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Neutrinos faster than the speed of light?

October 15, 2011

I’m pretty sure you’ll have heard about the new achievement made by the CERN. In case you don’t, I’ll make a brief summary to let you know and give your opinion.

 Recently, some researchers from CERN have discovered something it was supposed to be impossible. They sent a neutrino beam from Ginebra (Switzerland) to one lab in Italy through the particle accelerator, covering 730 km, saying it had covered the distance in 60 nanoseconds less than the speed of light. According to Einstein’s relativity theory, nothing tangible could possibly go faster than light. Then, what’s happened? Why did they get those results?

This finding has opened a wide variety of questions. On the one hand, there are people who think it is impossible and believe in Einstein’s theory because of its deep insight into the nature of the universe. They say that CERN possibly made a mistake while measuring the times and they must recalibrate.

 On the other hand, there are people who believe that’s true. If it really is, it would change the view of Physics as we see it today. We’ll be able to time travel to the future. It certainly seems impossible and only achievable by a science fiction movie, but who knows? Years ago, no-one could think of an spherical Earth or that it would be possible to travel to the moon, and all those things have been proven to be real today…

 From my own point of view, I don’t actually know what to believe. I’m more with the ones who think it is impossible. Physicians say Physics would change if it were true, and that makes me think that if it were truly true, maybe we wouldn’t have been able to do all the things that have been made based on the theory of  relativity.

Anyway, they have to prove it and corroborate the results making more new experiments before confirming anything because this news is too important to be taken lightly.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. marisadedios permalink*
    October 15, 2011 12:13 pm

    Amazing! I remember when I was a little girl and I watched science fiction films. I never ever thought things that are common to us today would ever be possible.

  2. DAvid Thorndill permalink
    October 16, 2011 1:19 am

    Having spent more hours than a sane non-nuclear physicist should have (according to my wife) trying to understand “Measurement of neutrino velocity . . . “ I was not convinced that the authors had clearly demonstrated that 7586 internal and 8525 external events (p. 11) would arrive 60 nanoseconds (ns) ahead of photons that would take 2,439,415 ns (my calculation) to travel the 731,278 meters (p.10) from generation at the CERN BCT (with a proton extraction time of 10,000 ns (fig. 9)) to the LNGS detector. That’s like saying a herd of 16,111 horses let out of a corral (taking 100 seconds to empty) ran 24,394 seconds (6 hours and 47 minutes) and on the average beat the world’s individual horse speed record by 6/10 of a second. No individual horse was timed; only herd statistical start and herd finish times were recorded.

    Perhaps the neutrino velocity paper will receive more serious attention if these important details were added:
    1. How did they determine the 731,278 meters (p.10) between the start and stop?
    I had to find a secondary source (Determination of CNGS geodesy—OPERA public not 132) and even that did not give a formula or a method. It did include ETRF2000 start and stop positions (Table 5). I did look up geometric formulas, and with calculator confirmed the distant between CERN and LGNS, but it would have been nice if they had used two more lines to show me their formula..
    2. They make a big deal of TOFc , the expected time of flight assuming the speed of light, and TOFv, the time of flight of the CNGS neutrinos (p.7). They use these letters ten times but never give numerical values. These are the main points of their discovery. Isn’t this the key to convincing the world that they have discovered a new truth? Sure they mention TOFc-TOFv = 60.7ns+/- several times, but never TOFc=2439414.8 ns (my calculation)
    I was tired when I did this, I used the speed of light from a reference book, maybe my calculator or chubby fingers misfired—maybe I.made a mistake—but why didn’t the authors give us the speed of light (to 6 or 9 significant figures) that they used and the TOFc and TOFv they calculated?
    3. The speed of no neutrino was measured. The paper describes a generation of 16,111 neutrinos over 10,000 nanoseconds and a statistical detection exactly 731,278 meters away, some
    [ 2,439,415 ns +/- 10,00ns –(60.7ns+/-6.9(stat.) +/-7.4(sys))ns] later.
    This 60.7ns early arrival is not intuitively convincing but apparently the authors have more understanding and faith in the statistical significance than I do.
    If you didn’t read the original neutrino velocity paper you probably don’t know what the heck I’m talking about either. There are a lot more minutia and confusing acronyms in the paper. But it does looks like they did consider (almost?) everything. The challenge to other scientists is to triple check everything. I’m just suggesting better clarity so all of us can more easily understand and check/verify the data, calculations and contentions of the original paper. That’s what science is all about. If fifty competent critics can’t find any flaws then maybe the paper has discovered something new. But if the paper is incomplete, obscure, obtuse, flawed or impossible to follow, then errors or truths are difficult to verify, and though the contentions may be correct they gain little status.

    David Thorndill, Ph.D. dthorndill@ccbcmd.edu

  3. Leonor permalink
    October 16, 2011 9:34 pm

    Thanks for your post Pedro! I found it really interesting 😉 I’ve been following the news about this issue, which in fact seem to be quite preliminary. However, if the supposedly faster-than-light speed of neutrinos turns out to be true, these guys are going to make history: not a lot of people can challenge Einstein’s theories!!

  4. October 18, 2011 12:11 pm

    Wow !! That was stunning !! I didn’t expect a Ph.D commenting my post. I appreciate that.
    In fact, I like your point of view and I totally agree with you.

    I haven’t read their research. My post was only based on the news I’ve read in newspapers and the media in general, but they should mention everything, every single detail to be able to say whether their ‘discover’ was true or not and let the scientific community check and verify that find.

    Thanks a lot for taking your time giving your opinion and showing us how big science is and how many factors should be taken into account to get a precise and correct result.

    Once more, thank you very much David !

  5. October 18, 2011 9:26 pm

    Travelling to the future seems science fiction. I’ve known about this news through the mass media. I think that it’ll be necessary more research and time to prove it. But if it was true it would be great.
    Who hasn’t sometime dreamed of travelling to the future?

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