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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Lounge: Breaking! The People at CERN have clocked Neutrinos travelling FTL


This is the most exciting scientific discovery I think I’ve heard in my entire life.  I left the news as a comment in open thread, but I just can’t stand the excitement.  If this is true entire paradigms have to change.  If this is true this could be our ticket to the stars!!!!

GENEVA (AP) — Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab say they have clocked subatomic particles traveling faster than light, a feat that – if true – would break a fundamental pillar of science.

The readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.

“This would be such a sensational discovery if it were true that one has to treat it extremely carefully,” said John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, who was not involved in the experiment.

Nothing is supposed to move faster than light, at least according to Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity: The famous E (equals) mc2 equation. That stands for energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.

But neutrinos – one of the strangest well-known particles in physics – have now been observed smashing past this cosmic speed barrier of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers).…

As I stated in the open thread.  YEEEE HAAAAW!


  1. I would change it to read the PEOPLE at CERN.  Male privileged pig that I am didn’t even notice the insult before I hit publish and I don’t know how to fix it.

  2. wordsinthewind

    don’t even know what to think about it but I’m awed what people can do when they put their minds to it. As a Texan of course I’m so disappointed that we passed on the opportunity but hardly surprised. We’ve gone a long way from LBJ and NASA and not in a good direction.  

  3. bubbanomics

    may throw a wet blanket on this.  For those non-participants, I’ll lift the comment.

    I’m a particle physicist, have known about this result for about a week, and have spent quite a bit of time in the past week discussing it with particle theorists, including the heads of theory groups at a couple of national labs, neutrino experimenters and others.

    The OPERA experimenters are serious physicists—this is not a crackpot operation-and they have made several major discoveries over the past few years.   If this result holds up, it would be the most important discovery in physics in the last half-century.    In spite of the high quality of the experimenters, however, I would not take 100-1 odds that the result is correct (but I would take 1000-1 odds).     Let me explain why.

    First, as the experimenters would agree, this is a very hard measurement.   Not only does one need to know the neutrino arrival time precisely, but one needs to know the neutrino emission time precisely.   The latter is a real problem, since the proton pulse that emits the neutrinos is spread out in space, and thus one can’t get the precise time of emission.  One has to model the shape of the proton pulse, and that requires various assumptions.   They claim that this is understood, but it may be the biggest source of unrecognized error.   In addition, unless they have atomic clocks down in the tunnel, the cables leading to the surface (and thus direct access to the GPS clocks) introduce a big enough uncertainty to be a potential problem.

    Second, in a way, this experiment has been done.   When a supernova was seen in 1987, the neutrino pulse from the collapse of the central core was detected on earth.  The neutrinos arrived three hours before the light pulse.  But this doesn’t mean the neutrinos traveled faster.   The reason is that the envelope of the star around the core is transparent to neutrinos, but not to light, and it takes the light a few hours to emerge.  Thus a three hour lead is precisely what physicists expected. But OPERA would require them to travel much more than a part in 30,000 faster than light.  The star is 150,000 light years away, and if neutrinos traveled that much faster than light, they would have five years. This is a problem (by a factor of 10,000).    Now, the OPERA neutrinos have a bigger energy than supernova neutrinos, so it is thinkable that their “speeds” would be different, but it is quite a big difference, bigger than one might expect.    This is one reason that so many physicists are so skeptical.

    This point should be emphasized.   Supernova neutrinos are known, experimentally, to travel at the same speed as light to better than a part in a billion, and the OPERA claim is that they are traveling faster by a part in 30,000.   Right.   Thus, the title of this comment….

    Many people have thought that discovery of superluminal neutrinos would mean that Einstein was wrong.   This isn’t true.    A result of Einstein’s special theory of relativity is that if event A causes event B, and something moves faster than light, then there is a reference frame in which event B precedes event A.   This violates causality, and would lead to a functional equivalent of time travel.     However, as Einstein would have admitted, we have no idea what happens when effects of quantum gravity are included, and these effects could change the argument.    There are models of quantum gravity in which superluminal neutrinos could exist.    These models all require extra spatial dimensions (so the neutrinos take a short cut through the extra dimension).   But none of them are particularly compelling or attractive.   Still, the idea can’t be ruled out.

    link for us “scabs,” the author of the comment is the kog known as science.

  4. Progressive Witness

    Because a childhood of Star Trek fandom conditioned me to hope for human travel to the stars, and it just sounded so unfair when I learned that it would take generations rather than weeks, months, or years.

    This is, provisionally, quite exciting.

    Now if Zefram Cochrane would just hurry up and get born and invent the warp drive, we can get somewhere!  😀


  5. MAJOR X-FLARE + CME UPDATE: Earth-orbiting satellites have detected a long-duration X1.4-class solar flare coming from a new sunspot on the sun’s eastern limb. The blast, which peaked at 1100 UT, produced a significant coronal mass ejection (CME). Using data from the SOHO-STEREO fleet of spacecraft, analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab have modeled the trajectory of the CME and concluded that the body of the cloud will not hit Earth. A minor glancing encounter with the outskirts of the CME is, however, possible on Sept. 25th.

  6. TrueBlueMajority

    every since i learned what they are I have bene excited about them.

    right now they are passing invisibly through me, doing me no harm, or maybe even helping to energize my brain for the day 😀

  7. MOOOOOOSE!  If you remember me I love to observe space weather, and for the last few days it’s been stormy.  We’ve had 2 or 3 X class flares and we’re currently in the middle of an M class that has lasted almost 3 hours.

    That chart shows a storm, we’re getting more photons and more radiation, so for the weekend we’re going to want to pay attention to our SPFs  yes everyone even we children of the middle passage.

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