You may have read recently that tiny weeny little particles called neutrinos are suspected of travelling faster than light. One of the laboratories which is of the opinion that this could be the case sits in Italy in the Gran Sasso area of the Italian region of Abruzzo.
Should it be confirmed that these neutrino things actually do manage to whizz along at speeds which are faster than light, then this will upset Einstein’s special theory of relativity which postulates that nothing can go so fast. This will give more than a few physicists major headaches.
Anyway, although the Italian scientists stated that neutrinos had been measured flying at faster than light speeds, the wise boffins, who were working with the noted CERN lab, also emphasised that their experiments needed to be repeated by other labs to confirm the existence of super fast Einstein theory disintegrating particles.
The day after the news of the maybe discovery, a few of Italy’s newspapers carried headlines claiming that faster than light particles had been discovered and that it was Italians who made this discovery. It was only by reading that one discovered that the findings still needed confirmation. And confirmation is necessary.
The speed of light is 299,792,458 metres per second, while the speed these neutrinos particles were measured to be speeding along at was 299,798,454 metres per second. Call me sceptical, but the difference is not that great which means mathematical error is possible. Still, it could be a momentous discovery and soon after every home in the world will have cars so fast they will make Ferraris look feeble by comparison.
Right, so that’s the small matter of the mischievous super-fast neutrinos out of the way. Now, time to talk about a tunnel and a mysterious black hole.
An Uneducated Blunder
Italy’s erstwhile Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini made a rather major blunder when in a press release which celebrated the achievements of Italian scientists finding zippy neutrinos, she mentioned something about a tunnel which had been built under Italy all the way from the CERN labs in Switzerland.
This tunnel was 750 kilometres long – which in terms of long things, is on the long side. Think of it has being the barrel of a gun which fired neutrinos under Italy. Actually, don’t bother thinking about it at all – the tunnel does not exist.
Neutrinos are not tiny little bullets; these penetrative particles can pass through just about any material including us. Do not worry though, as you will not end up doing a good impression of a sieve. Being “shot” by neutrinos is painless and it happens all day long and happens more if you happen to have a nuclear reactor next door, apparently.
CERN “shot” neutrinos at Gran Sasso right through rock, people, earth and stone.
The Black Hole
Back to the Education minister’s cavernous blooper.
While it is somewhat worrying that an education minister should make such an error, what is worse is that Minister Gelmini also claimed that the non-existent tunnel cost €45 million! Hence the black hole.
If the millions were not used to build a tunnel, which they were not, then what were they used for? Hopefully, they were used for the CERN/ Gran Sasso neutrino shooting experiments and not for setting up lewd parties for a certain prime minister.
Italy’s netizens have laughed long and loud at the minister’s monumental mistake. It has to be said Gelmini is not the most popular education minister Italy has ever had owing to her somewhat chaotic and deeply unpopular education system “reforms“.
Perhaps Italy’s education minister should educate herself by frequenting web sites like Wikipedia which have rather interesting entries on nubile neutrinos. I wonder if the good minister is able to read English?
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