Science, Technology

Faster Than The Speed Of Light

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LightbulbHow fast does light travel? Scientists have known for more than a hundred years that light always travels at the same speed: 299,792,458 metres per second.

The speed of light is the fastest speed that all energy, matter and information in the universe can travel.

The speed of light is very important in science. Because it is always the same – it is a constant – it defines many things about our understanding of the universe. The speed of light is part of Einstein’s famous theory of relativity, E=mc2.

That is why there was such a shock within the scientific community this week when it was announced that a group of scientists has recorded some particles going faster than the speed of light.

Some neutrinos have been measured travelling faster than what has almost always been thought to be the fastest anything can go.

Scientists in Geneva sent a light beam 454 miles to a facility in Italy. The beam arrived a few billionths of a second faster than light. That may not seem like much, but it’s enough to possibly disprove a theory that has been around since 1904. If it is accurate, the laws of physics will have to be changed.

The scientists have performed the experiment 15,000 times over three years. Still, they aren’t positive their recordings are right. After all, there is a lot that can go wrong in any experiment.

They are opening up their experiment, called the Opera experiment, to scientists in other countries. They are asking them to test the theory, and to try to do the experiment themselves to see if they get the same results.

No matter what happens, there will be much more discussion in the scientific community over just how fast things can really travel.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
A important part of being a scientist is creating and disproving theories.  When scientists publish and share their work, they are immediately opening it up to criticism.  Scientists know this is part of their field of work; however, it must be difficult for them to have their work publicly questioned.
What attitudes and characteristics would a scientist need to have in order to handle this criticism?

Reading Prompt
When we read, we constantly use comprehension strategies such as: re-reading, visualizing, asking questions, making predictions etc. When we read scientific articles about new or unfamiliar information, we need to use several comprehension strategies so we understand the article.
When you were reading the article, what strategies did you use?  Which were the most helpful?  Why?  Were there any strategies that were not helpful?

Junior
Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during and after reading to understand texts (OME, Reading: 1.3).

Intermediate
Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them appropriately before, during and after reading to understand increasingly complex texts (OME, Reading: 1.3).

Grammar Feature: Writing numbers
In North America, a comma is used to separate thousands in a number.  A comma is written after every three digits, starting from the ones digit.  This makes large numbers easier to read.
Two examples in the article are: 299,792,458 and 15,000.
Add the commas to the following numbers and read the numbers out loud to a partner.
1. 234123
2. 7100
3. 587930123
4. 24858
5. 248211