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A Small Glimmer of Hope For Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos 183

Posted by timothy
from the wouldn't-put-much-money-on-it dept.
sciencehabit writes "The CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva has confirmed Wednesday's report that a loose fiber-optic cable may be behind measurements that seemed to show neutrinos outpacing the speed of light. But the lab also says another glitch could have caused the experiment to underestimate the particles' speed. The other effect concerns an oscillator that gives its readings time stamps synchronized to GPS signals. Researchers think correcting for an error in this device would actually increase the anomaly in neutrino velocity, making the particles even speedier than the earlier measurements seemed to show."
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A Small Glimmer of Hope For Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos

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  • Last Post (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:05AM (#39156157)

    Well, if FTL works, it will have gone back in time to be sooner than that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:25AM (#39156243)

    E = MC^2 * (1 + ($M - $P ) / L ) + ( Ic/Ir )

    Where:

    E = Energy
    M = Mass
    C = Speed of light
    M = Monster cable
    P = PC Warehouse cable
    L = Length of cable
    Ic = Interval between calibration scheduled
    Ir = Interval calibration required

    • by game kid (805301)

      When we remember to include the Denon cable and compensate for its effects, the actual equation comes out to:

      E = (MC^2 * (1 + (($M - $P + $D) * $D) / L ) + ( Ic/Ir )) ^ dem

      Where:

      D = Denon cable
      dem = number of demons released

      • When we remember to include the Denon cable and compensate for its effects, the actual equation comes out to:

        E = (MC^2 * (1 + (($M - $P + $D) * $D) / L ) + ( Ic/Ir )) ^ dem

        Where:

        D = Denon cable dem = number of demons released

        You're failing to account for a crucial divisor: the number of Slashdot members who have had sex with another person (q).

        So:

        E = ((MC^2 * (1 + (($M - $P + $D) * $D) / L ) + ( Ic/Ir )) ^ dem)/q

        The mean, median and mode are all zero. Some of us are outliers in the data, but we must press on. Using this totally scientifically modified formula, my calculations indicate the world will end on December 21, 2012, due to shoddy coding.

        • by dgatwood (11270)

          If you divide by zero and get zero, you're doing it wrong.

          Incidentally, this could also explain the black hole that has mysteriously developed near the French/Swiss border....

  • by gweihir (88907) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:25AM (#39156245)

    Doing measurements like this is extremely tricky, as it exceeds the usual equipment precision by a lot. I expect that confirmation either way will at least require months, possibly years. I would not be surprised if they need to recalibrate a lot of equipment and may have to build some especially for this experiment. Anyways. in the course of doing so, they will learn a lot and the improved measurement techniques developed will be available in the future. This is science at work. I do not find any fault with the researchers, just the press coverage. But the press has never understood how science works or what scientists do.

    Extraordinary claims also require extraordinary proof. So the original measurement would not have been enough anyways, even if no flaws were found. I also seem to remember that they never claimed FTL neutrinos, but an effect they could not explain, leaving it open whether this was a measurement error or something not consistent with current physical theory.

    • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by gadzook33 (740455)
      But that's the problem. They need to stop announcing things before they verify the results.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @02:07AM (#39156427)

        Thats exactly what they did.

        They released their results and said "we didn't quite yet figure out if there is a problem with our stuff, but here, maybe you guys can find something".

        They didn't come out day one and shouted "we have FTL nutrinos, fuck all you bitches in chemisty".

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      This will require time

      And space. And velocity.

      I have now exhausted my physics vocabulary. Oh wait, I know "mass", too.

      I had physics first period my junior year in high school and the girl who sat next to me wore short skirts. I think that about sums it up.

      Extraordinary claims also require extraordinary proof.

      That's a good one. I tried to use that line on my first wife. She once tole me she loved me, and I dropped my pants and said, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof". It's the reason I w

  • Just to clarify, the FTL claim was bordering on a measurement error from the very start, it was painfully obvious that they were using a skewed meter and measured the same error many times with it, for me, this confirms more then it contradicts the constant.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:46AM (#39156345)

      But a lot of discoveries border on the measurement error initially, otherwise the discovery would have been made earlier with even cruder instruments.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:53AM (#39156375)

      A 6 sigma is not usually considered bordering on a measurement error. Additionally, this was not an insignificant speed increase. 0.001% of the speed of light is still very fast. 300000m/s give or take.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @05:31AM (#39157105)

        0.001% of the speed of light is still very fast. 300000m/s give or take.

        Take out a couple of more zeroes. It's 3 km/s.

      • by Jamu (852752)
        6-sigma represents random errors. You can have 6-sigma, and also have systematic errors in the results.
    • 6 sigma is not bordering on experimental error. If you are saying that the distribution of neutrino speeds is such that it is very close to what we would expect if there was a systematic error in the measurement of time of flight, then please show your working (as in, do the stats). Otherwise you are just making shit up. I suspect, given the size of the effect and the absence of a good null to test against, you will have a hard time getting a significant result out of any reasonable equivalence test.

    • by Tapewolf (1639955)
      Didn't Robert Millikan throw away all the data that didn't match, and thus neatly avoid discovering that electron charge was quantised?
  • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:36AM (#39156289)

    I think that at this point they ought to establish two different links using different technologies, for the data, in parallel, if they can. There they'll be able to say "Oh. now we're not sure which one is correct." :)

    I believe Wizard Tim would say "Three links, I say three. No more and no less is the number." And something about swallows, coconuts, and neutrinos.

    • by snowgirl (978879)

      "What is the airspeed of an unladen neutrino?"
      "What do you mean? Electron or muon?"
      "What? I don't kno- WHAAAAAH!"

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:46AM (#39156343) Journal

    Regardless of the outcome, there is a good side effect of all this. All the equipment will be checked like crazy. Everything is going to be blueprinted to perfection. We might even advance the whole science of measurement. We might come up with better procedures for QA that could be transferred to other experiments. I hope influential people are taking notes and applying what they learn to other situations.

    • by PatPending (953482) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @01:51AM (#39156365)

      We might even advance the whole science of measurement.

      And metrology, too!

    • by dasunt (249686) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:38AM (#39156701)

      Regardless of the outcome, there is a good side effect of all this. All the equipment will be checked like crazy. Everything is going to be blueprinted to perfection. We might even advance the whole science of measurement. We might come up with better procedures for QA that could be transferred to other experiments.

      In teaching engineering, I'm told, part of the experience is learning how engineering projects failed.

      Perhaps science needs to include the same. Perhaps we should be teaching why experiments got the wrong result, or why an effect was not detected when it should have been. It could be anything from equipment malfunctions to sampling and interpretation bias.

      • The problem with science though is that you're usually doing something brand new. The Michaelson-Mauley experiment failed to detect the aether, but in the process revealed something far more fundamental.

        There isn't really a broad-ranging way you could teach about "science failures" to people - although I promise you there's a lot of grad. students who are just dying to publish their null results and failures (I'm one of them).

        • The Michaelson-Mauley experiment failed to detect the aether

          I'm hoping you mean the Michelson-Morley experiment here....

      • Perhaps science needs to include the same.

        It does include the same.

      • by deblau (68023)

        Experience is the sum of all failures.

  • Only way to be sure (Score:2, Informative)

    by PatPending (953482)

    Vasquez: [after barely surviving the humilation of a loose fiber-optic cable] Okay. We have several canisters of neutrinos. I say we go back in there and remeasure the whole fuckin' experiment.

    Hicks: It's worth the try, but we don't know if that's gonna affect anything.

    Hudson: Let's just bug out and call it even, Mat! What are we even talking about this for?

    Ripley: I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

    Hudson: Fuckin' A!

    Burke: Hold on a second. This installation h

    • by ledow (319597)

      Yeah. You don't see those neutrinos fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage.

  • I want to believe in extreme possiblities
  • It's not CERN (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 25, 2012 @03:26AM (#39156667)

    The original article is way, way misleading. It makes it sound like the people in CERN are to blame. However, CERN is just the source of the neutrinos. The detectors in the other end is the Gran Sasso lab in Italy. The whole shebang is called the OPERA experiment.

    Now, the problem(s) were found in the Gran Sasso side. For a slightly more accurate reporting, see http://profmattstrassler.com/2012/02/24/finally-an-opera-plot-that-makes-some-sense/, especially the first comment.

  • I, for one, was rooting for FTL. And I thought they'd have a more interesting gravity well or frame of reference mistake.
    A loose cable? It's like they've got some out of work audio techs doing their setup.

  • Suppose, for the sake of argument (I know the chances are between slim and none, I suspect that the speed limit on the universe is to prevent game-breaking exploits of the universe itself) that FTL neutrinos are possible. How fast do they need to travel before you can send messages to the past?

    • by mbone (558574)

      Suppose, for the sake of argument (I know the chances are between slim and none, I suspect that the speed limit on the universe is to prevent game-breaking exploits of the universe itself) that FTL neutrinos are possible. How fast do they need to travel before you can send messages to the past?

      One of the interesting things to come out of this is that you can have bi-metric theories [arxiv.org] with superluminal motion and not have causality violations (time travel) or tachyons. Basically, these things happen because you are Lorentz transforming something going faster than light. In a bimetric theory, there are actually two conversions between time and distance (i.e., "light" speeds, although light itself only goes at one of them). Matter is sensitive to one metric, the matter metric (thereby avoiding violati

  • My understanding, based on talking to clock people who were brought to CERN after publication, is that there was no clock person on the original paper. They had access to some clock people at CERN, who helped set up the GPS measurements, but no clock person invested in the results.

    If so, then CERN / OPERA does deserve the bad press they are getting. They should have brought in some experts prior to publication.

    Absolute clock synchronization at the nanosecond level is notoriously tricky. (I have professional

    • by mbone (558574)

      This is the best description [profmattstrassler.com] I have seen in English of the debacle (see the first comment).

      Crucial bit : We do not know how crooked the plug actually was at the time of our measurements last year. Sub-sequentially we do not know the actual time delay. So, they just don't know.

  • I'm just a layperson that has an interest in physics and relativity, but what if photons travel slower than neutrinos? There's nothing magical or about photons and relativity doesn't require that they travel at the universal speed limit, does it? I mean they travel 90 km/s slower through air than a vacuum and 180,000 km/s slower through glass. What would happen if you just use neutrino speed instead of light speed for c? Is some of the problem that we have so ingrained in our heads that the "speed of l

    • There's nothing magical or about photons and relativity doesn't require that they travel at the universal speed limit, does it?

      Yes. It does.

    • by mbone (558574)

      Why is it important ? Because it is built into the structure of spacetime as we understand it. It would mean that special relativity was wrong (or, rather, incomplete, as
      SR is very solidly tested) and thus, that General Relativity was also incomplete (as it has SR as a limit, and is also well tested). It would also probably mean something similar for Quantum Field Theory, as that is built on top of SR. The ramifications would spread throughout most of physics.

      Also, depending on how it occurs, superluminal m

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday February 25, 2012 @11:30AM (#39158359) Homepage

    There is a glimmer of hope for interesting new physics.

  • Is there any place better than wikipedia [wikipedia.org] to get info about the experiment? They seem to use signals from GPS satellites to synchronize the creation and detection events, but I wonder why? They could synchronize two clocks and drive one from CERN to the detector. There would be some drift due to mostly kinematic effects, but probably only a few nanoseconds. Maybe you could synchronize them 1/2 way between and drive them to their destinations... In any case they could be brought back to the same locatio
  • We'll figure this out sooner or later.....

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