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The Mythical Tunnel Between CERN and Central Italy 303

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-the-facts-mam dept.
fph il quozientatore writes "Mariastella Gelmini, the Italian minister of Public Education and Scientific Research, complimented the researchers for the recent (supposed) discovery of faster-than-light neutrinos. Her press release mentions that Italy funded the construction of a 'tunnel between the CERN [in Geneva] and Gran Sasso [the labs in Central Italy].' Google maps reports the distance between the two labs as over 900km — but of course once the tunnel is open to traffic the trip will be much faster."
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The Mythical Tunnel Between CERN and Central Italy

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  • by goombah99 (560566) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:39PM (#37511580)

    He was speaking of the future tunnel that the faster than light neutrino's already know about so they can follow it.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:40PM (#37511592) Journal

    There's still the problem of all those pesky particles flying at high speed down the center stripe.

    • dual it and have 2 one way tunnels

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>dual it and have 2 one way tunnels

        Just make sure you paint signal directional markings to provide optimal signal transfer, like a Denon ethernet cable.

    • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @11:18PM (#37511770) Journal

      There's still the problem of all those pesky particles flying at high speed down the center stripe.

      Oh, and the best part is that you'll never see it coming.

      • by JustOK (667959)

        You'll see it coming after it happens.

        • Which is why it must be all wrong - causality becomes inconsistent.... maybe gravity moves a the speed of massless neutrinos, and it is actually photons that have a very tiny rest mass? Has anybody measured the speed of gravity with equal precision?

          If you have a neutrino emitter travelling at high speeds some distance away from you all the inconsistencies that general relativity irons out become problems again.

          And what happens with red-shift... you can lower the wavelength of a photon due to red shift, but

          • by symbolset (646467) * on Monday September 26, 2011 @02:46AM (#37512728) Journal

            Your argument has some issues. First, the speed of gravity is theoretically c. This can be proved experimentally sometime soon. Or was. I forget. Since entropy is ambiguous in this thread you forgave me I'm sure.

            Neutrinos are believed to have mass of some kind, because they appear to experience time. Neutrinos are believed to cycle over time through electron, muon and tau neutrino flavors - and cycling at some time rate based on energy levels. If the mass of neutrinos is negative it becomes a different theoretical problem with neat solutions. The Neutrinos would be repelled by, rather than attracted by, gravity. Yes, causality remains a problem in this case if the speed of light is truly broken and the observation isn't an error, because of the potential for heavier particles of greater mass and potentially much greater speeds. The actualization of negative masses does help certain other aspects of the theory though. Perhaps the red-shift of neutrinos and their higher-order cousins caused the early FTL expansion of the universe, and they're what's now slowing it down. In that case the missing mass in the universe is the negative mass of the neutrinos that expanded the universe faster than c on their way out and are now opposing the expansion of the universe with their negative mass. That would make the net mass of the universe exactly zero, which would clean up a lot of mess in the math. Energy then becomes the potential between mass and negative mass, the speed of light the dividing line between (which makes sense, as light is massless energy). Energy becomes the attracting force that pulls the negative and positive masses together again in the end. The gravity force becomes the equivalent of energy shifted into the mass dimension. Our entire universe becomes a temporary twitch in higher-order math: a ripple in dimensions beyond our ken - a single bubble in a fleck of foam on the crest of a wave on an endless sea made turbulent by winds beyond our imagining, that blooms once and bursts or shrinks again, absorbed by an uncaring sea. Its duration would be the level of incursion of one higher-order plane on another.

            Since the neutrinos and their higher-order negative mass FTL cousins experience time in what we would consider the reverse then naturally our big bang was their big crunch. Our big crunch will be their big bang. It would make sense that the positive masses exactly equal the negative masses, that the highest density of mass in this negative mass universe is exactly the same magnitude of ours (galactic core black holes with negative mass) and that though from our current view of time their mass inhibits ours by being outside our known universe's perimeter pressing it in, from their point of view we are the negative mass preventing the expansion of their universe, and presently pressing it in toward its end. Time starts and as the masses and negative masses disassociate on their grand loop, time slows until it reaches some apogee prescribed by its cause and stops, and then reverses gaining speed until it meets its opposite mirror and stops. It's grand symmetry, and it would make perfect sense if my perfect mirror were posting this comment on gro.todhsals out there somewhere, though it's not necessary for that to be true for the math to work out.

            This may do away with the the cyclic inversion theory, or "string of beads" because time itself loops back with its opposite and the beginning is also the end. There may be exactly one, which cleans up a lot more math.

            Really, who needs causality anyway? It's getting in the way of a lot of interesting stuff.

            If the mass of neutrinos is an imaginary number, well, things get a little fractal from there as the picture gets more beautiful and more inscrutable.

          • "Which is why it must be all wrong - causality becomes inconsistent"

            Or special relativity is wrong. Which seems more likely assuming that this is a real result. And I think that if special relativity is wrong then Maxwell's equations must be wrong too.

            There's also the possibility of something akin to the alcubierre drive. Somehow, via physics we're getting our first glimpses at now, very high speed massive particles warp space in a way outside of general relativity.

            Exciting times.

            Tim.

          • maybe (...) it is actually photons that have a very tiny rest mass?

            I was wondering the same thing. How has "c" ever been measured? By using rays of light, right? What if it turns out they have never really measured c, only the speed of light which is slightly slower than c? And maybe the neutrinos are not faster than c, just faster than light because they have an even lower mass than the already tiny mass of photons? Maybe they have just shown that "speed of light" < "speed of neutrinos" <= "c".

  • by Thruen (753567) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:45PM (#37511612)
    I thought they just sent it through the same tubes the internet uses? Aren't neutrinos almost as small as golf balls? They'd fit easy.
  • by buddyglass (925859) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:47PM (#37511622)

    Italy has contributed to the construction of the tunnel between CERN and Gran Sasso Laboratories, through which the experiment took place, with a sum now estimated at around 45 million euros.

    It sounds like she's saying that Italy contributed to the tunnel, through which the experiment took place, by way of contributions from Gran Sasso Labs totalling 45 million euros. Bad translation into English, and possibly bad sentence structure in Italian. (I don't speak Italian so I can't judge.)

    • by wes33 (698200)

      so you really think this 900 km tunnel
      exists, do you?

      • No, I don't. That was the point of my post. The experiment took place in a "tunnel" at the LHC. She's saying that Italy contributed financially, along with CERN, to the construction of that tunnel.
        • Or, at least, I was assuming it took place in a tunnel at the LHC. She might have assumed the same, regardless of whether that is in fact the case.
      • by symbolset (646467) *
        I believe in the tunnel. I just believe it's only a few neutrinos wide.
    • by JeffSh (71237)

      From the italian press release: "Alla costruzione del tunnel tra il Cern ed i laboratori del Gran Sasso"

      It seems the word "tunnel" is shared between English and Italian. That said, the cultural context and definition /could/ be different, meaning instead not a literal tunnel but ... ahh whatever.

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        It seems the word "tunnel" is shared between English and Italian.

        Yes, but it is clearly an English word, used in Italian. While not an expert Italian speaker, to me the use of the word "tunnel" seems odd, since the word often used for a literal tunnel is "galleria". According to one website, there are some idiomatic uses of "tunnel" in relation to drugs, so perhaps it has some other meanings which may make more sense in the context of this quote.

        • Perhaps it's Engtalian rather than Italian. :D

          You're always hearing odd English phrases and words in sentences, even when they have a word in their language for it already.

        • My Italian is a bit rusty, and this is beside the point anyway, but wouldn't "galleria" more specifically refer to a road or railway tunnel? Something made for driving through, but not necessarily, say, a utility tunnel where you run cables through or something like that? Any native speaker around?
        • by pmontra (738736)
          I'm Italian. We use either tunnel or galleria. They are almost the same to us, with tunnel possibly referring to longer gallerie (tunnels). The tunnels under the alps are all called tunnels or with the other Italian word traforo.
    • No, it was not... (Score:5, Informative)

      by feranick (858651) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @10:54PM (#37511652)
      As an Italian speaker I can confirm that there is no mistranslation. She really said a tunnel was in place and Italy contributed the money to build it....
      • by icebike (68054)

        She wouldn't have been the first to assume there was a tunnel.
        Many posters here on slashdott had to be reminded that there was no tunnel in the prior post on this subject.
        Apparently the idea that you can send tiny particles thru the earth itself is a difficult concept to get across.

        • by mcelrath (8027)
          Now go back and read her title: "Italian minister of Education and Scientific Research".
          • by icebike (68054)

            Translation : a politician.

            If you think that's news, welcome to planet Earth.

        • by feranick (858651)
          No, she wouldn't have been. However that kind of assumption is somehow inappropriate for someone that is in charge of science research policy making. It shows the lack of competence or care (whatever you think it's more important). While we do not require that anybody need to know that neutrinos travel through matter (although we could make a better effort in trying to teach that), it's expected that scientific accuracy, competence and correct insight to be of the person in charge of deciding what and what
        • by rastos1 (601318)

          She wouldn't have been the first to assume there was a tunnel.
          Many posters here on slashdot had to be reminded that there was no tunnel in the prior post on this subject.

          Even if I knew nothing of "nucular" physics, I would still have doubts about existence of man-made +700km long underground structure.

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        There is a tunnel and Italy did contribute the money to build it. They drilled it with neutrinos. It's a very narrow tunnel.
  • Would this be a Quantum Tunnel?

    • Would this be a Quantum Tunnel?

      It might be. It might not be. And it might be and not be simultaneously.

    • by Nethead (1563)

      Yes. They just forward biased a tunnel diode to cause quantum mechanical tunneling, which of course got through all the dirt and rock because they exhibit negative resistance.

  • If that's what she said, it's tragic other than funny. This administration of sad clowns, old thieves, and incompetent assholes (except perhaps the finance minister) has to go. The sooner the better. And i say it as an Italian who lives in LA but goes back yearly and still loves his country.

  • because all I get out of that release is:

    - The neutrino can travel faster than light, good job scientists.

    - We [Italy] spent a shitload of money to build a tunnel to make science happen, GOOD JOB US!!

    - We continue to spend shittonnes of money to make science happen.

    - All praise Italy!

    I'm glad somebody out there is funding science, but why is she focusing on Italy's achievement to fund a science and not the scientists and the implication of their finding? I'm missing why Italy's contribution to CERN is worth

    • by FrootLoops (1817694) on Monday September 26, 2011 @12:12AM (#37512108)
      Things you're missing:
      1. No such tunnel exists.
      2. It would have to be hundreds of miles long, so tens of millions of Euros wouldn't make a dent in construction costs.
      3. Neutrinos interact weakly enough with matter that they can be beamed through solid rock without much trouble, so a tunnel is unnecessary (even undesirable).
      4. Faster than light neutrinos have not been "discovered" per se. The guys published their results in hopes that someone will find an error, or (mmmaaaybbbeee) in hopes that their results will be reproducible.
      5. Faster than light neutrinos would require huge revisions to modern physics. For instance, under special relativity a faster-than-light particle time travels and destroys causality.
      6. In light of (5), extreme caution should be taken in accepting and verifying these results. Congratulating scientists for their amazing discovery now is, to say the least, premature.
      • by tinkerton (199273)

        Actually from what I recall, special relativity can be seen as stating two things:

        - there is a maximum speed and because it's not infinite you need the Lorentz transformation
        - light travels with this maximum speed.
        If for example there had been a discovery that light had mass, then light would not travel at the maximum speed. Now there have been very accurate measurements showing a ridiculously low upper limit for the mass of photons, but the idea of photons having mass does not contradict special relativity

        • by tinkerton (199273)

          I recall the days when slashdot was solid as a rock. Now in between the error messages you manage to squeeze in a post and after a while you find out if the post succeeded or not.

      • by Teun (17872)
        Speed is a factor of time and distance.

        They've used the distance along the earth's surface and forgot the neutrinos elect to go in a (shorter) straight line...

    • > - We [Italy] spent a shitload of money to build a tunnel to make science happen, GOOD JOB US!!
      > I'm missing why Italy's contribution to CERN is worth 50% of that press release.

      I agree.

      What is missing is that the Italian economy is in a $#!+|0@& of trouble (but it's fixable) [time.com], and this neutrino media release seems to make spending $#!+|0@&$ more into a virtue.

  • by jrumney (197329) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @11:05PM (#37511704) Homepage
    I don't know what is worse. That she believes the tunnel exists, or that she believes that 45 million euro is a significant contribution towards building a 900km long tunnel.
    • by znerk (1162519)

      I don't know what is worse. That she believes the tunnel exists, or that she believes that 45 million euro is a significant contribution towards building a 900km long tunnel that doesn't actually exist.

      FTFY :)

      • I don't know what is worse. That she believes the tunnel exists, or that she believes that 45 million euro is a significant contribution towards building a 900km long tunnel that doesn't actually exist.

        FTFY :)

        Ah, but 45 Million euro is far too much for a 900km-long imaginary tunnel! I can build an imaginary tunnel 5 times as long for only 9.99 million Euro (99 cents).

  • (Disclaimer: I don't speak Italian)

    The word used in the Italian is "tunnel". At first I thought that this might be an example of how one shouldn't always translate a word as the closest sounding word in the target language, since the most closely etymologically related word may not be the most semantically close. This is how we get Dante's Inferno rather than just calling it "Hell" which would be a more accurate English translation. At least once in science this has created a real problem in the past, ab

  • I haven't been following these results too closely, but I gather from the response here that the neutrinos did not travel through a tunnel. So, then, did they just travel through the Earth? I guess this wouldn't cause any or much interference, so I'm assuming that's what was done, but I haven't found this directly stated.
    • I think you've probably pinpointed the source of her confusion.

    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      Correct. The neutrinos traveled through solid rock. Neutrinos don't interact with much so as far as they are concerned solid rock isn't a big deal. And you actually want to have the solid rock there. You wouldn't want an open tunnel- the process that creates the neutrinos creates a lot of other particles of all sorts of different types. But all of those get blocked by the rock. The experimental setup in particular needs to block both the muons and tauons. These particles can normally penetrate a lot o the p
    • Re:Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kagura (843695) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @11:52PM (#37511988)
      The common rule of thumb for neutrinos is that it take a sheet of lead one light-year thick in order to stop 50% of the neutrinos directed at it. Wow!
      • That's a heavy sheet. I'm betting it's not very good for making airplanes.

      • by cc1984_ (1096355)

        The common rule of thumb for neutrinos is that it take a sheet of lead one light-year thick in order to stop 50% of the neutrinos directed at it. Wow!

        Sorry, I can't do that calculations. What's that in neutrino-years :)

  • by Egdiroh (1086111) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @11:21PM (#37511782)
    Well there is a project which is used to send neutrinos and has a decay tunnel. The tunnel just doesn't go all the way, as that's not needed.

    http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/Research/CNGS-en.html [web.cern.ch]
  • I have a tunnel between my router in New Zealand and a customer in the US of A

    Once I've finished with it you are more than welcome to drive your car through it...

  • And to me this story is old news.

    • And to me this story is old news.

      No, from your point of view, it hasn't happened yet.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      The thing about Slashdot is that you could be a slower-than-stopped particle, and the news would still be old.

      (if you can have a particle that goes faster than light, then a particle that goes slower than stopped is surely possible!)

  • Before criticizing the minister too harshly, you might want to consider that the linked blog is quotes the results of Google translate [google.com] on the actual press release in Italian [istruzione.it]. It's just possible that the results of google translate are a little inaccurate.

    Excellent reporting. The citizen reporter is doing a great job today.

  • The experiment's results are no big deal, one of the neutrinos just said "follow me, guys, I know a shortcut".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @01:52AM (#37512526)

    Gran Sasso is a mountain in eastern Italy. About 25 years ago, a tunnel (of the traffic kind) was made underneath the mountain. Physicists saw this as a great opportunity to build a particle physics lab, using the mountain as shielding from cosmic radiation. Usually such experiments (such as dark matter detectors) are placed deep underground in hard-to-get-to mines, but this lab is great since you can literally drive up to it. The lab is comprised of three (very) large sections that are right off of the main road.

    Italy paid for this tunnel and the carving out of the lab space. Maybe she was confused or maybe the translation was poor, but Italy did indeed fund the construction of the tunnel underneath Gran Sasso as well as the laboratories underneath the mountain. So give them credit there.

    • Now that my memory comes back to me - give the parent AC credit. He is 100% right - the Gran Sasso Lab is located in a road tunnel - and that, in all likelihood, is the tunnel referred to.
  • Did the poster even read the neutrino-story he quotes? The key number of 732 km should be fairly clear in everyone's mind by now...
    Why the 900 km figure? Is it just more sensational as a puny 732 km?

    As for the translation which started this nice story, I would be careful. I learned enough foreign languages to know one thing: Every language has its own subtleties (which may vary from region to region or with social status or through any number of other factors). In this context the word tunnel may not be mea

    • by ledow (319597)

      Given that all my Italian friends have already started laughing at this before this article even appeared, I'd guess the translation was accurate enough.

      Yes, basically, the person in the article did honestly think there was a physical tunnel between the two, and didn't understand what neutrinos are anywhere (because they wouldn't exactly be "herded" in one direction by the walls of a tunnel).

    • by bcmm (768152)
      Either the neutrinos travelled by road [google.co.uk], or somebody does not know how to use any of the numerous mapping packages that feature a ruler tool, and has not read the paper [arxiv.org] or, indeed, the news. In this day and age, the latter seems implausible, so I suggest the hypothesis that superluminal particles can drive.

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