Sunday, 25 September 2011

Concern at CERN

Seems some particles may have been breaking Einstein’s golden rule and exceeding the speed of light. I read, though, that an Italian physicists reckons may not have been going faster than light after all, on their test track from Switzerland to Italy, but ‘taking a short cut’ through another dimension.

As always when confronted with explanations like this I ask, What is the hope of a humanities product like me, who has trouble with maths, ever being able to understand?

I suspect -- incidentally -- that one problem is that term ‘dimension’. To me it means length, breath or height, x, y or z on a 3D graph. If those are dimensions it’s impossible to imagine a fourth that belongs in the same set. Time doesn’t seem to me to be anything like the same sort of thing, and as for the idea of others that don’t even have names that we understand (like ‘time’) in a rough-and-ready, everyday way, I can’t even get to first base. So should they use a different name, or is there perhaps a definition of ‘dimension’ that I might be able to grasp? (And would it help?)

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