einstein's theories of physics and relativity. Much of this theory is anchored in the idea that nothing is faster than the speed of light; that is the north pole for the compass of the theory currently accepted as law. It looks like CERN, however, seemed to consistently make some particles go 60 billionths of a second faster than the speed of light. Naturally, this is now causing the entire scientific community to scratch its head. The physicists at CERN quickly published the results of their experiment so that other scientists around the world could critique it and do their own studies. I am sure right now there are many-a-physicist crossing their fingers and hoping that someone finds a flaw in their experiment, rather than upending a century's worth of scientific theory. Apparently this kid, Jacob Barnett, who I referenced some months ago really was onto something when he said that parts of Einstein's theory of relativity don't compute. I'd be happy to see what he makes of the data!

Good luck to them in their pursuit of knowledge. If the current theory regarding time and space is proven wrong, all-the-better for us and our continued efforts to figure out how things work. Science should be ever-changing and ever-learning to try and understand the physical things of life. But perhaps this can serve as a lesson to people to remember that science presents only theories and probabilities--useful, yes, but theories nonetheless. If you want truth, go read some Aristotle.
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"But perhaps this can serve as a lesson to people to remember that science presents only theories and probabilities--useful, yes, but theories nonetheless."

I read Aristotle for the opposite of that proposition. see, book 1 of nicomachean ethics.

"In the same spirit, therefore, should each type of statement be received; for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits." +

"Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the subject-matter admits of, for precision is not to be sought for alike in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the crafts."

That is there is no political science theory that would be disproved by a variance of 60 billionths of a second.

That is in political science the highly probable becomes the absolutely true for certain purposes.

Thus far it is absolutely true within the jurisdiction of planet earth, outside of special labs, that a pen tossed in the air will fall back down again.

Aristotle converts probable truths into absolute truths by only demanding precision as far as the subject matter permits.

Aristotle works a synthesis, between the Platonists who focused upon absolute truths, and the radical empiricists like Anaxagoras who claimed that because water was running it was not only impossible to cross the same river twice, but impossible to cross the same river once.

". . .science presents only theories and probabilities--useful, yes, but theories nonetheless. If you want truth, go read some Aristotle."

Can you explain what that means? I know all the words in your posting, but I can't make sense of it, espcially this last. It seems cartoonism to me, but I am probably missing something.

The breathtaking scientific ignorance of this post makes a mockery of a college education.

I think he was being ironic, since Aristotle was pretty scientific (as John pointed towards). Probably is being cartoonish and just stating his preference for Aristotle to modern scientists. Hard to tell though. I was in a conversation that ROB was a part of a few weeks ago and he was arguing for the superiority of logic over scientific theory, saying scientific theory can never prove anything but practical logic can, and that meant logic was truth while science was not (or something along those lines) but half the time I think he was just being satirical. Its sometimes hard to tell his irony from his seriousness, and even harder to tell in writing.

I think you are confusing theory with law. A law is a phenomenon that we observe, regardless of how we think it happens.
The law of gravity can be summed up as the force is proportional between the product of the masses of two objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. (multiplied by the gravitational constant)
The theory of gravity would be an attempt to explain how gravity works, what it is.
The law is there even if there is "no gravity", ie. on the space shuttle (actually there is, but this is another story).
We may have to change our theory of gravity, but that doesn't mean gravity has changed.
If the Cern experiment proves out, it won't change things much for us-we are still restricted to sub light. Neutrinos are not easy to study.
We will just readjust our theory.

Bingo! Sort of. The Aristotle mention was in reference to his subject-predicate form of logic being the best expression of truth. "Categories" and "On Interpretation" are what I had most in mind, though JL's quotes from "Ethics" present a very good line of reasoning as well that had slipped my mind. The gravity example was a poor one given Aristotle's jurisdictional inclusions that John mentioned; laziness on my part for not wanting to delve into a different theory. All-in-all, though, you can prove something through logical deduction, and reach truth; theoretical science cannot deduce truth, only probability. This is not to say science is silly or useless or false, though with glee I poke fun at my incredibly smarter-than-me science-studied friends for this; such snarkiness did make its way into my OP. However, to be clear, science is perfectly useful and teaches us a lot; I just think some people should stop being so worried that there is a possibility the theory of relativity may have a fundamental kink in it. Good for us that we may have discovered a flaw!

Theories are not truth. Einstein himself said this. The way theories work, when one has been experimented on and no one can defy it, it is described as the best theory--that is, the best possible explanation we have at the moment. Einstein's theory of relativity overturned centuries of dominance by Newton's theory of motion in explaining and predicting the behavior of the universe. Now, maybe, CERN might have finally overturned Einstein's own theory and come up with the next-best answer and, if so, it will reign until another brilliant person comes along and defies whatever new theory arises from CERN here. And so on and so on. It isn't truth; it's just trying to find the best way of understanding something through constant experimentation.

Logical arguments have for years poked holes in the soundness of the Theory of Relativity through reasonable deduction, just to further highlight that point. If CERN did actually make something go faster than the speed of light, then all of this essentially just amounts to me gloating that logic yet again beat science by deducing the invalidity of the theory of Relativity while the physicists stumbled across it in one of their evidence-seeking experiments. Gloating all in good sport, of course.

Right. Poor explanation of things on my part. I was going more for my previous comment there. Another lesson on why not to blog from work, heh.

Though, I would say that, if it was correct, the CERN experiment may have overturned what was considered to be a law as much as gravity is--- that is, nothing is faster than the speed of light. This is why I think it may be so baffling for some people; it is almost as if saying that the law of gravity were proven wrong, not just the theory, which may make the discovery even more remarkable. Even if it is not a scientific law in the purest sense as you mentioned with gravity, and rather an explanation of things, because it is such a fundamental explanation of things, it was regarded as law, like gravity. "What happens if you throw something into the air?" "It comes back down." "What's the fastest speed there is?" "The speed of light." It could be the biggest alteration in understanding since Einstein overturned Newton.

But but but there was a scientific consensus for more than a hundred years! These challengers are birthers, racists, anti scientists, know nothings challenging accepted wisdom of their betters. How did they get their papers published? Shouldn't they be expelled for not accepting the consensus? I guess science is only allowed to operate when there isn't megapower and mega trillions of dollars at stake for the scientists and their government lackeys.

I have no clue how you would go about measuring the speed of light, let alone how the european scientists at CERN measure the speed of neutrinos.

According to Gerald Horton at Harvard, the speed of light was given a speed as a matter of law by an international body. So some pretty smart folks aren't sure what the best experiment would be for determining the speed of light.

So I really don't know that a neutrino is faster than light or vice versa. Cern simply discovered that a neutrino seems to be faster than the official (legal) speed of light as determined by an international body.

Actually I don't even know what light "is".

A neutrino supposedly has mass, but a photon does not, but both neutrino's and photons are given off by the sun.

I also don't know if light is a wave or a particle, but obviously if light is a photon then it is a particle. But a photon is supposedly a particle without a mass...

To confirm that a neutrino is faster than light you would have to measure a reaction in the core of the sun and be able to tell which arrives on earth first the photon or the neutrino.

Do we even know that a photon is a necessary and sufficient condition for light (that is so allowing sight)?

I mean the original wave theory of light showed that light acted like a wave bending around an opening...but a neutrino can pass thru solid matter... so a neutrino never has to travel like a wave.

Since I know nothing of physics, it is sort of fun to talk about this stuff. Lets say that a neutrino is faster between two points, but only because light travels a greater distance between the same two points by virtue of not taking a straight line thru matter?

Also if you did an experiment with a light bulb showing that a lightbulb produced photons...this would not exclude neutrino's since neutrino's are constantly moving thru the universe unimpeded by what we commonly think of as solid mass objects.

Apparently radioactive decay which is a constant when we assume that neutrino's are passing thru "solid" objects at a rate of around 65 billion neutrino's per square not really a constant, but is speed up at higher neutrino levels and slowed at lower neutrino levels.

Also lets assume the neutrino has mass and the photon does not have mass.... If a neutrino has mass does it slow down?

Is it possible to think of a neutrino as faster than a photon over a short distance but slower than a photon over a longer distance?

Who is faster? Usain Bolt or Geoffrey Mutai? Usain Bolt hands down... but Mutai over long distances, in part because Mutai has less mass?

Also moving thru "solid objects" a neutrino is way faster than a photon.

Also I don't understand what a neutrino is...but supposedly they have different "generations" and each of these different generations have different mass.

Supposing matter is neither created nor destroyed and relativistically the mass is related to energy/speed, if a heavier mass neutrino is traveling at a certain speed and it becomes a different generation neutrino with less mass, wouldn't its speed have to increase to preserve its energy total?

So if you accelerate a heavy neutrino to near the speed of light and it changes into a lighter neutrino...its speed surpases the speed of light in order to preserve energy?

Also if you have 65 billion neutrino's per second per square centimeter passing thru the earth that is a lot of neutrino's in a small space.

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