Sunday, September 25, 2011

In Physics & Tennis: Speed Kills

Photo: Dan McCoy/Corbis

"Speed Kills."
John McEnroe, commentating the 2011 Wimbledon Men's Singles Final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal

On Friday, September 23, 2011, an international scientific team at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) particle laboratory reported a stunning research finding which, if true, may revolutionize the past 100 years of physics.

Mysterious particles known as neutrinos were clocked by science's best instrumentation at traveling a tiny fraction of a secondfasterthan the speed of light, which is the cosmic speed limit in our universe.

Neutrinos are ghost-like sub-atomic particles with nearly no mass or electrical charge, and pass through matter as if it was not there at all.

In a 3-year experiment known as OPERA, researchers measured the speed of neutrinos projected from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland to Gran Sasso, Italy.

And they were astonished by their finding - and spent 6 months painstakingly cross-checking and verifying the results beyond margin of error.

The neutrino was clocked at 299,798,434 meters a second which exceeds the speed of light by a very small fraction.

No object in our universe can travel faster than light under the prevailing pillar of modern physics - the theory of relativity developed by Albert Einstein in 1905.

The CERN finding must be confirmed by follow-up experiments by other researchers, which is expected to be underway shortly in both Japan and the United States.

If validated, "[i]t would be the biggest physics discovery in a century because we'd have to revise everything from subatomic physics to what we know about how the universe evolved," said Neil Turok, Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Famed physicist Michio Kaku of City College of New York agreed: "[If true], we'll have to re-write all of modern physics."

Speed kills.

In tennis, the same holds true.

The very best players move at blinding speeds which create an impenetrable defensive shield and which intimidate their opponents. Thus, points are sometimes won even before they start.

Speed kills.

How can we all improve our court speed?

It's all about that explosive first step.


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