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.

The bad news (for you at least): No more posts this week because this afternoon I’m embarking on my yearly SXSW jaunt. I’m back in the world of the badgeless this year, and currently have no obligations or assignments from the Scene, so this year should be interesting. Also, my band Scale M0del is playing the Red Gorilla Festival on Friday at 3pm at the Dizzy Rooster on 6th St. So if you’re down there, try to stop by! It’s totally free and doesn’t require a badge or wristband of any kind. Actually that may not be bad news for you at all, because it’s probably of little significance to you whether I post the rest of the week.

But, I do have good news! Wormhole travel is slightly less inconceivable now thanks to some research by a team of physicists from Germany and Greece! In short- those convenient things called wormholes that made intergalactic travel possible in science fiction such as Stargate, Contact, etc… are actually pretty tricky business, and were once thought to require unfathomable amounts of negative energy to keep stable enough for a person to travel through. All the while, the very existence of negative energy isn’t even a sure thing. BUT, this new research pulls from elements of string theory, quantum theory, and other far-out theories to get around that massive negative energy requirement. This New Scientist article explains it all, so head over and check it out. It’s a long one, but well worth the read. Unfortunately the idea of traveling through a wormhole is still pretty inconceivable, because according to these new calculations, the wormhole would have to be tens to hundreds of light years across in order for a human to travel through it without getting ripped apart by tidal forces. I actually LOL’d at the line “…our galaxy’s stars are crowded together within a few light years of each other. While this doesn’t prevent the existence of a wormhole with a mouth tens of light years across, it makes it hard to position it so that star systems don’t accidentally fall in. Fallen stars would surely disrupt the timetable and so users might avoid our galaxy altogether.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is one of those articles which requires you to create an account through New Scientist, but it’s free, and all you’ll have to endure is a few email newsletters full of fascinating discoveries and other tidbits from the science world. Not bad if you ask me.

I shall see you back here sometime next week, whenever my brain and liver have fully recovered from SXSW. Till then, cheers!