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Faulty Cable To Blame For Superluminal Neutrino Results 414

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
smolloy writes "It would appear that the hotly debated faster-than-light neutrino observation at CERN is the result of a fault in the connection between a GPS unit and a computer. This connection was used to correct for time delays in the neutrino flight, and after fixing the correction the researchers have found that the time discrepancy appears to have vanished."
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Faulty Cable To Blame For Superluminal Neutrino Results

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  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:20PM (#39130535)

    I am glad they went through the proper process of verifying all the hardware and have gotten to the bottom of this little fiasco - but wow, they have to be biting their lips in frustration.

    I also expect a cable manufacturer is likely to be getting a strongly worded email in the near future.

  • Headline is wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@nOSPaM.omnifarious.org> on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:20PM (#39130539) Homepage Journal

    It should read "Faulty Cable Most Likely To Blame For Superluminal Neutrino Results". They haven't proved anything yet. They just found a problem that's very suggestive and they need to re-run the experiment after fixing/accounting for the problem.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:30PM (#39130669) Homepage Journal

    It should read "Faulty Cable Most Likely To Blame For Superluminal Neutrino Results". They haven't proved anything yet. They just found a problem that's very suggestive and they need to re-run the experiment after fixing/accounting for the problem.

    Part of the Scientific Method* is the ability to repeat your results. When they state "the time discrepancy appears to have vanished" it would seem they are unable to reproduce the prior results.

    *This Post Not Approved By Rick Santorum For President or Heartland Institute

  • Re:Face it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Surt (22457) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:40PM (#39130777) Homepage Journal

    Exceeding lightspeed is in no way required for interstellar travel. The problems of interstellar travel are, in fact, quite tractable.
    We (in the sense of you and me, specifically) will indeed never get off this rock. But our grandchildren might.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:41PM (#39130805)

    I love the 'Faster than light neutrino' story. It shows something about how science works... an unconfirmed but sensational result captures our imagination. Though fascinating, it is treated with skepticism by scientists including the group publishing the results. Alternative hypotheses challenging the result are examined, and many discarded.

    Eventually the result will be supported by more experiments or found to be incorrect... maybe even the result of a loose cable.

    The neutrino story also shows something about how science is reported in much of the press... Unconfirmed but sensational results are presented as true. Preliminary challenges to the result are also reported as true. By the time the story is done, news outlets have misreported a number of contradictory claims as fact. No wonder a significant subset of the population doesn't understand or even believe science.

  • Oblig XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kittenman (971447) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:50PM (#39130889)
    Right on the money ... http://xkcd.com/955/ [xkcd.com]
  • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:56PM (#39130955)

    The results could be wrong, but for another reason. When trouble shooting you usually think of dozens of potential way things could have cause the problem before tracking down the actual root cause. Jumping to conclusions simply gets everyone's hopes up that the mystery has been solved.

    It was a bad cable.
    Period.

    So if you were in charge, you would just stop looking for the root cause which may go on to taint other results at CERN for years to come? Nothing is certain until it has been confirmed.

  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @06:59PM (#39130993)

    With all due respect, nothing personal, but the ideas you expressed are completely wrong. Kids need to learn that science is experimenting and debating and arguing and trying things that mostly don't work but sometimes they do. There is no cabal and smart people sometimes disagree, most importantly they disagree in a civilized manner. And getting excited and theorizing and double checking your work and then triple checking your work and lots of sweat and effort and long hours. Initial results are sometimes wrong. Where do errors come from? And sometimes how you deal with "failure" defines who you are, more than how you deal with "success".

    Science is not (or should not be) a scholastic endeavor that we should try to make as boring and authoritarian and slow and uninteresting as possible. If anything try to make it the opposite, at least a little bit.

    If this whole story makes one kid think, just a little bit, about physics, that makes it OK. This is the best thing thats happened to physics in years.

    If science were as flaky as a reality TV show, then I'd support your position because somewhere in between is the greek ideal. But... there's a long way to go before we have to worry about that.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:00PM (#39131003)

    These scientists were irresponsible in their dealings with their press.

    I never saw a single irresposible statement from them. They were very clear that there was likely to be an error in their experiment. The press wasn't irresponsible either. Every article I read was balanced and careful to state that there may be a simple explaination.

    They should have kept it strictly within the community ...

    Who exactly is "the community"? Scientists are not a priesthood, and the public does not need to be "protected" from scientific debate.

  • by Chuck Chunder (21021) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:09PM (#39131069) Homepage Journal

    These scientists were irresponsible in their dealings with their press.

    Bollocks, I am pretty sure it was always explained as an unexpected result, not a new discovery.

    They should have kept it strictly within the community

    How would they do that?

    rather than embarrass themselves, and physics, in this manner.

    It is far better for the public to see scientists acting openly, showing their data and asking for help. Science is a process, not a result. Trying to get the public to trust science by hiding things from them is precisely the wrong way to go about it. It is akin to suggesting they should trust the scientist because the scientist is always right rather than because the process of science works.

  • Re:Face it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gutnor (872759) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @07:19PM (#39131199)

    Without faster than light you can get off this rock but you cannot support a civilisation. The closest star is already 4 light years away. Even at light speed, a return trip would take 8 years and that is already too much to maintain the relationship required for a civilisation - after a few generations, there will be nothing in common between the 2 worlds.

  • Re:Face it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kermidge (2221646) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @08:05PM (#39131641) Journal

    I recall my grandfathers. Both grew up on farms. Tilling was done with a plow pulled by draft animal. Lighting was by candle, kerosene lantern, or acetylene lamp. Water came via a bucket or hand pump from a well. One lived to see Armstrong and Aldrin walk on the Moon.

    Once we talked about a few things, some prosaic, some not. His basic position was that after all the things which in his life had been generally considered impossible and which later came to pass, it seemed to him to be presumptuous to rule things in or out.

    We've seen that Life exists where it can. I suspect that, whether in a form we may readily recognize or no, it may do so elsewhere. Perhaps we may, as well.

    Meanwhile, check connections. [grin]

  • Re:Face it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sique (173459) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @09:07PM (#39132161) Homepage

    This means 17% of al drunk driving incidents for about 5% of the driving population, meaning that drunk teenagers cause on average three times the incidents than adults per person.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:19PM (#39132575)

    This this is science. We have skeptics who questioned the initial results. The result authors went back and reexamined the evidence, test setup, etc. Somewhere in this process, they found the truth.

    Contrast this to the climate change fanatics. They tried to shout down, censor those who are skeptical of their bogus reports.

    Science wins again.

    I am going back to burning my Bible and Quaran because it's cold as hell here.

  • by flappinbooger (574405) on Wednesday February 22, 2012 @10:49PM (#39132745) Homepage
    I've made mistakes and I've had bad cables, but man, I can't imagine dealing with something where the whole world is hearing about it....
  • by V for Vendetta (1204898) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @08:26AM (#39135383)

    This this is science. We have skeptics who questioned the initial results.

    You left out an important part. Something which makes it true scientific behaviour: The publishers themselves were the first skeptics. They basically said "Here's what we've got, this doesn't look right for all what we know, please help us to discover where we were wrong. In the meantime we'll do further tests so that we all have more material to look at."

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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