Sir — The report recently released by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) has stunned us all (“‘Unbelievable’ moment for science”, Sept 24). It has made us think of hitherto unimagined possibilities. If the findings of the report are proved correct, even time travel may become a theoretical possibility.
Scientists at Cern claim to have found that subatomic particles called neutrinos can travel faster than light. If their measurements are correct, it means that the neutrinos break the cosmic speed limit set by Albert Einstein in his theory of special relativity. Neutrinos ejected from a particle accelerator travelled 730 kilometres between two laboratories in Europe, taking 20 millionth of a second less than light to cover the same distance.
Neutrinos themselves are mysterious particles. They come in three different kinds and can metamorphose from one form to the other. They travel through all matter as if it were not there. In the experiments conducted by Cern, the particles changed from ‘tau neutrinos’ to ‘muon neutrinos’ in the course of their journey.
If the Cern report stands the test of scrutiny, not only Einstein’s law of special relativity but also the fundamental principles of modern physics would be challenged. Einstein’s theory has been tested in experiments in the course of the last century. It would take very solid evidence and a foolproof argument to disprove it. There may be many flaws in the claims made by the scientists at Cern. It might have been wiser for them to have waited a bit longer before making such staggering claims. Some of the possibilities they speak of — such as time travel — have for long been the stuff of fiction. For years, star gazers have looked into the night sky, wondering at the fact that the light produced by the stars took millions of years to travel. The stars they look at may not exist any more. Exceeding the speed of light could actually mean reaching those stars. The Cern scientists would have a lot to answer for if their report held only false promises.
Shameek Bose, Calcutta
Sir — With the death of Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the world of cricket has lost one of its gems (“Prince among players”, Sept 23). After losing one eye when he was just 20 years old, Pataudi changed his playing strategy and adapted successfully. Through sheer grit, he became one of the most fearsome fast bowlers India has known. Pataudi leaves behind a legacy of excellence. He always believed cricket was a gentleman’s game and put the interests of team and country above his own. True to his big-hearted nature, Pataudi donated his remaining eye when he died.
A.S. Mehta, Calcutta
Sir — “Tiger” Pataudi is no more and cricket will always miss one of its most glamorous personalities. As a schoolboy, I was a great fan of Pataudi. Every day, I would open the sports page of the newspaper to find fresh reports of Pataudi having scored a century for Oxford or for Sussex in the English county league. Even a road accident that cost him his eye could not deter him from scaling greater heights.
Even with his vision impaired, Pataudi displayed batting and fielding skills which, in my opinion, have not been matched by anyone else till date and will not be in the near future. His cross-bat or “agricultural shot” was a treat to watch. As for his fielding, Pataudi could hit the stumps from the boundary while using just one eye. His favourite fielding position was at cover or extra cover.
In the Test match against England in 1964, Pataudi scored an effortless 203 not out. Each of his innings was memorable. One can only wonder at what he might have accomplished if he had both eyes. Sachin Tendulkar and Don Bradman may well have been overshadowed. Pataudi became India’s youngest cricket captain at the age of 21. He was a great motivator and could accurately predict the way the game would go. This was evident in the way he placed the fielders.
Pataudi belonged to a dying breed of cricketers who were stylish both on and off the field. Moreover, he never got involved in the murkier side of cricket politics and did not crave for media attention, unlike many cricketers. His will be a hard act to follow in the world of sport. The Tiger might be gone but he will live in our hearts forever.
S. Ram, Pune