Faster than light?

The Bad Astronomer, I think, has got the right approach here.
Let’s wait and see.

Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve heard this subject being discussed fairly frequently since the news broke a few days ago — “surprisingly” because things like this don’t usually grab the public’s eye as firmly as, say, Paris Hilton’s latest trick. Typically, the conversations are centred on the question of what it means for reality “now that Einstein’s Relativity Theory has been disproved,” with wildly speculative notions being put forward about FTL travel and warp drives and such as being just around the corner. Less well-considered ideas are also enthusiastically bounced around, for example the implications for machines that could exploit the neutrino’s imaginary mass to produce abundant free energy. Brainstorming is good; ignorant brainstorming isn’t.

Phil Plait’s write-up dispels some of this and does a decent job of describing why it would be premature at this stage to accept the CERN results as unimpeachable and as the death blow to Special Relativity: The results lack independent corroboration; one or more obscure systematic measurement errors cannot be excluded at this stage; the aberration is very small; and the existence of voluminous and extremely strong prior evidence that directly contradicts those results. In addition, the results would invalidate the Standard Model of subatomic physics, possibly the most thoroughly tested (and validated) scientific theory ever, and particle accelerators, including the LHC that helped generate the results in question, would likely not function quite as in-line-with-theory as they do.

But perhaps the dimmest take on those results comes, hardly unexpectedly, from creationists/ID proponents. All jokes aside, I’ve heard it said that “They just disproved Einstein. That means Darwin’s next.”

It can now safely be revealed to the world that Charlbert Darwinstein’s theory of Special Evotivity by Inertial Selection is a definite non-starter…


Aye, I’ve heard one SA “doc/prof” was going on about sending messages to the past and “killing your grandpa” and other flights of fancy. Very sensationalist and all.

I like the angle that the findings of SCIENCE are being used to prove that science is about to be replaced with bible-bashing. The faithful are quick to confirm their faith in any finding they can (wrongly) use to their aims, regardless of the source. Perhaps there is such a thing as a blind faith in science, exercised mostly by those who profess to have no faith in science.

How else are we ever to develop warp drive?

lol @ Charlbert Darwinstein’s theory of Special Evotivity by Inertial Selection :smiley:

Do you think the researchers could have missed something as fundamental as special relativity? That’s odd, I thought that the GPS systems took the special relativity effects into account automatically?

I hope not. My money is on some type of systematic measurement error.

Neutrinos Still Breaking Speed Limits
by Jason Major on November 18, 2011

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN (CERN/LHC/GridPP)
New test results are in from OPERA and it seems those darn neutrinos, they just can’t keep their speed down… to within the speed of light, that is!

A report released in September by scientists working on the OPERA project (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tracking Apparatus) at Italy’s Gran Sasso research lab claimed that neutrinos emitted from CERN 500 miles away in Geneva arrived at their detectors 60 nanoseconds earlier than expected, thus traveling faster than light. This caused no small amount of contention in the scientific community and made news headlines worldwide – and rightfully so, as it basically slaps one of the main tenets of modern physics across the face.

Of course the scientists at OPERA were well aware of this, and didn’t make such a proclamation lightly; over two years of repeated research was undergone to make sure that the numbers were accurate… as well as could be determined, at least. And they were more than open to having their tests replicated and the results reviewed by their peers. In all regards their methods were scientific yet skepticism was widespread… even within OPERA’s own ranks.

One of the concerns that arose regarding the discovery was in regards to the length of the neutrino beam itself, emitted from CERN and received by special detector plates at Gran Sasso. Researchers couldn’t say for sure that any neutrinos detected were closer to the beginning of the beam versus the end, a disparity (on a neutrino-sized scale anyway) of 10.5 microseconds… that’s 10.5 millionths of a second! And so in October, OPERA requested that proton pulses be resent – this time lasting only 3 nanoseconds each.

The OPERA Neutrino Detector
The results were the same. The neutrinos arrived at Gran Sasso 60 nanoseconds earlier than anticipated: faster than light.

The test was repeated – by different teams, no less – and so far 20 such events have been recorded. Each time, the same.

Faster. Than light.

What does this mean? Do we start tearing pages out of physics textbooks? Should we draw up plans for those neutrino-powered warp engines? Does Einstein’s theory of relativity become a quaint memento of what we used to believe?

Hardly. Or, at least, not anytime soon.

OPERA’s latest tests have managed to allay one uncertainty regarding the results, but plenty more remain. One in particular is the use of GPS to align the clocks at the beginning and end of the neutrino beam. Since the same clock alignment system was used in all the experiments, it stands that there may be some as-of-yet unknown factor concerning the GPS – especially since it hasn’t been extensively used in the field of high-energy particle physics.

In addition, some scientists would like to see more results using other parts of the neutrino detector array.

Of course, like any good science, replication of results is a key factor for peer acceptance. And thus Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois will attempt to perform the same experiment with its MINOS (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search) facility, using a precision matching OPERA’s.

MINOS hopes to have its independent results as early as next year.

No tearing up any textbooks just yet…

Read more in the news article by Eugenie Samuel Reich. The new result was released on the arXiv preprint server on November 17. (The original September 2011 OPERA team paper can be found here.)

The barman says ‘We don’t serve neutrinos here’.
A neutrino walks into a bar

Enjoy this trip through the expanse of the universe:

4chan… ok then.

FWIW it’s 404’s for me, maybe I didn’t troll enough.

…also a little girl with either trees or people around her.

that’s weird…did it with me as well??

Basically, 4chan has no memory. It’ll discard anything older than X, where X is “we can no longer store all the stuff on this site”. The flash thing you linked to may have fallen off the end of the list, and is now lost forever.

Based on the usual content of 4chan, this is a good thing.


Pretty nifty (from another forum where duded posted 4chan and then this one :D)

Possible/probable flaws found in OPERA’s faster-than-light neutrino measurement.


Well there you go, just a glitch in the matrix :smiley:

LOL at the Micra article! ;D

But seriously, people are shooting lasers at the moon all the time … why not simply have a laser beam accompany the stream of neutrinos as a speed-of-light control? That way, the clocks can be calibrated according to a known quantity.


Because the neutrinos go in a straight line through the Earth. Light cannot be persuaded to behave similarly without constructing a tunnel.