Neutrinos don’t go faster than light, afterall

March 22, 2012

Just as I and most rationally-minded people in the world thought, it’s almost certain that the alleged faster-than-light neutrinos observed by the OPERA experiment in Geneva last fall were nothing more than a fluke due to measurement errors. As exciting as it would be for the results to be true (especially for the textbook publishing industry- every single science textbook would have to be rewritten and republished, after they rewrite the entire Standard Model of physics!), it looks as though the hypothesis that faulty fiber optic wiring in the detectors were to blame for the 60 nanosecond discrepancy the was observed. Thought scientists apparently aren’t 100% sure that the faulty connection was indeed the cause of the error, they are quite certain that it was some sort of error and not neutrinos actually traveling faster than light. They are quite certain of this because a second experiment- the Imaging Cosmic and Rare Underground Signals, or ICARUS, which uses a different detector in the same facility as the original OPERA experiment could not replicate the results. With the ICARUS experiment, the neutrinos behaved as expected, arriving at the speed of light and obeying the laws of physics as we know them. This, however, is still not enough to put this issue to rest in the eyes of science, and several other experiments around the world intend to independently measure the speed of neutrinos. A few are scheduled to happen in May, and I’d be willing to bet that they will all show that neutrinos aren’t the rebels the initial OPERA experiment showed them to be.

This is how real science works, and why extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. One experiment’s results are never, ever enough to conclusively make any kind of claim. Even with established, large-scale theories things can change as new discoveries are made.

All of this via Universe Today and Live Science.


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