Let There Be Light 

By Jagadish Manrakhan

Knowledge is a light, enriching
The warmth of life, and all may
Partake who seek it out …

— Kahlil Gibran (1883 – 1931)

‘Let there be Light!’  This multi-faceted plea comes out repeatedly in various sacred books – from for example, The Rig Veda (Book I, 113) and the Bhagavad Gita (xiii.17); the Bible (Genesis, 1: 3, St. John, 8: 12) and the Dhammapada, along with other Buddhist texts.

And now comes an urgent appeal from that famed shrine of Science at Geneva, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, CERN, to replicate its possible finding, to the effect that subatomic particles may be exceeding the speed of light – strictly in line with a very high-minded, time-honoured and responsible scientific tradition.

‘So what?’ you might ask.  And the answer could well be ‘So, plenty!’

To start with, nothing is supposed to exceed the speed of light, according, that is to The Theory of Special Relativity, enunciated by Albert Einstein in 1905.  (The latter later earned the 1921 Physics Nobel for elucidating the quantum nature of light).

Moreover, the quantity of matter a body contains i.e. its mass (m), and its energy content (E) are inter-convertible, through the formula of E = Mc2, where c is the velocity of light – the famous equation that was demonstrated at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and on various subsequent test sites.

Indeed, moving a body beyond the speed of light may substantially increase its mass, enough to halt that very increase!

In reverse not so long ago, we were being inflicted with ‘slower-than-normal’ light, then labelled as the ‘tired-light’ hypothesis!

There are other features of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity (1916) which underlie much of modern cosmology, and which concern ‘time-space’ and its curvature, mass and gravitation, and deflection of light, besides other factors which may aggravate the implications of faster-than-light movement.  Among those are: first, the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which has been in acceptance for several years may now have to be abandoned and replaced by another model yet to be elaborated.  Second, we appear to have a massive shortfall in mass (and energy) to keep our present Universe on an even keel, so to speak.

In brief, the Universe is expanding ever faster due to ‘dark’ matter, a discovery signally heralded by the 2011 Physics’ Nobel Prize.  Third, we believe that existing ‘black holes’ may lead to ‘new universes’ with slightly different ‘laws of science and constants’ – so where is the ever elusive ‘Theory of Everything’ or ‘ultimate Truth’?

And finally, will Time reverse itself?  So we are ‘all sucked back into the past – from ‘grave to womb’?  For that might yet be a logical outcome of faster-than-light: what a thought!

A la recherche du temps perdu (Marcel Proust; 1871 – 1922)?

Meanwhile, if you are an adept of TV, ITC, smart phones, and microwave ovens, please pay attention.

* Published in print edition on 7 October 2011

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