Faster than the speed of light?

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff member
Premium Contributor
So now what?
Someone needs to get Einstein on the god phone and say "oy me old mucker, you got it wrong!!!"

Then someone else needs to find out exactly what use this information is to mankind. :D
 
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jez101

Bookies drive nice cars because of people like me
Contributor
The experiment has been repeated with an improved testing regime and the results were the same.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15791236

So now what?
Lots more attempts to disprove it no doubt :thinking:

I do hope though that at least some small proportion of the sceptical scientific community, reared as they have been with a devout faith in Einsteinism, is now asking themselves "what if neutrinos really can go faster than light?", "what else might go faster than light?" and "what are they doing going so bloody fast?" :s

My guess is that they will be able to find a way in which Einstein is still right, even when he is wrong. His theories have been shown time and time again to be perfectly formed, so perhaps they should start by exploring what is so different about neutrinos from everything else that does obey his laws.

* Neutrinos are described by the all knowing wikipedia as

A neutrino (English pronunciation: /njuːˈtriːnoʊ/, Italian pronunciation: [neuˈtriːno]) is an electrically neutral, weakly interacting elementary subatomic particle[1] with a half-integer spin, chirality and a disputed but small non-zero mass. It is able to pass through ordinary matter almost unaffected.

Neutrinos are created as a result of certain types of radioactive decay, or nuclear reactions such as those that take place in the Sun, in nuclear reactors, or when cosmic rays hit atoms

The neutrino (meaning "small neutral one") is denoted by the Greek letter ν (nu)
It's greek to me too. :dunno:
 

Josephiah

Podium Finisher
So now what?
Lots more attempts to disprove it no doubt :thinking:
Much as the media like to trumpet stories of the "Scientist X disproves Scientist Y" nature, scientific method doesn't generally work quite like that. I try to think of it more as "Scientist X contributes something more to the understanding of topic Z".

Usually (and especially with a topic as weird and wonderful as particle physics) science follows a sequence a bit like this:
1. Formulate a model of how we think it is
2. Do some experiments to see how our model stands up in real life (or to challenge a model which we suspect is insufficient)
3. Find out that real life doesn't quite work as expected
4. Formulate a slightly more complicated model and repeat from step 2*

*so far this has been an infinite loop which shows no sign of ending, which is why I suspect the hunt for the Higgs Boson will inevitably result in something even weirder and more inexplicable than anyone expected...

So when Rutherford formulated his model of atoms with a nucleus and orbiting electrons, you could say that he disproved Dalton's earlier model of solid ball-shaped atoms. Or you could say he contributed a newer, better model to how we understand atoms. As scientists have progressed further, we now know that atoms don't really look exactly like either of these models, but that doesn't stop either model still being useful for different applications.

A 'discovery' as potentially groundbreaking as this has to be thoroughly investigated, and I think Einstein would probably be fascinated by the whole thing - and I doubt he ever claimed to understand everything!

I think the Opera team did exactly the right thing in opening up their results (complete with uncertainties) and saying to the scientific community: "this is what we think we've found and we know it sounds crazy, but please would you work with us to understand this better". Whether it turns out to be a genuine new discovery or just results in a chance to improve the accuracy of future experiments, everybody wins.

I love science, but then I'm a geek :)
 

Chasz

Points Scorer
Lots more attempts to disprove it no doubt :thinking:

I do hope though that at least some small proportion of the sceptical scientific community, reared as they have been with a devout faith in Einsteinism, is now asking themselves "what if neutrinos really can go faster than light?", "what else might go faster than light?" and "what are they doing going so bloody fast?" :s

My guess is that they will be able to find a way in which Einstein is still right, even when he is wrong. His theories have been shown time and time again to be perfectly formed, so perhaps they should start by exploring what is so different about neutrinos from everything else that does obey his laws.

* Neutrinos are described by the all knowing wikipedia as



It's greek to me too. :dunno:
I noticed this article on BBC today, and I think it is brilliant. As I've said in one of my previous post it doesn't necessarily disprove Einstein's theory. There are a couple of ways around this, but I'm looking forward to see the new theories that this result brings! I really hope it is not just down to some error!
 

Bill Boddy

Professional layabout
Premium Contributor
Now another group at the same lab are saying that this could not have happened.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15830844

"The Icarus team at the Icarus experiment says that because the neutrinos sent from Cern do not appear to lose energy on their journey, they must not have exceeded the speed of light along the way."

"Prof Glashow and his co-author Andrew Cohen argued that particles moving faster than light should emit further particles as they travel - in the process losing energy until they slow down to light-speed."

Are they right or is it just a case of scientists refusing to accept the results because it conflicts with what they believe?
 

jez101

Bookies drive nice cars because of people like me
Contributor
Now another group at the same lab are saying that this could not have happened.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15830844

"The Icarus team at the Icarus experiment says that because the neutrinos sent from Cern do not appear to lose energy on their journey, they must not have exceeded the speed of light along the way."

"Prof Glashow and his co-author Andrew Cohen argued that particles moving faster than light should emit further particles as they travel - in the process losing energy until they slow down to light-speed."

Are they right or is it just a case of scientists refusing to accept the results because it conflicts with what they believe?
Very interesting. Their counter is based on an unproven assumption that neutrinos can't go faster than light without losing energy. It would seem to be a circular argument though without proof of the core assumption? A strange one for me because to prove they are right Icarus would have to get a neutrino going faster than light and show the energy loss.

Rather than this being a solid rebuttal, to me this is just another theory that might be disproved based on the accuracy of the original experiment. Either they didn't go quite that fast (eg the clocks are wrong) and this assumption holds (although still unproven) or they did go c+ and the theory is broken.
 

Josephiah

Podium Finisher
Very interesting. Their counter is based on an unproven assumption that neutrinos can't go faster than light without losing energy. It would seem to be a circular argument though without proof of the core assumption? A strange one for me because to prove they are right Icarus would have to get a neutrino going faster than light and show the energy loss.

Rather than this being a solid rebuttal, to me this is just another theory that might be disproved based on the accuracy of the original experiment. Either they didn't go quite that fast (eg the clocks are wrong) and this assumption holds (although still unproven) or they did go c+ and the theory is broken.
That was my reaction as well - very strange. It seems to be just another a theoretical objection (which my mind is having trouble making sense of!). As the article goes on to mention, it'll be the forthcoming repeat experiments that will (might) produce the interesting results one way or the other.
 

Chasz

Points Scorer
Very interesting. Their counter is based on an unproven assumption that neutrinos can't go faster than light without losing energy. It would seem to be a circular argument though without proof of the core assumption? A strange one for me because to prove they are right Icarus would have to get a neutrino going faster than light and show the energy loss.

Rather than this being a solid rebuttal, to me this is just another theory that might be disproved based on the accuracy of the original experiment. Either they didn't go quite that fast (eg the clocks are wrong) and this assumption holds (although still unproven) or they did go c+ and the theory is broken.
Jez, on exactly the same page as you.

Also, assuming that their theory is correct and, although I don't know all the niceties, the speed of the neutrinos from CERN to Grand Sasso is presumably the average speed, as it worked out as dist/time. So, even if what they are saying is true and the particles start at the speed of light and slow to the speed of light, surely the average time will still be greater than the speed of light, showing that the particle did, at least, for some length of time travel faster than the speed of light, much like an average speed check.
 

sushifiesta

Champion Elect
Contributor
There are plenty of examples of particles emitting radiation/losing energy when they approach the speed of light so this isn't a new idea, nature seems to work to stop anything with mass ever exceeding/reaching the speed light. Whether it's applicable here I'm not sure.

For example:
  • Cherenkov Radiation - Light travels in different speeds in different materials (the quantity c that is being talked about in the OPERA experiment is the speed of light in a vacuum). If you have light travelling in a vacuum at c and then it enters a new material, e.g. glass, it's initial velocity is greater than the speed of light for the glass. As a result the particle emits electromagnetic radiation until it's speed is reduced to the limit for the glass/other material. Some of the experiments at the LHC use this effect to detect particles in their detectors.
  • Synchrotron Radiation - This is also relevant to the LHC, which is a type of accelerator known as a 'Synchrotron'. Anything moving under circular motion is accelerating (think of getting chucked to the side in a car going round a roundabout). As a particle approaches the speed of light it takes more and more energy to increase it's velocity further, and it turns out that particles moving around a circular accelerator (like the LHC) near the speed of light release some energy as electromagnetic radiation. Part of the reason the LHC accelerates protons as opposed to electrons (which have been more commonly used in previous accelerators) is that they release less Synchrotron Radiation due to their higher mass, thus a higher energy can be reached. Also, facilities like Diamond in the UK purely make use of this radiation to probe and study objects rather than colliding beams of particles.
Much as the media like to trumpet stories of the "Scientist X disproves Scientist Y" nature, scientific method doesn't generally work quite like that. I try to think of it more as "Scientist X contributes something more to the understanding of topic Z".
I'd say you pretty much hit the nail on the head there and it really frustrates me when people criticise scientists when results aren't completely transparent, are slow to emerge or aren't as expected. It really is a painstaking process of refinement that takes a lot of hard work by a lot of very clever people.
 

Josephiah

Podium Finisher
There are plenty of examples of particles emitting radiation/losing energy when they approach the speed of light so this isn't a new idea, nature seems to work to stop anything with mass ever exceeding/reaching the speed light. Whether it's applicable here I'm not sure.
That does ring some bells with me (in the sense of recognition, not alarm!) and seems like a much more likely explanation of what Glashow and Cohen are getting at. However, the BBC article specifically talks about particles travelling faster than c:
"Prof Glashow and his co-author Andrew Cohen argued that particles moving faster than light should emit further particles as they travel - in the process losing energy until they slow down to light-speed."
It's possible that it's a misinterpretation of the original paper by them, and thus the source of our collective confusion. Then again, maybe not :)
 
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