Michio Kaku, a physicist specializing in getting his mug on television shows and his name in popular magazines and newspapers, has basically declared, in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, that Einstein could not have been wrong about the speed of light:
Since 1905, when Einstein declared that nothing in the universe could travel faster than light, the theory has been the bedrock of modern physics. Indeed, most of our high-tech wizardry depends on it.
This is simply not true. Special Relativity, which was used to disprove the presence of an ether, depends on light being the absolute speed limit of the universe, and on light traveling the same speed for every observer no matter how fast they happen to be traveling. But Special Relativity did not really solve any practical problem in physics, except in some measure the problem of clock synchronization from which it originally arose. None of our high-tech wizardry depends on Special Relativity.
General Relativity, which is a far more comprehensive stab at the nature of the universe, and one which is beloved by physicists besotted with its elegant simplicity, has its greatest application in GPS satellites orbiting the earth. The satellites have to account for the bending of space-time in General Relativity, else their calculations of earthly positions by triangulation would slowly drift.
Our other high-tech wizardry depends almost exclusively upon Quantum Theory, which Einstein refused to believe could be correct, since it provided for a probabilistic, dynamic universe. As he famously stated, “God does not play dice with the universe”.
Quantum Theory, in fact, is perhaps the single most important scientific development in history. Our computers, the internet, cell phones, televisions, microwaves, etc, depend on it. Our understanding of chemistry and the elemental building blocks of the universe depend upon it. Nuclear science depends upon it. Pharmaceuticals depend upon it. Quantum Theory is the bedrock of modern, practical physics. And it is incompatible with General Relativity. General Relativity collapses upon itself at the quantum level.
Whereas Quantum Theory is the physics of the very small, General Relativity is the physics of the very large or very fast. Theoretical physics depends on General Relativity, but more and more it seems, the theory does not work. Though Special Relativity was used to dispense with the idea of an ether through which matter and energy traveled, General Relativity seems to have reinvented the need for it, its calculations now requiring 96% of the universe to be dark matter or energy, undetectable, except in the mental abstractions of theoretical physicists. General Relativity, which depends, like Special Relativity, upon light being the speed limit of the universe, slouches ever closer to mysticism.
Years of effort and literally billions upon billions of dollars have been frittered away trying to make General Relativity and Quantum Theory compatible; to find a Grand Unified Theory that will tie the two together. General Relativity, Einstein’s baby, is the sacred cow of physics. Though it has hardly any practical use, and does what could only be considered a poor job of explaining the universe, as it can only be used to explain the 4% of the universe that is detectable according to its tenets, physicists refuse to abandon it. There is no more profound evidence of the human aspect of scientific inquiry than the dogged determination by physicists to stand by Einstein’s theories no matter where the evidence leads. Logic is not the life of theoretical physics, as I explained in a previous post.
The speeding neutrinos may or may not turn out to have truly traveled faster than light, but the fact so many physicists, Michio Kaku foremost among them, have already declared the experiment at fault speaks more to the nature of the scientists inquiring about the universe than to the nature of the universe itself.