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Scientists around the world reacted with shock yesterday to results from an Italian laboratory that seemed to show certain subatomic particles can travel faster than light . If true, the finding breaks one of the most fundamental laws of physics and raises bizarre possibilities including time travel and shortcuts via hidden extra dimensions. Scientists at the Opera (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment in Gran Sasso, Italy, found that neutrinos sent through the Earth to its detectors from Cern , 450 miles (730km) away in Geneva, arrived earlier than they should have . The journey would take a beam of light around 2.4 milliseconds to complete, but after running the Opera experiment for three years and timing the arrival of 15,000 neutrinos, the scientists have calculated the particles arrived at Gran Sasso 60 billionths of a second earlier, with an error margin of plus or minus 10 billionths of a second.
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by Isaac Asimov I received a letter from a reader the other day. It was handwritten in crabbed penmanship so that it was very difficult to read. Nevertheless, I tried to make it out just in case it might prove to be important. In the first sentence, he told me he was majoring in English Literature, but felt he needed to teach me science. (I sighed a bit, for I knew very few English Lit majors who are equipped to teach me science, but I am very aware of the vast state of my ignorance and I am prepared to learn as much as I can from anyone, however low on the social scale, so I read on.)
I'd like to illustrate what this really means. If living creatures had halflives the way radioactive atoms do, the world would be a very different place. What do you mean? Suppose there's an alien species with a halflife of, say, 70 years. You randomly pick out 16 baby aliens and track them to see how long they live.