Friday night topic: faster-than-light neutrinos

Unless you’ve been living under a rock this week, odds are you’ve heard about that experiment at CERN—you know, the one where researchers detected particles traveling faster than the speed of light. The media did its thing, sensationalizing the discovery to the extreme and leading some folks to suspect some sort of easy mistake, like a rounding error, or even a hoax, à la the Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

The facts couldn’t be farther from that. Here, we seem to have a sizable team of very perplexed researchers, faced with apparently impossible results that they double-, triple-, and quadruple-checked to no avail, humbly beckoning the scrutiny of the scientific community at large. Or, as the AP reports:

CERN said a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 730 kilometres away in Italy travelled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds, making the difference statistically significant. But given the enormous implications of the find, they still spent months checking and rechecking their results to make sure there were no flaws in the experiment.
"We have not found any instrumental effect that could explain the result of the measurement," said Antonio Ereditato, a physicist at the University of Bern, Switzerland, who was involved in the experiment known as OPERA.

The researchers are now looking to the United States and Japan to confirm the results.

As Nature points out, the discovery could have some rather wide-ranging repercussions if it turns out to be solidly grounded in fact:

The idea that nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum is the cornerstone of Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which itself forms the foundation of modern physics. If neutrinos are travelling faster than light speed, then one of the most fundamental assumptions of science — that the rules of physics are the same for all observers — would be invalidated. "If it’s true, then it’s truly extraordinary," says John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at CERN.

More interesting still, some digging at Wikipedia suggests the discovery doesn’t come entirely out of left field:

In 1985 it was proposed by Chodos et al. that neutrinos can have a tachyonic nature.[7][8] Today, the possibility of having standard particles moving at superluminal speeds is a natural consequence of unconventional dispersion relations that appear in the Standard-Model Extension,[9][10][11] a realistic description of the possible violation of Lorentz invariance in field theory. In this framework, neutrinos experience Lorentz-violating oscillations and can travel faster than light at high energies.

Will this discovery turn out to redefine physics, or will the results ultimately be repudiated? What’s your take? Discuss.

(The researchers’ full paper, entitled "Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam," is freely available here in PDF format, for those interested.)

Comments closed
    • moose17145
    • 8 years ago

    Lets assume these results get verified and certain things do move faster than light (meaning it is not the ultimate speed limit in the universe)… This completely verifies what i have been saying for years now to people who think that we as a human race have a firm understanding of physics and make claims that certain things are impossible (like faster than light travel for instance).

    “What we do not know about the universe we live in could fill one very seriously big @$$ book…. “

      • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
      • 8 years ago

      Betcha 50$ it’s gonna turn out to be a mistake. Are you in?

    • Voldenuit
    • 8 years ago

    I find it amusing that so many people are willing to throw away Special Relativity on the basis of a single experiment, despite the fact that SR has been upheld many times since its inception in theory, experiments, and real world applications (like GPS positioning, which ironically, is what OPERA uses to measure the distance to CERN*). Carl Sagan said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, and it has never been truer than here.

    Jumping on the bandwagon to proclaim the “death” of Special Relativity in the light of the OPERA experiment isn’t science; it’s hysteria. Proper science is the methodical inspection, analysis and replication of their results, and if it proves to be repeatable, the construction of a theoretical framework to explain the physical results.

    What the media has engaged in with their sensationalist reporting is nothing more than yellow journalism. If you read the OPERA paper, they are making no claims based on their results – it is the press and the public that are engaging in extrapolative speculation.

    *EDIT: Here’s something to ponder:
    If OPERA is right, Special Relativity is wrong.
    If Special Relativity is wrong, GPS doesn’t work.
    If GPS doesn’t work, then the distance measured to CERN is wrong.
    If the distance measured to CERN is wrong, then OPERA is wrong.
    //loop replacing wrong with right, and right with wrong. Then repeat loop ad infinitum. 😛

      • Squeazle
      • 8 years ago

      Quite. I think that the fact that we could have an imperfect understanding of light (among many other things) might be evading some people as well.

      • Dooby-Doo
      • 8 years ago

      ‘*EDIT: Here’s something to ponder:
      If OPERA is right, Special Relativity is wrong.
      If Special Relativity is wrong, GPS doesn’t work.
      If GPS doesn’t work, then the distance measured to CERN is wrong.
      If the distance measured to CERN is wrong, then OPERA is wrong.
      //loop replacing wrong with right, and right with wrong. Then repeat loop ad infinitum. :P’

      This is a classic logical error.

      You failed to consider the reverse case.

      Lets assume Special Relativity is RIGHT.
      The GPS would therefore be CORRECT.
      The neutron can’t travel faster than light… OH OOPS! It has.

      So if the neutron has in fact travelled faster than light, it does in fact prove special relativity wrong.

      • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
      • 8 years ago

      You got it wrong, but not only for the reason Dooby-Doo described.

      The fallacy in you chain is a false dichotomy: SR is not either right or wrong. It may be right, but it certainly isn’t wrong, in the same sense that Newtonian physics aren’t wrong. They’re merely increasingly imprecise if you have certain extreme conditions. Neutrinos may be a boundary for SR, the same way near-light travel is a boundary Newtonian physics. So our GPS measurements can still be right (they are) if SR is invalid for Neutrinos.

      Edit: I should point out that I don’t think this measurement was accurate and that I still assume Neutrinos to be honest law-abiding particles. I +1’d you because of that.

        • Voldenuit
        • 8 years ago

        Oh, I definitely didn’t mean to provide the chain of reasoning as a robust logical argument, merely as a humorous anecdote.

        It’s definitely possible for any combination of OPERA and SR being wrong (or imprecise) without invalidating GPS. It’s also possible for both OPERA and SR to be right (for instance, if it turns out that some neutrinos have imaginary rest mass, or if our speed of light measurement is inaccurate).

        I do reiterate that I think SR is more likely to be maintained than OPERA being right, but it will be a very interesting few months.

        @ Doobt Doo, I did in fact “consider” the reverse case, which was the source of the humor (for me). The irony being that OPERA used a device which uses SR (GPS) to show that SR wasn’t working. And yes, it’s reductio ad absurdum, but I didn’t think anyone would take the last paragraph seriously (hence the smiley face).

          • Dooby-Doo
          • 8 years ago

          Fair enough, at least you admit you were only joking.

          My point was that it’s actually possible to prove SR wrong using SR-dependant technology.

          If we assume that say,

          a) GPS being accurate is entirely dependant on SR being accurate
          b) The measurement of speed is correct.

          Then we can conclude that we have disproved SR using SR technology, it sounds ironic and illogical, but isn’t. The reason is that if SR was correct, the GPS would be correct and the speed wouldn’t be possible, and necessarily wouldn’t happen. Since we know this didn’t happen, logically it disproves SR, despite having a dependency on SR technology.

          🙂

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Nothing is black and white.
      Science is never absolute.
      Your argument is nuts.
      The whole point of this is to ponder, reevaluate and refine a theory until it fits all current observations. Clearly when we observe something that doesn’t fit the current refined version of the model we QA/QC it and update the theory if the observations are proven to be true.
      Nobody is proclaiming the death of SR. We’re just glad that there’s some reasonable scientists left doing reasonable science.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      It’s not possible to come close to a solution without fully understanding it? It’s possible to get part of a solution right, but not the whole thing. Not everything is right/wrong… I know that will blow the mind of engineers everywhere.

    • blorbic5
    • 8 years ago

    Professor: These are the dark matter engines I invented. They allow my starship to travel between galaxies in mere hours.
    Cubert: That’s impossible. You can’t go faster than the speed of light.
    Professor: Of course not. That’s why scientists increased the speed of light in 2208.

    I love futurama

      • cheesyking
      • 8 years ago

      not forgetting the ship doesn’t move at all, it moves the universe around it.

    • cheerful hamster
    • 8 years ago

    To my literal mind, it seems like the obvious thing to do is to fire photons and neutrinos along the same pathway simultaneously and see which arrive first. That way any miscalculation about the path or conditions along it could be ruled out. I read the PDF and maybe it’s buried in the science talk, but it didn’t seem like that was tried (or perhaps it’s not possible, this is technical stuff way beyond me).

    • oldDummy
    • 8 years ago

    Cool.
    some thoughts:

    On a very basic level we are missing a thread of knowledge that would help unify our understanding of reality. Unified theory of relativity [the Holy Grail] has eluded researchers, including AE.
    Currently I view energy and matter as interchangeable. One can become the other over TIME. Time is the wild card and a concept that is very hard to grasp fully. This observation, if confirmed, will help our understanding. What is becoming obvious is that there are very few things in existence that are static, maybe none. Constants drop out in first derivative for a reason.

      • sigher
      • 8 years ago

      Uhm, if I take your theory and put it in a formulation we get E =MC2

      The whole point of that is that matter=energy, and then we used that to make the atom bomb.

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Your nickname is very applicable.

    • glacius555
    • 8 years ago

    El Psy Congroo.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    It always seemed weird that nothing could travel faster then the speed of light. I have no scientific basis to base this on, but when people start talking time machine and you can simply go to the past (or forward I forget which) simply by approaching the edge of a black hole or by moving faster then the speed of light, it seems somehow wrong. That time itself is invariably linked to the speed of light and you can do a parlor trick with it simply because it’s a constant of the universe.

    There is a lot to the universe we don’t understand and absolutes almost never hold true. I suppose this is why I never dug hard sciences, when you base everything on research someone else does and you could spend your entire life just trying to prove all of that for yourself, it seems rather hollow for lack of a better word. Just like something ‘statistically significant’ is based on someone elses predetermined value that they thought was best to make it statistically significant. Don’t get me wrong, there is a precise value, but someone else decided what that value would be.

    Einstein was a brilliant guy, I do mean that, but why does everything Einstein did have to be right? If it was based on all the technology and variables he knew about at the time, you can’t draw conclusions for other undetermined variables.

    I actually find it more interesting every time he is brought up. If you look at the progression of physics or even science itself before he was born, during his life, and after his death there is a huge jump in progression solely due to him. He thought up ridiculous things no one even thought of at the time and added equations to them out of no where. Most human intelligence is based off of sort of brick by brick learning. We pick up on our environment around us and move a step ahead. This can be seen in a lot of different developments throughout history. Where the time, circumstances, and environment are just right they naturally lead us to the next step and a lot of the time more then one person comes up with the same idea around the same time period. Like electricity, tv, the radio… cars, current video games, trends in entertainment…

    Yet there are some people which can think completely outside of these norms and build the structure for themselves… this allows them to supersede learning based on their environment and instead based off themselves for lack of a better word and naturally leads them to very different avenues for approaching problems and other solutions. Einstein was just such an individual and it blows my mind to consider having to build concepts from the ground up that vary so far from the norm

    Humans all sort of gravitate towards one standard… we’re very much limited by ourselves and those around us. If we’re given absolute freedom with no input or baselines we can come up with something truly amazing, yet a lot of times we’re given self-imposed baselines from those around us. This can be seen in kids… somethings they say make absolutely no sense sometimes, not because it’s completely wrong, but they haven’t connected two ideas. A pound of feathers and a pound of bricks is a popular one…

    I digress… stuff like this makes you think about a whole lot more then just yes/no, black/white, true/untrue. I never really believed in the speed of light outside of it being one of those things you have to take for granted because it’s been ‘proven fact’.

      • DarkUltra
      • 8 years ago

      You seem to have missed what science is. Science is about hypotheses predicting observations turning into more or less established theories. The theory that universe started with a big bang sounds simple, but has in fact predicted a lot of observations. You can’t observe and confirm every scientific fact/claim, you have to trust that others have done a good job. Thats why skepticism and peer-reviews are very important. Religion however, have very, and few simplified claims and they never change their dogmas. They try to keep the keys to heaven for themselves, and focus a lot on faith, which easily turns into fanaticism.

        • sigher
        • 8 years ago

        Actually the vast majority of predictions done by the big bang camp were shown to be wrong, after which they quickly made changes to the theory, several times.

          • yogibbear
          • 8 years ago

          Which just proves exactly what DarkUltra said. You create a hypothesis. Try to do everything possible to prove that hypothesis fails. If you can’t. you accept that’s the best hypothesis you’ve got for now. Then technology advances, techniques advances, new scientists come along and challenge old hypotheses and then you make a new hypotheses that fits better with your observations and the cycle continues.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Part of what I was point out was the blind belief that a hypothesis is completely correct and an entire academic world that will vouch for it even though it is loosely based on what testing is available (if any)… it’s merely kept because it can’t be disproven. Global warming would is a pretty good example of this.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        I’m not at all stating hypothesis are unimportant, rather that there is often times more to everything then we like to pick out and things we take for pure hard fact are often times not that.

        I wasn’t trying to go all religion on this at all. Rather that there is a lot more to what we can feel and comprehend then you can put a label or statistic on.

        Often times things that we can’t see can offer the most insight.

    • trackerben
    • 8 years ago

    The truly unnerving implications are for causality, both locally and at the level of the particle horizon. If neutrinos can be captured for extractable information, what happens to our philosophical understanding of cause and effect if neutrinos can propagate information about events slightly faster than the light by which we can observe them?

    A neutrino footprint is about 1 along its vector. At this point in history, it appears that fifty feet or so spells the absolute nanosecond detection lag between an unknown and its unseen.

    Physical science isn’t the only field of study which may shake to its foundations here. We live in interesting times.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]We have not found any instrumental effect that could explain the result of the measurement[/quote<] Once they figure that out it shall be a day to remember. If light speed can be surpassed we have hopes of being able to travell to other stars, if we (as in the human race) manage to survive till the day we'll have all the necessary technologies.

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      Don’t get your hopes up.

      It is very likely that the entire thing is a measurement error. At very least, it is from some kind of natural phenomena that makes the neutrinos “appear” to go faster than the speed of light.

      FYI, neutrinos are quite peculiar to begin with. They have no resting mass, can change “color” and are [b<]extremely difficult to detect.[/b<]

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      Stars burn. You don’t want to travel to them.

        • Arclight
        • 8 years ago

        Don’t take sentences so literal! Have the intelligence to understand the meaning. You KNOW i meant stars that have planets worth studying /colonizing.

        • The Dark One
        • 8 years ago

        His name’s Alex, dude.

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      Yeah, but we’re not made of neurinos. The particles making us up can’t break light speed.

        • Arclight
        • 8 years ago

        But the theory of relativity applied to neutrinos also, no? If they can go faster than the speed of light without having infinate mass then…

          • ronch
          • 8 years ago

          Sorry, man. I don’t work for CERN. I don’t really know the answer to that.

          • Meadows
          • 8 years ago

          There’s a reason why it’s a “theory”.

        • Wirko
        • 8 years ago

        Yes we [i<]are[/i<] made of neurinos! And while they can't move that fast, they can slow down to zero speed, which is quite remarkable.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          I thought we were made of neurotics. 😛

      • lycium
      • 8 years ago

      are you perhaps the same arclight that made a qbasic ray tracer long, long ago?

        • Arclight
        • 8 years ago

        No, not really. I was never involved in ray tracing what so ever. I only have a very slight idea what ray tracing is, so it’s just a nick name coincidence.

          • lycium
          • 8 years ago

          Thx for confirming.

      • sigher
      • 8 years ago

      Maybe not warp drive but perhaps an explanation of why things you drop on the floor phase out of existence for days or weeks only to reappear later.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    And yet everybody gives me like -60 thumbs down only a few weeks ago when i was talking about rewriting the theory of relativity….

    Bunch of sheep!

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 8 years ago

      Have another ? (note: i have absolutely nothing against you, nor do I remember your comment from a few weeks ago, but due to being a sheep, I must click the thumbs down because it looks like everyone else is.)

      Baaaaahhhhh

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        Baaaaah.

          • yogibbear
          • 8 years ago

          Mooo?

      • DarkUltra
      • 8 years ago

      I vote you down because it’s funny!

      oh no…

    • volnaiskra
    • 8 years ago

    ” Here, we seem to have…perplexed researchers, faced with apparently impossible results”.

    Isn’t that basically the history of science, right there? Why does it still surprise anyone that scientists DON’T have everything figured out? Of course they don’t…that’s why we have scientists.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      A lot of people think Einstein figured everything out… because he’s Einstein.

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Once you see a bell curve of the IQ of the world’s population you will understand why. The average IQ is something like ~100 with std. dev of 15. i.e. the MAJORITY of people are extremely stupid. +/- 1 std dev. = 68%, +/- 2 std dev. is about 95%. So because i haven’t included the left hand side of the curve less than 100 – 2 x 15 = 70. ~2.5% of the world’s population has an IQ > 130. If your IQ is > 130 i consider you functional.

      ^^ Now I know the IQ test is flawed etc. etc. but it’s better than nothing.

      So because of this we have our stupid media, stupid ads, stupid people that consume stupid stuff…. yah for evolution etc.

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        Your comment is not even related.

        • Malphas
        • 8 years ago

        “If your IQ is > 130 i consider you functional.”

        Grow up. Also, Mensa members are some of the least functional people I’ve ever met. Not that everyone with a high IQ is a social retard, but there’s definitely a correlation that makes it more common than in gen pop. I would say your comment is an example of this, but I suspect your IQ probably isn’t as high as you’d like to think.

        • sweatshopking
        • 8 years ago

        you know what’s hilarious about this post? for a guy who is big into IQ’s, and states “If your IQ is > 130 i consider you functional.” makes such a dumb mistake. “The average IQ is something like ~100” IT IS 100. THAT’S WHAT 100 IS FOR. IT’S THE AVERAGE. IT’S NOT LIKE 100. IT IS 100. GOD YOU’RE THICK. YOU’RE NOWHERE NEAR MY 145. MORON.

        or you could say people have different gifts and capabilities. maybe i find people who can benchpress 250lbs functional. your opinion fails to take into account the wide variety of skills that human beings have. in other words, i respectfully disagree.

        edit: i have no idea what my actual iq is. never done an iq test.

          • lycium
          • 8 years ago

          the way you write in all caps when someone makes a mistake, claim an IQ of 145 without having done a test, and fail to notice that the SD is part of the definition too, suggests you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed either 😉

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            He edited his post to increase its truthiness.

            My IQ of 141 feels safe again.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            He was obviously being ironic about the ‘145’. His criticism of yogibear’s dogmatic world view, on the other hand, was spot on.

    • Xylker
    • 8 years ago

    Now you know why the Mayan calendar stops in 2012.

    </stupid meme>

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      Interesting…

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Unforeseen consequences

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHxyZaZlaOs[/url<]

      • sigher
      • 8 years ago

      Haha, indeed, what if the universe’s age is subject to quantum shifts in physics laws? And the speed of light limit recently changed 🙂

    • Voldenuit
    • 8 years ago

    I can think of several explanations for the results.

    1. Neutrinos do travel faster than light.
    There is some theoretical framework to explain this, as mentioned above.

    2. Errors in the experiment.
    This includes measurement and systematic errors (which the OPERA team tried to account for, but it’s always possible they made an error or left something out).

    3. The speed of light in a vacuum as experimentally measured needs to be revised.
    This could be due to the granularity of the measurement methods, for instance, the most common modern method is to use interferometry, but the accuracy of that is limited by the wavelengths used. It might even be that true ‘vacuum’ doesn’t exist in nature – fluctuations in the quantum foam creates virtual particles that can slow light down by causing it to be absorbed and reemitted. So the ‘theoretical’ speed of light might be faster than what we measure. Since neutrinos are less reactive than photons, they would be less likely to interact with these virtual particles and could be travelling closer to the ‘true’ speed of light in a vacuum than light itself.

    It’s also possible that all of the above answers may be correct. The OPERA team was wise not to make any wild predictions and simply presented their data for scrutiny and for other teams to replicate.

    I think we might have to wait and see on this one.

      • RAMBO
      • 8 years ago

      Didn’t Einstein say that nothing could accelerate to the speed of light and go faster, wasn’t there nothing stated about something that was already moving faster than the speed of light.at the point of creation?

        • Arclight
        • 8 years ago

        Is that a quote from K-PAX?

          • RAMBO
          • 8 years ago

          kpax?

        • ronch
        • 8 years ago

        There are a bajillion strange particles that we are yet to fully understand.

      • trackerben
      • 8 years ago

      [url<]http://www.npl.washington.edu/AV/altvw70.html[/url<] NASA Goes FTL - Part 2: Cracks in Nature's FTL Armor John G. Cramer "...Measurements of the mass of the electron neutrino in tritium beta-decays experiments at six different laboratories suggests that the electron neutrino may have a mass-squared that has a negative value. The statistical uncertainties in these mass-squared determinations are presently too large to be compelling, but the measured negative mass-squared values, if taken seriously, would require that the electron neutrino is a tachyon..." It has been speculated by Mr. Forward that real researchers at real labs (LANL?) refused to publish, even though the parameters were supposedly established with six-sigma certainty. Perhaps they did not want findings which might "buck the consensus" or "challenge the settled science" absent further experimental confirmation. Which could be the case now. May be more important than the non-finding of the related Higgs.

      • Krogoth
      • 8 years ago

      #2 and #3 are probable

      #1 is unlikely.

      If a new phenomena ends up being the cause, it would have to both explain the current limits and why they fail at certain conditions.

      • sigher
      • 8 years ago

      The speed of light isn’t merely ‘the speed light goes’ but a very much used unit, and if we were wrong about the definition of the exact speed then everything would constantly be out of whack, atom bombs would have a yield different from calculations for instance, and they’d notice that.
      I agree it’s peculiar that it would be so very close to the previous know value for c, but it doesn’t quite make sense that we were just using a wrong value in most everything in physics and we never noticed.

        • Captain Ned
        • 8 years ago

        Agreed. SR says that c is the only speed possible for photons (while also understanding that c is a function of the transmission medium). The non-existence of data on supernovae showing neutrinos arriving hours before photons (taking the difference in the OPERA experiment and extrapolating it to interstellar distances) is a strong argument that this is somehow a measurement error or an experiment construction error.

        To their credit the CERN team isn’t saying “this is real and must be accepted”. No, the thought of any result that doesn’t comport with SR made sure that they simply published this as a finding and pleaded with the rest of the world’s physics community to test this [i<]tout suite[/i<]. My guess is that it will be 12 months or so before anyone else can have an experiment up and running and can offer even preliminary confirmation (or not). Good science, falsifiable science, moves at its own pace to ensure the integrity of the results. Given the vanishingly small timing differences at stake here, experimental design and instrumentation validation issues will take lots of time to get right.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<]The non-existence of data on supernovae showing neutrinos arriving hours before photons (taking the difference in the OPERA experiment and extrapolating it to interstellar distances) is a strong argument that this is somehow a measurement error or an experiment construction error.[/quote<] Actually, the neutrinos from supernova 1987a arrived several hours before the photons. However, this is most likely due to a combination light being slowed by the cosmic medium (interstellar gas, etc) and being emitted from the supernova later than the neutrinos, and is consistent with current theory. Had the neutrinos from 1987a been traveling as fast as what CERN reported in the OPERA experiment, they should have arrived 4 [i<]years[/i<] before the photons. Also, while SR stipulates that light travels at c, it does not specify the value of c, which is experimentally determined (and is therefore a function of how accurately our experiments measure it). It's been hypothesized that lowering the vacuum energy of space increases the value of c. Lastly, this is not the first time that SR has been challenged. I remember an experiment a few years back where researchers had claimed to transmit photons faster than c. However, SR survived because it was not possible to use their method to transmit information faster than light. I'm pretty confident SR will survive this latest report, especially as SR itself predicts that particles with imaginary values for rest mass can exceed c. And I recall that some neutrinos had been predicted to have negative squared mass in the past.

      • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
      • 8 years ago

      If out measurement of the speed of light were wrong, wouldn’t it have shown in nuclear reactors as more energy being released than predicted?

        • Voldenuit
        • 8 years ago

        Perhaps, but any change in energy (remember, the neutrino discrepancy OPERA reported is 1 in 20,000) might have been masked by uncertainties in the inefficiencies in the system (fuel purity, cooling jacket, enthalpy of coolant, turbine efficiency, etc) or absobed by the in-built safety factors designed into the system (eg system copes with 20,002 W of heat as well as it does with 20,000 W*).

        Possible errors in our measurement of the speed of light include the experimental accuracy of the method (current interferometry claims accuracy down to 1 part in 40 million) and the conditions under which it was measured (no one has conducted a measurement of c at reduced vacuum energy states i.e. casimir vacuum).

        I do think that there are lots of exotic theories being bandied about, which is just as bad as the bad science I’ve been criticising (and I’ve been guilty of that too). The best approach is for other groups to try and replicate OPERA’s results before engaging in flights of fancy.

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t understand the “shock and awe” when this was announced. Sure AE was a great mind but it didn’t make him infallible. In a universe of infinite possibilities it is absolutely insane to assume that what we think is correct is the right answer. Just the mere fact that we can only make a “best guess” given the limited data that we can observe leaves for a near infinite margin of error.

      • RAMBO
      • 8 years ago

      A lot of what is done in science is based on his theory of relativity, so if it is false then that is like finding out that the world isn’t flat or we are not the center of the universe-it’s a big hit to how we think. I can see it from your perspective but the shock is very understandable. I mean come on man this is awesome beyond belief don’t you think so? This means more new science-warp speed cap’n

      • Farting Bob
      • 8 years ago

      Albert Einstein is a legend in science but several theories of his have been proven wrong (or changed to fit new discoveries or theories). But the speed of light (and the fact that no particle with any mass can go over or at that speed) has been studied and proven again and again and again and again.
      Its not like when Aristotle made claims (beetles only have 4 legs according to him and it took over a thousand years for anyone to check and count that they have 6 legs) and everyone just accepted it and never questioned it.

      Many many scientists have studied and corroborated his findings. Nothing has gone over the speed of light, you can get very very close but you cant go at the speed of light with any particle with any mass. That has been proven so many times the fact that AE was the one who originally said it is irrelevant.

      This experiment shows neutrinos going marginally faster though, and has rocked scientists who have spent their whole lives observing the rule that nothing goes faster. I hope that they can repeat the test in other locations with just as much accuracy and can prove that this particle has gone faster than light, because although practically it doesnt appear that it would change much in the real world, the theories that govern the universe as we know it would change hugely. From an intellectual point of view its one of the most fascinating results that science has ever thrown up.

        • Voldenuit
        • 8 years ago

        Actually, individual photons have been measured to go faster than light, but the average velocity is [i<]c[/i<]. It's also possible for the phase velocity and/or group velocity of light to exceed c in certain circumstances, but information cannot be transmitted faster than c. #50, Scientists have looked at supernovas as coemmiters of neutrinos and photons, and in all reported cases, the neutrinos and photons have arrived at the same time. Had the neutrinos been travelling at the speed measured at CERN, they would have arrived much earlier than the photons due to the large distances traveled. However, it's worth noting that the neutrinos from CERN were more energetic than the supernovas (iirc).

          • duke_sandman
          • 8 years ago

          True that. The [i<]c[/i<] that we commonly mean is the sqrt( c_phase * c_group ), if I recall junior lab correctly. That's not my field any more, though I loved the HE, special and general relativity classes.

    • lycium
    • 8 years ago

    “We don’t allow faster than light neutrinos in here” said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.

      • Cyril
      • 8 years ago

      A neutrino walks through a bar…

      • duke_sandman
      • 8 years ago

      Ahhh…. Pass this through your detector, but do not touch.

      >I detect nothing.

      > What you do not detect is called a neutrino. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier elementary particles known to man.

      (edit: spelling….)

        • raparker
        • 8 years ago

        Classic. 🙂

      • mph_Ragnarok
      • 8 years ago

      I think you guys are missing lycium’s point.

      faster-than-light means some moving reference frame will observe the neutrino arriving at the detector before it is fired from the particle accelerator

      • DrCR
      • 8 years ago

      Those weren’t the neutrinos CERN was looking for.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 8 years ago

        CERN shot first!

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      +1, my good man.

      • ronch
      • 8 years ago

      I’ll have a neutrino on the rocks, please.

    • blazer_123
    • 8 years ago

    So, ~10 years until we have Warp Drive? 😀

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      Of course. NASA already knew about this. Why do think they waited until AFTER the shuttle was retired to announce this?

      • sigher
      • 8 years ago

      Or we traveled back to the 1950’s.

    • willyolio
    • 8 years ago

    i suspect measurement error or something like it.

      • sirsoffrito
      • 8 years ago

      Or something. It’s already known that the speed of light is slightly “flexible” given conditions such as casamir vacuums. Probably just an unknown condition causing such an anomaly.

    • Geistbar
    • 8 years ago

    Whether it ends up true, or it was just some error, I think the ultimate reason will be interesting. Just plain interesting if it was a mistake; sometimes, the most interesting things come from mistakes. Truly exciting if it it is true, though the ultimate effects of that would presumably vary quite drastically depending on what the actual reason is. My own knowledge of relativity is too limited to make any assumptions (at least, any assumptions worth reading…) about the possible effects or reasons though.

    • bthylafh
    • 8 years ago

    I want it to be true, but I just don’t think it will be.

    Replicate the results with other teams and we’ll talk.

      • duke_sandman
      • 8 years ago

      I agree; this is GREAT! This is how science is supposed to be done! Lookit:

      “Here are some results: here is the data, here are the instruments, here is the analysis, here are the statistical confidence levels. We’re baffled. Someone else — everyone else — please take a look at this!”

      Not to get into R&P (I hit both leftists & right wingers), but it is such a refreshing change from the global warming folk (“settled science” that is “incontrovertible”) or the anti-vaccine McCarthyites (as in “Jenny McCarthy”), or the young-Earth folks (“Carbon dating is a fraud.”). Instead of hiding data, making it up, cherry picking data, or confusing correlation with causation, these guys seem to be honestly looking for the right solution.

      Speaking as a scientist, we need 10,000 more scientists like them; only then can we begin to undo the damage done by (former) scientists acting out political activist fantasies.

        • trackerben
        • 8 years ago

        You obviously haven’t come upon the folk behind Universal Cooling, who claim that cosmological end-state physics is settled on a trend towards maximum entropy.

          • yogibbear
          • 8 years ago

          You do know what entropy is right?

            • trackerben
            • 8 years ago

            I should hope so. It explains a trending into disorder in all natural things – and in our descriptions of them – as a function of time as well as evolving complexity .

            • DarkUltra
            • 8 years ago

            Ho there, if any natural law would skew over time, or the complexity “evolve,” things would go bananas fast. Laws of physics are very finely balanced. But they did “skew” a bit for a few seconds during big bang, I read in a Norwegian pop science magazine, don’t have a better source sorry.

            • trackerben
            • 8 years ago

            Well, if the descriptions we have of this verse (universal constants and best theories) were to be someday found subject to uncertainty, to variation over time and location, that would be a monstrous pickle, wouldn’t it? Natural processes have always been observed to proceed inefficiently into decay within thermodynamic parameters.

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            Entropy is energy’s ability to flow on in whatever way possible. [b<]Maximum entropy[/b<] means all life will have already been extinguished and all work ceases to happen in all of the universe, meaning nothing will burn, move, or collide anymore, and temperature will be uniform. Could also be that, in addition, all matter in the universe will reach zero point energy, and keep it forever. Option B would be that all matter would collapse upon itself, compress while matter allows for it, then crack and produce a fresh Big Bang. Current observations point to the opposite, because scientists believe they've observed the universe's expansion to "accelerate". It's all probably billions of billions of years away, but it's a real possibility. Should give you no loss of sleep whatsoever.

            • trackerben
            • 8 years ago

            More intriguing is that energy irreversibly dissipates forward in time in all observed natural systems. And even more intriguing is that any physical structure hosting those processes (whether single-celled life or superstructures spanning parsecs) can also be found evolving complexity, but also – and only – irreversibly forward in time.

            Entropy in this sense is difficult to understand, because no one really knows why the arrow of time weighs so heavily here. Never mind the theoretical analogies which populate information theory…

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            You still don’t get it. Entropy has nothing to do with complexity.

            • trackerben
            • 8 years ago

            I would not have said that Entropy can be a function of Complexity if I had known you would strictly call me on this. Though both are derivative of time in the aggregate and are associated macroscopically, the applications are of course distinct at lower levels. Complexity is a probabilistic measure, a straightforward “pegging” of system states not to be confused with classical Entropy, partcularly when explaining the mechanics of thermodynamic systems by “accounting” for energy flows (Please excuse the one-word analogies). I am more familiar with the attendant concept of disordering as this was how it was taught before the move to frame things in terms of minimum-seeking Gibbs energy became the fashion.

            I’ve been following century-old discussions on whether a deeper association between the two concepts can be arrived at to jointly shed light on cosmological phenomena. As speculative frenzy is all over this forum, I decided against safely terming complexity in association with entropy and risked terming it as somehow derivative of the latter, which is the current debate in some circles. As I was in the fever I made the leap of faith, and you caught me loose.

            Edit: On Option B, that would be friendly to the scenario positing a maximum possible of Complexity attained just prior to the Crunch eating a maximum possible of Information.

            • yogibbear
            • 8 years ago

            +1.

            • trackerben
            • 8 years ago

            I might have misrepresented the discourse by saying complexity may be found to be derivative of entropy, when the debate is more of the reverse – that complexity provides a possible explanation for everything post-creation and entropy is just one case, albeit “residual”.

            An example:
            [url<]http://richarddawkins.net/discussions/623885-entropy-complexity-and-a-science-based-solution-to-the-free-will-problem[/url<] Entropy, complexity, and a science-based solution to the free will problem Of course it's mostly speculation, but it's all interesting.

        • blastdoor
        • 8 years ago

        “Not to get into R&P…”

        Translation: “To blatantly get into R&P, but with a wormy little attempt to deflect criticism for doing so…”

    • Goty
    • 8 years ago

    The existence of tachyons (or any particles having similar properties) would essentially spell doom for the universe because they make the universe unstable. This is the least of the points that one could make that casts this potential discovery in a dubious light. Even if the signal is reproducible in other experiments, it doesn’t “doom” special relativity; there are countless examples in physics of violations of “invariants”. All it would mean is that the theory is incomplete, but still entirely applicable on everything but the highest energy scales (similar to the way that Newtonian mechanics breaks down on quantum scales or high velocities).

      • NeelyCam
      • 8 years ago

      Makes sense. +1

      • Saribro
      • 8 years ago

      Corner cases are hard to debug.

      • Cuhulin
      • 8 years ago

      Actually, it does doom special relativity in a lot of its most significant contexts. What makes the theory important is its invariant nature. Sure, it may still apply “except when….”, but that is a very different beast from what has been taught for most of the last century.

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