Friday, September 23, 2011

Neutrinos Shatter Universal Speed Record

Faster Than Light Particles Could Wreck Einstein’s Relativity Theory
Einstein's theory says that there's nothing in the universe that could travel faster than light. Now, CERN scientists believe this may be wrong according to their latest experiment.

The 3-year experiment timed about 16,000 neutrino packets launched from CERN facilities in Geneva, travelling through Earth and arriving 2.43 milliseconds later to the subterranean facilities of Italy's Gran Sasso National Laboratory. There, the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (the OPERA particle detector) recorded the hits.

When scientists discovered that the particles were arriving 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light—with only a 10 nanosecond error margin—they freaked out. I don't blame them. Imagine someone comes to you to tell you that a new observation shows that planet Earth is actually flat.

But University of Bern's Antonio Ereditato—spokesperson for the 160-member OPERA team—says that the experiment is "a straightforward time-of-flight measurement." It was repeatable, so they couldn't ignore it because that would be dishonest: "[T]he consequences can be very serious [...] We are forced to say something [...] We have high confidence in our results. But we need other colleagues to do their tests and confirm them."
Remember Fritz's Rule:  Half of all Science is wrong, and the most of the other half is exaggerated.  At this point, I suspect that this falls in the wrong category. There's probably a systematic error in their measurement system that results in the discrepancy. Nanoseconds aren't very long, really. Einstein's theories have held up so well through so many tests that it's hard to imagine that this will prove out in the long run.  If it does, there will have to be a very clever theory written to include the new facts.

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