Inaccurate science story?

I was reading a story in the Washington Post this morning on Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and came across this line:

Did the author really mean to write that? Are nuclei really moving at 99.95 times the speed of light? Or did the reporter mean to say 99.95 percent the speed of light? If it’s the former, I guess I’m fundamentally confused about physics.

If anyone’s interested, the story can be found at

~ Complacency is far more dangerous than outrage ~

Yes, it sounds to me like your correspondent got it wrong. Accelerators routinely produce particle speeds approaching the speed of light but this sounds like warp 2 or something. (“Scotty! I need more power!”)

“non sunt multiplicanda entia praeter necessitatem”
– William of Ockham

I agree. The correct number could be written as 99.95 percent of c, or 0.9995 times c, but someone got his wires crossed.

3x10^8 cm/s. It’s not just a good idea… it’s the LAW!

A recent Analog SF magazine tongue-in-cheekedly suggested that a good way to develop FTL drive would be to make 186,282 MPS the speed limit on some stretch of highway, because somebody would be certain to exceed it!! :slight_smile:

If it’s going anything above 1.0c, it’s a tachyon, and theoretical. The tachyon has not yet been discovered, except in science fiction.

And by its very nature, we could never discover it (because it would not be able to interact with subluminal particles). Thus we can properly toss tachyons in that circular file labelled “Occam’s razor”.

Oh, shall I pick that nit?

We interact with subluminal particles all the time.

Superluminal particles might be a bit harder to grab hold of.

Someday we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously, and change the subject…

Ooops. That’ll teach me to parse the entire sentence before jumping.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.

::slinks off into shadows::

Someday we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously, and change the subject…

Nice post/sig match. :wink: