the science is unsettled*

The great neutrino vs photon race: who ya got?

~ vid ~

Scientists around the world were floored by yesterday’s announcement that CERN researchers had broken the speed of light, which is the fastest known speed. They presented their work today for further scientific scrutiny.

If proven true by other research groups, it will debunk Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which holds that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

If that is the case, scientists say they will need to rethink the way the universe works, because then “it‘s not just space that’s affected, it‘s time that’s affected too.”

The BBC reported the researchers repeated their experiment 16,000 times with enough similar results to achieve statistical significance. Study author Antonio Ereditato of the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus, or OPERA, collaboration at CERN collaboration said they tried to find mistakes in their work, but couldn’t:
“We wanted to find a mistake – trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects – and we didn’t.
“When you don’t find anything, then you say ‘well, now I‘m forced to go out and ask the community to scrutinise this’.”

Ah, yes … real science. You know, the kind where the “knowns” are tested and the results vetted for “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”.
When the old understanding of nature is questioned, real scientists don’t run around calling them deniers, infidels, or heretics, they just get to work trying to prove them wrong or right. The real fame is in knocking-off the old understanding of nature and in establishing a new, more-accurate one.

Then again, maybe their stopwatch just needs cleaning.

* Hell, it’s always unsettled.


  1. mojo
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    Yeah, I’d still bet on Mr. Photon – mistakes happen. Needs lots of repeats.

  2. DJMoore
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    “it will debunk Einstein’s special theory of relativity”

    Well, to the extent that Einstein “debunked” Newton.

    What Einstein really did was to introduce some refinements that only show up at planetary scales and near-light velocities.

    Same way, quantum theory revealed effects that only show up at atomic scales.

    Newton still works perfectly well at human scales, where the relativistic and quantum effects are just too small to bother with.

    In the unlikely event the neutrino experiments are confirmed, they will not “debunk” relativity, which will continue to work perfectly well over the same domains they currently work in, such as GPS, which takes relativistic effects into account. (Note that GPS was used as the “stopwatch” for this experiment.)

    Instead, the neutrino experiments will simply illuminate a hitherto unnoticed domain. This would likely lead to a more fundamental understanding, one that includes quantum mechanics, relativity, and classical Newtonian physics as special cases in limited (but very broad) domains.

    (I should note that, to my knowledge, relativity and quantum mechanics have still not been reconciled. I’m going to guess that if the neutrino finding is confirmed, it will be a huge clue as to how to do that.)

  3. Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:42 am |

    “The average person, said De Rujula, “could, in principle, travel to the past and kill their mother before they were born.”

    Uhm, is it just me, or does somebody have some serious ‘mother’ issues here? Or does the ‘average’ person think of crap like this?

    I mean, sheesh, pal… if you just want to kill the old bag (and yourself) you could have done it anytime (and still can).

    And you could save people 800 bazillion jillion dollars building that cern thing while you were at it.

  4. mojo
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:02 am |

    DJ: I would also note that neutrinos, being electromagnetic non-entities, may be partially decoupled from the “normal” universe.

    That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

  5. logdogsmith
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    “it will debunk Einstein’s special theory of relativity”

    Perhaps what they intend to communicate is the effect such a finding will have on some of the other conclusions that people have used Estr to support.

    Or simply:

    World view.

  6. Alan outback bacon czar
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:06 am |

    I’m just a dumb retired cop from Nevada, so I don’t know what any of that means.

  7. mojo
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    PS: Einstein: “Space tells matter how to move and matter tells space how to curve.” – gravity is spatial curvature, caused by the presence of the extremely dense energy concentration known as “matter”

    So electric and magnetic fields are probably also distortion effects of space.

  8. SondraK, TEA Party zombie
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:09 am |

    Relatively speaking, this is quite unsettling.

  9. DougM (jackassophobe)
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    DJMoore (2)
    Good point. Perhaps this will, indeed, lend some insight into the Theory of Everything (the reconciliation of the fundamental forces of nature), relegating relativity and quantum theories into special cases, although they will still useful in everyday life, as Newton’s description of gravitational dynamics was. Heck, the Earth-centered universe model is still used in celestial navigation, the flat-Earth model is still used in sports, and the Keynesian and AGW models are still used in liberal politics.
    (What? No, I haven’t heard the term “warp drive” used, yet.)

    Hog (3)
    You may be right about “mother issues.”
    Usually, the time-travel paradox employs grampacide.

    Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”
    — Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged

  10. Jess
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:22 am |

    I think they hesitated before they hit the stop button on the stop watch. It’s a common occurence.

    They should show an instant replay and settle this matter.

  11. oldtrino
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:58 am |

    In my day the speed of light was good enough, and we were happy to get up to it!

  12. Hopefulone
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 12:44 pm |

    “Dear Ms. Kirby

    Thank you for your letter inquiring about my membership. I did not renew it because I can not live with the statement below:
    ‘…The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring….’

    In the APS it is ok to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible? …”

    Ivar Giaever’s resignation from the American Physical Society (APS)

  13. mech
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    Oldtrino made me laugh aloud.

    Skeered my cat out of his box, I think.

  14. Colonel Jerry USMC
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 2:20 pm |

    Gonna be tough to convince the nekked apes. If sumfin goes FASTER than the speed of light, you can not ever *see* it! (Which is why we don`t know what is out there past 14-15 billion miles of the visible universe—cuz it may have exceeded the speed of light…..)

    *I* occasionally exceed the speed of Heat—-inbound to the head…(Blue Moon wheat ale is a good propellent!)

  15. gsebes
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 4:44 pm |


  16. Paul Moore
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    Mom told me that she was taught in school that the atom could never be split. Grandma knew that heavier than air flight was impossible. Every time I heard that nothing was faster than light, I wondered how they could be sure…

  17. dick not quite dead white guy
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm |

    I wonder how they sync up the departure and arrival timers and detect a difference of 1/40000 from expected result? That’s extreeeemely precise for two locations hundreds of miles apart. After all, light itself takes 40,000 times longer to cover that distance than the deviation detected.
    Neutrinos have near zero mass and no charge, so how do the scientists on the receiving end know which neutrino in a stream of them sent from afar they are seeing? “Hey, there comes George; I wonder where Sally went. Anybody seen Sally?”
    Some very smart people are missing something simple in the system, methinks.

  18. Lord of the Fleas
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    Damya, gsebes – ya beat me to it!

  19. Merovign
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm |

    Meh. Science reporting is no better than any other kind of reporting.

    There have always been doubts that the prohibition was a general one, and even if it turns out that neutrinos travel backward in time (as is casually speculated), the phenomenon is not likely to be particularly useful any time soon – I think the time is something like fractions of up to a few seconds at interplanetary distances.

    It could lead to near-instantaneous but expensive and limited communication over large distances, though, so eventually it could be an interesting development.

  20. Paul
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm |

    I suspect in the end we will find out (as Einstein’s theory of relativity is still just a theory) that we still do not have all the answers and there is a way around the speed of light limit just was there were ways around the speed of sound limits.

    I also presume everyone here as heard the news of teleporting and the experiments that have been done with it recently. Quantum teleportation is one.

    And yet Al Gore says the ‘science is settled’ on global warming!

  21. SondraK, TEA Party zombie
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm |

    That looks just like the thingy part of JRs car that we had to replace that cost $1300 last week end……

  22. mech
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    What kind of car izzit?

    What does the thingy do?

  23. dick not quite dead white guy
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 8:40 pm |

    What does the thingy do?
    Prolly shoots streams of high energy particles at ‘Lympians.

  24. SondraK, TEA Party zombie
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 8:33 am |

    mech, it’s a Honda Element and it’s the part that tells the computer to stabilize the vehicle and has something to do with the anti-lock brakes.

    Stupid gay car.

  25. mech
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    Oh, yeah. Ouch. Automatic stability control got vertigo.

    Did you get it in root beer or black? It’s been a while and I forget.