Neutrinos can travel faster than light?!

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    Oct 01, 2011 6:47 PM GMT

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/09/neutrinosPhysicists from OPERA, one of the experiments at CERN, send beams of neutrinos from the organisation's headquarters on the outskirts of Geneva, through the Earth's crust to an underground laboratory 730km away underneath Gran Sasso, a mountain in the Apennines. They use fancy kit like high-precision GPS and atomic clocks to measure the distance the neutrinos travel to within 20cm and their time of flight to within ten nanoseconds (billionths of a second). The neutrinos in question appear to be reaching the detector 60 nanoseconds faster than light would take to cover the same distance. That translates to a speed 0.002% higher than the 299,792,458 metres per second at which light zaps through a vacuum.

    The result, published in arXiv, an online database, is based on data from 15,000 neutrinos detected at Gran Sasso over three years. If it holds up it would be the first chink in what has until now been the impenetrable armour of special relativity, a theory which has been tested—and confirmed—time and again since its publication in 1905. The theory states that as an object speeds up, time slows down until it stops altogether on hitting the speed of light. Anything going faster than light would, in other words, be moving backwards in time.
    ...[details on MINOS+ and T2K in the US and Japan]
    If the Japanese and American experiments do see the same strange result, it would be the greatest revolution in physics since, well, special relativity burst onto the scene. And it would be fair to say of a neutrino what a wag once quipped about a lady named Bright: that it went away, in a relative way, and came back on the previous night.
  • Lincsbear

    Posts: 2605

    Oct 01, 2011 7:30 PM GMT
    Fascinating article.
    The first thing those guys need to do is hard check for instrumental error. The observed/experimental speeds are so fractionally >c.
    There`s also been circumstantial evidence of trans-luminal speeds in so called 'entanglement' experiments where two sub atomic particles have appeared to exchange some kind of message/influence in less than the time it took light to traverse their separation.
    But if the above experiments are repeated and confirmed,it would be a major change in physics,not least because relativity is one of the best (experimentally supported) theories in science.

    The limerick as I recall goes something like,

    'There was a young lady called Bright,
    who set off for home one night.
    She set out one day
    in a relative way.
    And returned home the previous night!'
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    Oct 01, 2011 8:11 PM GMT
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supernova_1987a

    Neutrino bursts were observed from this supernova. They didn't arrive on earth before the light bursts from the supernova.

    Perhaps their amounts of energy expelled were less than the OPERA? Maybe the energy from OPERA arrived due to a bend in the space-time continuum? The Fermilab should be recreating the experiments soon though.
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    Oct 01, 2011 8:12 PM GMT
    It should be stressed that we're still far from a confirmed result for these faster-than-light neutrinos. The findings from Italy's OPERA detector have stood up decently well to initial scrutiny, and a lot of the more obvious objections have been answered, at least for the time being. But there's still every chance this is some sort of systematic error, and we won't be able to declare this an actual discovery until the results can be replicated elsewhere, with many other teams already beginning their own experiments. This is still a crazy result, and our first, second, and third reactions should all be deeply skeptical.

    Still, while it shouldn't yet be considered the most likely possibility, let's imagine for a moment that these results stand up and it turns out the neutrinos really did arrive at their destination 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light would allow. What then? While it might seem that such a discovery would invalidate Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity - which takes it as a given that the speed of light is the absolute limit - there may be a way to reconcile the theory with the results.

    The idea is that the speed of light does remain the fastest possible speed in the three spatial dimensions we're familiar with - but that the neutrinos aren't just traveling in those dimensions. Instead, they could take a shortcut through a theoretical fourth spatial dimension, which would provide a shorter distance between two points than would be possible in the normal three dimensions. The neutrinos still aren't exceeding the speed of light in this scenario. And yes, that is basically the particle physics equivalent of doing the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs.

    Anyway, the larger idea here is that the three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension we're familiar with are what make up a four-dimensional membrane, known as the brane. However, this brane "floats" in a larger reality known as the bulk. While in the ordinary course of things it would be impossible to leave the universe - to leave the brane - at incredibly high energies it might be possible for particles to temporarily break free and zip through the bulk.

    This may be all getting a bit metaphysical, but a lot of these ideas are crucial to string theory, which takes extra hidden dimensions as one of its central features. Until now, string theory has remained an elegant theory that is completely beyond the bounds of experimentation. If - and, again, this is one gargantuan if - the OPERA results hold up, that could represent the first tangible evidence for string theory.

    Basically, it's possible for Einstein to still be right and the speed of light to remain inviolate even if this result turns out to be a genuine discovery - his theory might just prove to be somewhat incomplete. And, if that's the case, then we're on the verge of some seriously exotic new realms of physics. It's a little too early for that much optimism...but it's still an extremely intriguing thought.


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    Oct 01, 2011 8:12 PM GMT
    You got some 'splainin to do , Einstein!
  • conservativej...

    Posts: 2465

    Oct 01, 2011 10:58 PM GMT
    Inostrankan saidIt should be stressed that we're still far from a confirmed result for these faster-than-light neutrinos. The findings from Italy's OPERA detector have stood up decently well to initial scrutiny, and a lot of the more obvious objections have been answered, at least for the time being. But there's still every chance this is some sort of systematic error, and we won't be able to declare this an actual discovery until the results can be replicated elsewhere, with many other teams already beginning their own experiments. This is still a crazy result, and our first, second, and third reactions should all be deeply skeptical.

    Still, while it shouldn't yet be considered the most likely possibility, let's imagine for a moment that these results stand up and it turns out the neutrinos really did arrive at their destination 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light would allow. What then? While it might seem that such a discovery would invalidate Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity - which takes it as a given that the speed of light is the absolute limit - there may be a way to reconcile the theory with the results.

    The idea is that the speed of light does remain the fastest possible speed in the three spatial dimensions we're familiar with - but that the neutrinos aren't just traveling in those dimensions. Instead, they could take a shortcut through a theoretical fourth spatial dimension, which would provide a shorter distance between two points than would be possible in the normal three dimensions. The neutrinos still aren't exceeding the speed of light in this scenario. And yes, that is basically the particle physics equivalent of doing the Kessel Run in twelve parsecs.

    Anyway, the larger idea here is that the three spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension we're familiar with are what make up a four-dimensional membrane, known as the brane. However, this brane "floats" in a larger reality known as the bulk. While in the ordinary course of things it would be impossible to leave the universe - to leave the brane - at incredibly high energies it might be possible for particles to temporarily break free and zip through the bulk.

    This may be all getting a bit metaphysical, but a lot of these ideas are crucial to string theory, which takes extra hidden dimensions as one of its central features. Until now, string theory has remained an elegant theory that is completely beyond the bounds of experimentation. If - and, again, this is one gargantuan if - the OPERA results hold up, that could represent the first tangible evidence for string theory.

    Basically, it's possible for Einstein to still be right and the speed of light to remain inviolate even if this result turns out to be a genuine discovery - his theory might just prove to be somewhat incomplete. And, if that's the case, then we're on the verge of some seriously exotic new realms of physics. It's a little too early for that much optimism...but it's still an extremely intriguing thought.



    I think ultimately we will find the results to be true. I believe we will also see a "refinement" of Special Relativity in regards to fundamental particles.
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    Oct 02, 2011 12:42 AM GMT
    I think ultimately will find this was nothing more than bull shit
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    Oct 02, 2011 12:46 AM GMT
    Many scientific advances were made because some "error" kept turning up and won't go away. This could be one of those errors, or not.
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    Oct 02, 2011 3:07 AM GMT
    I read about this a few days ago. Physics is a bit over my head, but it's very intriguing. They repeated the test many, many times and checked everything they could think of looking for errors. Only time will tell if they've made a huge discover, or if they've overlooked some obscure mistake.
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    Oct 17, 2011 11:03 PM GMT
    Dang, it's solved. They forgot that special relativity still applies.

    http://dvice.com/archives/2011/10/speedy-neutrino.phpTo understand how relativity altered the neutrino experiment, it helps to pretend that we're hanging out on one of those GPS satellites, watching the Earth go by underneath you. Remember, from the reference frame of someone on the satellite, we're not moving, but the Earth is. As the neutrino experiment goes by, we start timing one of the neutrinos as it exits the source in Switzerland. Meanwhile, the detector in Italy is moving just as fast as the rest of the Earth, and from our perspective it's moving towards the source. This means that the neutrino will have a slightly shorter distance to travel than it would if the experiment were stationary. We stop timing the neutrino when it arrives in Italy, and calculate that it moves at a speed that's comfortably below the speed of light.

    "That makes sense," we say, and send the start time and the stop time down to our colleagues on Earth, who take one look at our numbers and freak out. "That doesn't make sense," they say. "There's no way that a neutrino could have covered the distance we're measuring down here in the time you measured up there without going faster than light!"

    And they're totally, 100% correct, because the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in their reference frame is longer than the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in our reference frame, because in our reference frame, the detector was moving towards the source. In other words, the GPS clock is bang on the nose, but since the clock is in a different reference frame, you have to compensate for relativity if you're going to use it to make highly accurate measurements.
    Not So Fast

    Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands went and crunched the numbers on how much relativity should have effected the experiment, and found that the correct compensation should be about 32 additional nanoseconds on each end, which neatly takes care of the 60 nanosecond speed boost that the neutrinos originally seemed to have. This all has to be peer-reviewed and confirmed, of course, but at least for now, it seems like the theory of relativity is not only safe, but confirmed once again.
  • FRE0

    Posts: 4865

    Oct 19, 2011 3:06 AM GMT
    Perhaps this means that time travel is possible. Think of the implications. We could go back in time and prevent the assassination of President Lincoln; the possibilities are endless. It would also enable the "birthers" to explain how it would be possible for Obama to have been born in Africa when records indicate that he was born in Hawaii; agents could have gone back in time and altered the records.
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    Oct 19, 2011 4:38 AM GMT
    FRE0 saidPerhaps this means that time travel is possible. Think of the implications. We could go back in time and prevent the assassination of President Lincoln; the possibilities are endless. It would also enable the "birthers" to explain how it would be possible for Obama to have been born in Africa when records indicate that he was born in Hawaii; agents could have gone back in time and altered the records.


    Was it really necessary to inject politics into this discussion? Can't I read one topic without having to think about that? Please. I'm begging you.
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    Oct 19, 2011 4:54 AM GMT
    I think its an interesting anomaly, but there are already plenty of papers churning to explain the phenomena and most of them are preserving Einsteins laws/theories.
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    Oct 19, 2011 9:11 AM GMT
    q1w2e3 saidDang, it's solved. They forgot that special relativity still applies.

    http://dvice.com/archives/2011/10/speedy-neutrino.phpTo understand how relativity altered the neutrino experiment, it helps to pretend that we're hanging out on one of those GPS satellites, watching the Earth go by underneath you. Remember, from the reference frame of someone on the satellite, we're not moving, but the Earth is. As the neutrino experiment goes by, we start timing one of the neutrinos as it exits the source in Switzerland. Meanwhile, the detector in Italy is moving just as fast as the rest of the Earth, and from our perspective it's moving towards the source. This means that the neutrino will have a slightly shorter distance to travel than it would if the experiment were stationary. We stop timing the neutrino when it arrives in Italy, and calculate that it moves at a speed that's comfortably below the speed of light.

    "That makes sense," we say, and send the start time and the stop time down to our colleagues on Earth, who take one look at our numbers and freak out. "That doesn't make sense," they say. "There's no way that a neutrino could have covered the distance we're measuring down here in the time you measured up there without going faster than light!"

    And they're totally, 100% correct, because the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in their reference frame is longer than the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in our reference frame, because in our reference frame, the detector was moving towards the source. In other words, the GPS clock is bang on the nose, but since the clock is in a different reference frame, you have to compensate for relativity if you're going to use it to make highly accurate measurements.
    Not So Fast

    Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands went and crunched the numbers on how much relativity should have effected the experiment, and found that the correct compensation should be about 32 additional nanoseconds on each end, which neatly takes care of the 60 nanosecond speed boost that the neutrinos originally seemed to have. This all has to be peer-reviewed and confirmed, of course, but at least for now, it seems like the theory of relativity is not only safe, but confirmed once again.


    I thought so myself... I was expecting them to come up with a Correction.. cool that its Groningen, lived there when I was a kid.. but to be honest,... this little error is so damn simple I cant believe none of us didnt come up with it ourselves... its calculable with high school physics!
  • FRE0

    Posts: 4865

    Oct 19, 2011 4:13 PM GMT
    DudeInNOVA said
    FRE0 saidPerhaps this means that time travel is possible. Think of the implications. We could go back in time and prevent the assassination of President Lincoln; the possibilities are endless. It would also enable the "birthers" to explain how it would be possible for Obama to have been born in Africa when records indicate that he was born in Hawaii; agents could have gone back in time and altered the records.


    Was it really necessary to inject politics into this discussion? Can't I read one topic without having to think about that? Please. I'm begging you.


    What an astounding over-reaction! I suppose that if I had said that we could go back and prevent the early death of Alexander the Great you'd have been horrified that the entire thread would become political and the entire web site would be consumed by acrimonious political discussions.
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    Oct 19, 2011 4:20 PM GMT
    Intellectually curious gays.....hmmm fascinating must be a new species icon_eek.gif

    wantbooks.jpg
  • FRE0

    Posts: 4865

    Oct 19, 2011 4:20 PM GMT
    It took them a while to get the speed of light right.

    At first, they had no idea what the speed of light was. They started out by signaling back and forth between two mountains, using shuttered lanterns and mechanical timing devices. They quickly realized that the speed of light was too great to be measured that way. Then, when they finally figured out a better way to measure it, they made a mistake and got it wrong. Other scientists copied the same mistake before they finally got it right.

    It may be that history will repeat itself regarding measuring the speed of neutrinos, i.e., that there will be errors before they finally get it right.
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    Oct 19, 2011 4:38 PM GMT
    q1w2e3 saidDang, it's solved. They forgot that special relativity still applies.

    http://dvice.com/archives/2011/10/speedy-neutrino.phpTo understand how relativity altered the neutrino experiment, it helps to pretend that we're hanging out on one of those GPS satellites, watching the Earth go by underneath you. Remember, from the reference frame of someone on the satellite, we're not moving, but the Earth is. As the neutrino experiment goes by, we start timing one of the neutrinos as it exits the source in Switzerland. Meanwhile, the detector in Italy is moving just as fast as the rest of the Earth, and from our perspective it's moving towards the source. This means that the neutrino will have a slightly shorter distance to travel than it would if the experiment were stationary. We stop timing the neutrino when it arrives in Italy, and calculate that it moves at a speed that's comfortably below the speed of light.

    "That makes sense," we say, and send the start time and the stop time down to our colleagues on Earth, who take one look at our numbers and freak out. "That doesn't make sense," they say. "There's no way that a neutrino could have covered the distance we're measuring down here in the time you measured up there without going faster than light!"

    And they're totally, 100% correct, because the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in their reference frame is longer than the distance that the neutrinos had to travel in our reference frame, because in our reference frame, the detector was moving towards the source. In other words, the GPS clock is bang on the nose, but since the clock is in a different reference frame, you have to compensate for relativity if you're going to use it to make highly accurate measurements.
    Not So Fast

    Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands went and crunched the numbers on how much relativity should have effected the experiment, and found that the correct compensation should be about 32 additional nanoseconds on each end, which neatly takes care of the 60 nanosecond speed boost that the neutrinos originally seemed to have. This all has to be peer-reviewed and confirmed, of course, but at least for now, it seems like the theory of relativity is not only safe, but confirmed once again.


    Wow. That was disappointing! Have they confirmed this correction yet?
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    Oct 19, 2011 4:48 PM GMT
    When I read this article a couple of weeks ago I quickly called a good friend of mine who is a physics major. He researched the study and found that the whole reason the article was published is so that someone could prove the scientist wrong on the findings. Another thing he told me is that the particle was at a younger state when it reached its destination still proving the time and speed of light theory. But at the same time leaving everyone dumbfounded. Again I don't know if this is all true I'm not a scientist or anything I just find what he told me extremely fascinating.
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    Oct 19, 2011 7:16 PM GMT
    q1w2e3 saidDang, it's solved. They forgot that special relativity still applies.
    http://dvice.com/archives/2011/10/speedy-neutrino.php

    Darn! And here I thought they found some tachy neutrinos.
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    Oct 19, 2011 7:31 PM GMT
    I expected this would turn out to be bogus. Neutrinos are very tricky things to deal with, since you can't measure them directly - all you can really do is try to draw a dotted line between where you think they came from and where you think they went.

    You should always be suspicious when scientists announce their earth-shattering findings in a press release rather than publishing a paper in a respected, refereed journal. Usually it means they realize the data won't stand up to scrutiny.

    Doesn't anyone remember the "cold fusion" fiasco?
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    Oct 19, 2011 11:14 PM GMT
    Actually, as I understand it, in physics it's pretty common to publish first on online databases first before publishing verified results in a paper. So no, I don't think the intent was to deceive.
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    Oct 20, 2011 1:42 AM GMT
    I don't think they were looking to deceive anyone - I think they believed their data was legitimate. But I do think they were looking for a shortcut to notoriety.

    There's a very big difference between making your data available in an online database, and telling the press you have data that turns the world of physics on its ear. Before making any statement so bold you better be damn sure about it, and you better have your data reviewed over and over again by many, many impartial peers. And yeah, I'm a physicist too.

    In the late 80s when Pons and Fleischmann went public with their "cold fusion" data, their motivation was clear - they were instantly awarded a huge research grant by the U.S. government. And their paper (which I managed to get a copy of, through the physics underground) was so poorly written it had been rejected by the journal Nature.
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    Oct 20, 2011 1:45 AM GMT
    I didn't get the impression that they were trying to deceive anyone or gain popularity. They said that they were probably wrong and that they wanted other people to prove it. They ran the test many times and couldn't figure out what was happening. That's why they called on their peers to help out.