Jan 082012

Neutrinos recently observed by CERN’s OPERA experiment may have been traveling faster than light. Or may have not. I have been discussing with physicists a number of possibilities: the role of statistics, errors in time or distance measurements, comparisons to SN 1987A, Cherenkov radiation, or the necessity for a Lorentz-violating theoretical framework.

Fortunately, there is one thing I did not need to discuss: How faster-than-light neutrinos relate to the Koran. Physics educators in Pakistan, such as Pervez Hoodbhoy writing for the Express Tribune, are not this lucky: they regularly face criticisms from fundamentalists, and if they choose to confront these head-on, they provoke ominous reader comments that call on all Muslims to “reject this evil experiment”.

Yet, there is a glimpse of hope: a Pakistani reader mentions Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World, one of Sagan’s last books, and a superb one about rational thinking versus superstition. I don’t know how popular Sagan’s book is in Pakistan, but I am glad it’s not forgotten.

 Posted by at 5:29 pm