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News & For Sale “CERN: Neutrinos Faster Than Light, Or...?” by John Booty

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John Booty 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Sparkledonkey's Gallbladder
So this news has been making the rounds: CERN scientists appear to have observed neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. Which, if true, would mean most of what we think we know about physics is wrong.

Normally I wouldn't just regurgitate a news story here but I found a very level-headed "hold up a minute here" post by Phil Platt.

There’s another point that actually is quite important here. If neutrinos travel faster than light, then we should’ve detected the neutrinos from Supernova 1987A before we saw the explosion itself. That exploding star was formed when the core of a massive star collapsed, detonating the outer layers. The collapsing core blasted out a furious wave of neutrinos strong enough to be seen here on Earth, over 160,000 light years away.

The distance from the detector in Italy to the source in Geneva is about 730 km. [The recent experiment involves sending neutrinos from Geneva to Italy -Booty] The travel time at the speed of light is about 2.43 milliseconds, and the neutrinos appear to have outraced that speed by 60 nanoseconds. If true, that means they were traveling just a scosh faster than light, by about 1 part in 40,000. The neutrinos from SN1987A traveled so far that had they been moving that much faster than light, they would’ve arrived here almost four years before the light did. However, we saw the light from the supernova at roughly the same time as the neutrinos (actually the light did get here later, but it takes a little while for the explosion to eat its way out of the star’s core to its surface, and that delay completely accounts for the lag seen).

But I wouldn’t use that argument too strongly; perhaps this experiment creates neutrinos in a different way, or the neutrinos from this new experiment have different energies than ones created in the cores of supernovae (a good bet). Still, it’s enough to make me even more skeptical of this FTL claim.


That's from Phil Platt's Bad Astronomy blog, which is very very good. Link: http://...discovermagazine.com/...covered-slow-down-folks/

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Winter 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Clue Stick named "Good for Beating"
Faster than light travel is possible because of course it is. It's the poetry of the thing. All of our most fundamental beliefs about the universe are at best flawed.

I'm just thrilled it may be proven in my lifetime.
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Moonage Daydream 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Link's Boomerang named "I wish I knew how to quit you"
We'll see about this "nothing travels faster than light" nonsense when we're being transmitted across the heavens via quantum-entangled teleporters. Once we got that up and running, neutrinos can travel faster than light up my ass for all I care
 
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nategri 2 years ago on 09/23/11
I don't want to be dick about this (queue dick-like statement), but I am an actual physicist so hopefully that partially excuses me:

Anyone who thinks this result is credible (looking at you here, shitty popular science writers) doesn't have a full appreciation for just how deeply the fact that nothing can travel faster than light is written into almost ALL of modern physical theory.

For just one example, Pauli's exclusion principle, which allows for there to be such a thing as the periodic table of elements, depends on the fact that effects follow causes - something which you can completely throw out the window if anything is allowed to travel faster than light.

I could go on, and on, and on...

The discovery of superluminal particles would mean that we would have to throw away the bulk of 20th century physics, which doesn't make a lick of sense, because we've already used that physics to make things like particle accelerators possible in the first goddamn place. I guess it's possible we've come up with some completely bullshit set of theories that just happen to be wildly accurate in spite of assuming something that is untrue, but I just don't see it as likely.

Above all else, trust in Occam's Razor!
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Barney Stinson 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Handcuffs named "For Police Chief Marth, controllin anime hooligans"
Question, Nate. Is there a chance that a particle can be faster than light for a very brief period of time and then slow down to light speed or sub-light speed? (while still keeping our current theories in place?)
 
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nategri 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Sometimes theories can be broken in a salvageable way. As in the case of the Standard Model, which doesn't give the neutrino a mass, when we know it MUST have a mass (see: the solar neutrino problem). In that case, it's not much problem to just duct-tape neutrino masses onto the theory, because it doesn't change much else. Eventually we'll have to use a theory that generates the masses from scratch, but for now a quick fix is available.

In this case, however, we'd have to scrap anything that's based off of Special Relativity, since superluminal particles are expressly forbidden under it's formulation. This would include General Relativity, Quantum Electrodynamics (one of the most successful theories of all time), and the rest of Quantum Field Theory; this would just completely bring down the house.

You'd end up having to write some new equivalent of Special Relativity, and then remarry it to vanilla Quantum Mechanics, hopefully reproducing a century's worth of particle experiments along the way.
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Winter 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Clue Stick named "Good for Beating"
Relativity is a theory with holes! Teach the controversy!

Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
PS: Seriously though, Nate, wouldnt it be the thrill of your life to have a fundental theory shattered? To pick up and start again with a whole new vision of the universe?
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Donitsu 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Technique Scroll: "Mega Pimp Slap"
I was always under the assumption that special relativity didn't expressly forbid superluminal bodies, but instead dealt with the subluminal specifically. To put it in math terms (The energy required of a subluminal body to reach the speed of light is infinity)U(The energy of a superluminal body to decelerate to the speed of light is infinity). Tachyons have been a theory for years, it's not like this is incredibly world breaking.

That being said, the point of science is to disprove theory. That's a basic tenant of the scientific method, to be critical of this idea before it has even had the chance to be peer reviewed is ridiculous. So similarly, is the belief that this idea is patently true before it has been peer reviewed.

I look at the finding with a bit of caution, personally, but it's still very interesting nonetheless. In a year or so we may find out that everything we know about physics is bullshit, on the other we may find out that their instruments were simply not calibrated properly.
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Matthew 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Raffi's Christmas Album
You know what travels faster than the speed of light? Jesus's love for you. SPREAD THE WORD 9 OUT OF 10 PEOPLE WON'T REPOST THIS.... WILL U?
PS: Weren't the Neutrinos that band of jack-ass alien teenagers in the TMNT cartoon?

Also, I love all the headlines- "WAS EINSTEIN WRONG?" Yeah, I bet writing that gives some dumb-shit online journalist a huge wang-on.
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Donitsu 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Technique Scroll: "Mega Pimp Slap"
Matthew said:
You know what travels faster than the speed of light? Jesus's love for you. SPREAD THE WORD 9 OUT OF 10 PEOPLE WON'T REPOST THIS.... WILL U? PS: Weren't the Neutrinos that band of jack-ass alien teenagers in the TMNT cartoon?

Also, I lo...


Haha, I totally agree. Anything that sensationalist, particularly to a guy practically idolized as the smartest man alive, is going to attract attention. Either way, special relativity wasn't wrong. If this comes out to be true, we just need something to deal with superluminal bodies in regards to it. If it isn't (and it likely isn't) it's water under the bridge.

Frankly, the only reason it has the attention it has is because of the scientists attached to the project. There's been some research on quantum tunneling done years ago, if i remember correctly, that suggested superluminal particles and was subsequently shot to shit by the group of peers. I'm just filing this under the "holy shit this might be awesome news in a year" folder and forgetting about it.

Physics is going through a revolution of thought e.g. the idea of the 'multiverse' gaining more traction etc. Frankly, this shit is good for the science.
PS: *smartest man that ever lived. Holy Shit would I be scared if he were the smartest man alive.
PS: OR THE SMARTEST MAN UNDEAD
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tranoid no ki 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Embarassing Yaoi Fanfiction by LostDecoy named "The Adventures of Junun and Dio"
You know what travels faster than the speed of light? Jesus's love for you. SPREAD THE WORD 9 OUT OF 10 PEOPLE WON'T REPOST THIS.... WILL U?
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Donitsu 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Technique Scroll: "Mega Pimp Slap"
Fixed

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Fflewddur Fflam 2 years ago on 09/23/11
Equipped: Vash's Glasses
Wait, I thought the smartest man was Newton.
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Donitsu 2 years ago on 09/24/11
Equipped: Technique Scroll: "Mega Pimp Slap"
Fflewddur Fflam said:
Wait, I thought the smartest man was Newton.


I've never heard someone say "Well, aren't you a little Newton." Or say "you're a real Newton" ironically.
 
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Spike-o 2 years ago on 09/24/11
Newton was a terrible mobile device
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Moonage Daydream 2 years ago on 09/24/11
Equipped: Link's Boomerang named "I wish I knew how to quit you"
And a terrible excuse for a "cookie"
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Kumba 2 years ago on 09/24/11
Equipped: Portable Campfire named "Flame Imperishable"
Paper is here on arXiv:
arXiv said:
The OPERA neutrino experiment at the underground Gran Sasso Laboratory has measured the velocity of neutrinos from the CERN CNGS beam over a baseline of about 730 km with much higher accuracy than previous studies conducted with accelerator neutrinos. The measurement is based on high-statistics data taken by OPERA in the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. Dedicated upgrades of the CNGS timing system and of the OPERA detector, as well as a high precision geodesy campaign for the measurement of the neutrino baseline, allowed reaching comparable systematic and statistical accuracies. An early arrival time of CNGS muon neutrinos with respect to the one computed assuming the speed of light in vacuum of (60.7 \pm 6.9 (stat.) \pm 7.4 (sys.)) ns was measured. This anomaly corresponds to a relative difference of the muon neutrino velocity with respect to the speed of light (v-c)/c = (2.48 \pm 0.28 (stat.) \pm 0.30 (sys.)) \times 10-5.

http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.4897

I should point out that the scientists involved in this aren't claiming that they've discovered FTL particles, they're basically asking for help in finding the mistake that they believe explains the discrepancy of the neutrinos getting to the target 60ns before the photons. They're also adding that they re-ran the experiment ~15,000, and the margin of error was +/-10ns, leaving the remainder unexplainable. As well as rechecked the distance to the target site multiple times using a very highly-accurate GPS system.

So they're going to publish all their data sets soon and they want anyone, obviously other scientists in the same field, but anyone to go through it and see if they can find something missed in the initial round of error searches. However, the repeatable, nature of the results, and the sheer number of retries makes this statistically plausible, but it would be profound if so. Either we got something wrong about the standard model and something needs a slight adjustment, or neutrinos are simply weird enough to the point they either violate c in some form OR perhaps they are not being measured correctly because of our lack of understanding of their weirdness.
PS: The one thing faster than the speed of light is the Speed of Dark. Just ask a Weeping Angel.
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Fflewddur Fflam 2 years ago on 09/24/11
Equipped: Vash's Glasses
Donitsu said:

I've never heard someone say "Well, aren't you a little Newton." Or say "you're a real Newton" ironically.

Oh, yes, so obviously the existence (or otherwise lack) of pithy common sayings is definitely the best judge of a man's comparative intelligence.
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Donitsu 2 years ago on 09/24/11
Equipped: Technique Scroll: "Mega Pimp Slap"
Fflewddur Fflam said:

Oh, yes, so obviously the existence (or otherwise lack) of pithy common sayings is definitely the best judge of a man's comparative intelligence.


I said "a guy practically idolized as the smartest man alive". I didn't say the Newton wasn't more intelligent, you overreacting twat.
 
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nategri 2 years ago on 09/24/11
OK, I've taken a step back, done a little reading, and now I'm ready to admit that this is kind of a rabbit hole.

First: Yes, you can fudge Special Relativity to allow for tachyons, but it ain't pretty, and you're going to have to end up explaining how these particles have imaginary mass and time coordinates. I'm not saying it's impossible, and imaginary numbers show up in all sorts of unlikely situations in physics, but it still presents a nasty bump in the road.

(Side note: As it turns out particles with imaginary mass occasionally show up in Quantum Field Theory, but they get gobbled up and smoothed out mathematically via a procedure called 'tachyon condensation' (man is that ever cool as fuck sounding), and aren't considered physical).

Second: As it turns out, there are indications from QFT that even if tachyons DID exist, you couldn't use them to communicate information backward in time. I haven't thought about this SUPER HARD yet, but I think this means we can assume causality would remain intact, and we can continue having all those nice little perks that it implies, like the periodic table.

Third: The theories for Lorentz symmetry violating particles (i.e. superluminal particles) are surprisingly robust. There's even an extension of the Standard Model that allows for it (the the theoretical physicists, unimaginative gits that they are, have named it the Standard-Model Extension).

IN FACT (plot thickening music), there's even a juicy little application of the SME to neutrinos.

Earlier, making what I thought was a supportive but not directly related point, I said that we KNOW that neutrinos must have mass even though the SM doesn't assign one. The reason we know this is because what starts out as an electron neutrino in the Sun can end up as a muon neutrino by the time it gets to Earth. One of the ways to get this behavior out of neutrinos is to give them mass in the equations.

As it turns out there's another mechanism which makes neutrinos oscillate like this, and that's by allowing them to violate the Lorentz symmetry, which of course also allows for them to travel at FTL velocities. Neat, right?

Overall I'm still EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL of the OPERA 'result', because theorists have generated dozens and dozens of theories over the years, and most just get thrown out completely. Remember that for every 'String Theory' you hear about there's at least a half-dozen other Quantum Loop Gravities, and Doubly Special Relativities.

Would I like to see my field completely revolutionized by this discovery? Yeah. Fuck, that would be sweet. But I've got to ground myself firmly in how likely it is.

Physics is an EXTREMELY conservative field. The fact that the OPERA collaboration doesn't even trust it's OWN FINDINGS really tells you something. And I bet you could count the number of tenured professors worldwide who believe this result on your hands and feet.

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