Sunday, November 13, 2011

Faster Than the Speed of Light - Rebbe Letter

Back in 1956, 55 years ago, in a letter to a professor of physics, the Rebbe discussed the inadequacies of scientific conclusions, particularly in regard to Albert Einstein's "Theory of Relativity".
(Igrot 12:394-7)

It's one thing to hypothesize based on experimental or mathematical findings, he said, but to go beyond that and make absolute claims is inappropriate, and, in fact, incompatable with the definition of science.

The Rebbe specifically cites the example of the speed of light that scientists regard as an absolute value that cannot be surpassed. They have no right to draw such a conclusion, he implied.

The mathematics to support the untenable supposition would run afoul if the speed of light could be surpassed because it would then include a factor (the square root of a negative number) that cannot have in the real world a physical counterpart. The theory is just a theory, said the Rebbe, not a true fact to be sure.

But because people held the revolutionary findings of Einstein as sacrosanct, they held tightly to the theory it posited; They considered the speed of light to be an absolute value - a maximum limit that can never be exceeded.

Recently, however, sophisticated experiments in physics coming out of the CERN group in Europe (link) point to findings that defy the limit set by Einstein. Scientists found neutrinos with velocities greater than that of the speed of light! So revolutionary are these findings, these scientists themselves are begging others to examine and see where they "went wrong" with their assumptions or findings. Then too, all those conclusions based on an absolute speed of light, such as time and mass dilation or length contraction, will have to be re-evaluated within a new theoretical framework, or, simply, trashed. In the words of an observer, it will require "a complete rewriting of our understanding of the universe".

A translation of the Rebbe's letter, by Rabbi Shimon Silman, can be found here: - issue #805, page 24.

1 comment:

  1. I think it was the English poet Byron who wrote:

    "There are more things in heaven and earth
    That man can imagine"..