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Superluminal Neutrinos, Take Two

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the now-with-infinitely-more-scrutiny dept.

Opera 98

Coisiche writes "To address the many responses to their original findings, the OPERA team who reported the detection of faster-than-light neutrinos is starting a new and improved version of their experiment. 'The neutrinos that emerge at Gran Sasso start off as a beam of proton particles at CERN. Through a series of complex interactions, neutrino particles are generated from this beam and stream through the Earth's crust to Italy. Originally, CERN fired the protons in a long pulse lasting 10 microseconds (10 millionths of a second). ... [In the new experiment], protons are sent in a series of short bursts — lasting just one or two nanoseconds, thousands of times shorter — with a large gap (roughly 500 nanoseconds) in between each burst. This system, says Dr Bertolucci, is more efficient: "For every neutrino event at Gran Sasso, you can connect it unambiguously with the batch of protons at CERN," he explained.'"

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98 comments

Apartments for rent (-1, Offtopic)

JohnAnderson1233 (2495492) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867506)

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Re:Apartments for rent (0)

khr (708262) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867716)

Actually, this might be slightly less off-topic than it would be normally... At the time I'm reading this, Slashdot's little quote of the day at the bottom of the page is actually about apartments:

Yes, I've now got this nice little apartment in New York, one of those L-shaped ones. Unfortunately, it's a lower case l. -- Rita Rudner

Re:Apartments for rent (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867870)

This is actually an elaborate analogy about the neutrino experiment. Had no idea such concentrated genius could be contained within such a short post. God, I have to go back to school so I can aspire to approach such brilliance.

Super-liminal (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867530)

Hey you!
Join the navy!

Experiment stolen (0, Offtopic)

Kazuma-san (775820) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867534)

I've heard, they ran into further delays, because the experiment was stolen. Luckily the cameras got a good shot of the thief. It is princess Leia of Alderan

So . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867550)

They already did this next week, didn't they?

  . . . oh, wait.

Congrats to the Opera team (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867568)

I knew browsers were getting fast, but faster than light?

Re:Congrats to the Opera team (4, Funny)

lpp (115405) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867628)

It's not for general use, rather it's primarily a development tool. As has been shown time and time again, the earlier you catch bugs, the lower the cost required to fix them. Now, with faster than light browsing, you can see the bugs on your website before you've even coded it. As a result, you simply don't code the bug in the first place and save a lot of time rewriting poor CSS and markup.

Re:Congrats to the Opera team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37956174)

I discovered this phenomenon years ago; I don't bother writing code because its the only way to prevent bugs. There is a butterfly effect in buggy software... a single software bug (in Internet Explorer 6) will eventually through a cascade of effects changing the number of chromosomes in the human genome. I've seen this through my FTL neutrino telescope.

Re:Congrats to the Opera team (1)

edumacator (910819) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867692)

I knew browsers were getting fast, but faster than light?

I downloaded the nightly build last night and was getting frustrated as it kept returning pages I didn't request. I felt better this morning though, I needed those pages today.

Re:Congrats to the Opera team (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869214)

Well a least we know one of FireFox's new features coming up in two years!

Re:Congrats to the Opera team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37883088)

It's superluminal. They're implementing it in Mosaic 0.1.

The only thing to arrive early in Italy (5, Funny)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867600)

... is a neutrino.

Oblig and not even so related xkcd: http://xkcd.com/282/ [xkcd.com]

Double in-translation loss... (1)

xded (1046894) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868282)

To understand the xkcd joke I suppose you have to both be Italian and read the comic in English (i.e., nobody will understand it). Full disclosure: I'm Italian.

Re:Double in-translation loss... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868450)

I _did_ get it. I am not an Italian. (disclosure: I speak Italian and knew about Mussolini and trains).

Re:Double in-translation loss... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868704)

"made the trains run on time" has actually become a special English phrase/term:
http://www.snopes.com/history/govern/trains.asp [snopes.com]

Re:Double in-translation loss... (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37872364)

You don't have to be Italian to know about Mussolini

Re:Double in-translation loss... (1)

f()rK()_Bomb (612162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37877306)

Everyone knows the trains run on time joke, it's even in American sitcoms.

Re:The only thing to arrive early in Italy (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868626)

Well, since the 'neutrino' name is (kind of) Italian...

Re:The only thing to arrive early in Italy (1)

shoehornjob (1632387) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868638)

trains run on spices (thyme)

XKCD=Masters of comedy and LMAO.

Sounds like a good follow up (1)

holmstar (1388267) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867648)

This new experiment seems much more suited to examining the speed of neutrinos. Can't wait to hear the results.

Re:Sounds like a good follow up (0)

BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867958)

Do you have something even more interesting to say ? Because that one was really really really boring.

Re:Sounds like a good follow up (1)

hazydave (96747) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873688)

Hopefully this time they also properly account for all of the relavitistic effects due to using GPS satellites as a time base. In the first experiment, they apparently did not account for shortening of distances on earth from the satellite's reference frame. They could prove they have properly corrected for this by sending the neutrions both E->W and W-> East. If the numbers don't match, there's still a problem.

Re:Sounds like a good follow up (1)

ZigMonty (524212) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875030)

Hopefully this time they also properly account for all of the relavitistic effects due to using GPS satellites as a time base. In the first experiment, they apparently did not account for shortening of distances on earth from the satellite's reference frame. They could prove they have properly corrected for this by sending the neutrions both E->W and W-> East. If the numbers don't match, there's still a problem.

Lol you say that like the equipment producing the neutrinos and detecting the neutrinos is easy to move around...

Re:Sounds like a good follow up (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875664)

Actually, the (detected) neutrinos go mostly NW -> SE, and GPS sats being in inclined orbits, go both NW -> SE and SW -> NE, and you need at least three of them to determine a position.

The paper on relativistic effects of moving GPS satellites was a good idea, but not quite as explanatory as it claimed to be.

Applied particle physics? (2)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867714)

I've always found particle physics fascinating, though I won't claim to understand any of it.
I'm disappointed that people are so vehemently against nuclear reactors these days that Germany is shutting some of them down.
And, of course, we're not in a hurry to use nuclear weapons either.
Radiation therapy has been a good application, but I would like to believe it will eventually be replaced by something less aggressive and more specific. Super-heavy atoms are really cool, but they're always so unstable we can barely measure them.
What other practical applications can we hope to achieve?
Will fusion be cleaner than fission and more publicly acceptable?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Re:Applied particle physics? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867820)

I'm disappointed that people are so vehemently against nuclear reactors these days that Germany is shutting some of them down.

Yeah? Just wait until Germany gets hit with a tsunami, like Japan did. That decision won't seem so dumb then.

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

Soft (266615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868346)

Yeah? Just wait until Germany gets hit with a tsunami, like Japan did. That decision won't seem so dumb then.

Switzerland is an even better example on that point. :-) They too are heading towards shutting down their nuclear reactors.

Re:Applied particle physics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37871168)

France is going to end up making loads of money from this. They already produce more electricty than they consume and export the excess to their neighbours. Without nuclear the rest of Europe is going to find it harder and harder to produce cheap electricy and France will just keep on building more and more nuclear plants.

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

Soft (266615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37872564)

Actually, there was a piece of news today, warning against possible blackouts next winter: although France does usually produce more electricity that it consumes, it imports power dto handle strong peak loads--especially from Germany, it was said. If Germany shuts down its own reactors, and the winter is again especially cold, there might be problems.

OTOH, next year is an election year in France, nuclear power is sure to be an issue, and the news I mentioned originates from the (pro-nuclear) government. Who knows how reliable it is?

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868858)

Well, I'm a factual person, not an emotional one, as such, I'm hardly ever afraid of anything.
So let's examine the facts:
1) The rest of the world is not Japan, or the Ring of Fire
2) Germany, in particular, has one of the lowest earthquake hazard rates in the world
3) Hills, where cities were built in the dawn of time, are safe from floods and invaders. Can't go wrong with 100m of solid rock.
4) Any place that's sufficiently inland is safe from a tsunami. The rest of the world is not an island.
5)....
6) Profit! ;)

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870072)

Continents are nothing more than giant islands.

Re:Applied particle physics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37871428)

True, but do such observations ever make you wonder if it's the ganja talking?

"Have you ever considered how amazing place value notation is?"
"Whoa, man..."

Re:Applied particle physics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869124)

Falling satellites anyone?

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868678)

Will fusion be cleaner than fission and more publicly acceptable?

Well, a lot of people seem to think so.

But they're mostly wrong. Fusion will produce neutrons, which will produce radioisotopes of the containment vessel, if nothing else.

Which means the problem of "nuclear waste" won't actually go away with fusion. It'll just be different sorts of waste.

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869062)

in fact, the halftime of the (longest lived) nuclear waste produced in fusion reactors is around 80 years. i.e. the waste is effectively controllable.

furthermore, there can be no disasters with a fusion reactor. the natural tendency of the system is to stop (and cool down), thus any malfunction leads to the reactor halting.

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

ianalis (833346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868722)

FYI, particle physics is high-energy physics and different from nuclear physics. CERN deliberately does not engage with nuclear physics.

Re:Applied particle physics? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870594)

1. Radiation therapy can expose vital tissues near cancer to 20Sv total radiation, yet, people fret over 1mSv/yr... And yes, you read that correctly, 20,000mSv dosage to tissues that are vital for your life, yet, people and doctors still go for this... Well, I guess people do not know the dosage ;)

2. Nuclear weapons are not nuclear power. I wish all the weapons were dismantled and we simply use nuclear power to peaceful purposes only.

3. What were the practical applications of probing the atom? How about Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. Some may know this as MRI as it was renamed because people were freaked out by the word nuclear. Heck, many even prefer CT scans over NMR because they do not want radiation - ignorance is bliss!!

Anyway, who cares what practical applications we can thing of based on CERN or Fermi labs. The purpose of research is to find knew knowledge. You find it, and applications will come.

Who would have thought that CRT and radio waves would give us TV? Who thought that discovery of the electron would get us radio, internet, everything we have today? Actually, hyperlinks (as in HTML) is brought to you by particle physics people - they wanted an easy way to reference documents on this new computer network they had.

http://ref.web.cern.ch/ref/CERN/CNL/2001/001/www-history/ [web.cern.ch]

Get smart people together to find new knowledge, like CERN, ITER, Fermi labs, and a ton of other research institutions, and you end up with knowledge that can be as fundamental as the discovery of the electron.

4. Regarding fusion, most definitely yes, it will be cleaner than fission. In fission, you split heavy nucleides like Uranium, and you end up with other slightly less heavy nucleides that can be radioactive, toxic, etc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fission_products#Yield [wikipedia.org]

With fusion, the only output from the reaction is Helium - helium is non-radioactive. In addition, you get a neutron. The neutron can combine with stuff in the reactor and make it radioactive. The idea is to select materials, like steels, to minimize capture of this neutron and hence maximize life of the reactor (the neutrons will slowly degrade the reactor). Anyways, this neutron capture is the only way materials can become radioactive. There is no Sr-90 or Cs-135 produced. Only helium and some radioactive steel.

The nice thing about being able to select materials is you can minimize amount of radioactive waste created (ie. the reactor itself would be the only waste). This waste also tends to have *short* half-lives, ie. a few months to a few years, instead of "forever".

Finally, it is impossible to make weapons from fusion reactor tech. It is also impossible for the reactor to meltdown or release any significant radiation.

In fission, the safety mechanisms in the reactor are there to prevent uranium from getting to close with itself, from prevent it to undergo chain reaction. But secondary short lived isotopes produced from U fission are so radioactive, they they produce a fraction of reactor's power irrespective if reactor is shut down or not. These daughter nucleides are the reason why nuclear reactors need cooling after shutdown or they will melt themselves. They will not explode (in nuclear terms), but will melt. A melted reactor tends to not retain its integrity very well ;)

In fusion, the reactor's purpose is reversed. Hydrogen doesn't fuse by sitting in a jar! You have to maintain very precise conditions and expend a lot of energy to get it happily together into Helium. Any failure of any system will diverge from this optimal condition and hydrogen will stop fusing. Reactor stops. And since there is no heavy radioactive daughter nucleaides like with fission, the reactor will not melt itself after it stops, no matter what.

So in summary, of course fusion is safe and cleaner than fission. Uranium reactor's purpose is to moderate the reaction and slow it down. Hydrogen fusion reactor's purpose is to facilitate fusion to occur in the first place. Failure of uranium reactor can mean out of control reactor. Failure of fusion means you have a building with less hydrogen in it than a child's balloon, just sitting there. In worse case scenario imaginable, you end up with a tiny puff of water vapor inside the vacuum vessel!!!

Re:Applied particle physics? (-1, Troll)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#37871150)

Tl;Dr do you have an audio book or a 200 word version?

Re:Applied particle physics? (1)

Brucelet (1857158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37871110)

Radiation therapy is actually on its way to becoming less aggressive and more specific. For example proton beam radiotherapy, while not yet widely available, is able to conform much closer to the target tumor while sparing much more healthy tissue than traditional xray treatments. Full disclosure: I'm a former proton radiation patient and now work for a medical physics department at a hospital which delivers the treatment.

Good to see (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867724)

Good to see the scientists are being so disCERNing.

Helpful but not that helpful (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867752)

This is helpful but not that helpful. There are at this point a variety of potential explanations for what went wrong in the OPERA experiment. These include mismeasuring the tunnel length, issues with the clock calibration, and issues with the statistical analysis among other issues. It is important to note that while the OPERA group is double checking most of these issues, this experiment only really helps deal with a single problem, the statistical analysis of the neutrinos. If they are associated to individual bursts, the statistical test will be much simpler. So even if this still gets the same result, this won't be that strong evidence that there's something real going on here.

A better replication attempt is that which is being done by MINOS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MINOS [wikipedia.org] , the equivalent experiment at Fermilab in the US. One reason that OPERA was paying careful attention to the arrival times (when their main interest was actually in measuring neutrino oscillation) was that MINOS had earlier reported data that tentatively suggested that some neutrinos might be going too fast. Now that OPERA has done their work, MINOS is working on doing a more detailed analysis that should be out by around February.

Overall, I still think that there's a mistake here, but it is interesting to see how long this is taking to find where the mistake was. The apparent initial sprint by physicists to find the error is turning into a marathon. The data though still needs to be somehow reconciled with the fact that neutrinos from SN 1987a (a supernova that occurred close to Earth and whose light and neutrinos reached Earth in 1987 ahref=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987Arel=url2html-7691 [slashdot.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SN_1987A> had the neutrinos arrive when conventional theory predicted them, that is a few hours before the light. This isn't due to neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, but due to the fact that neutrinos are produced at the way beginning of a supernova in the core and then fly out with a headstart because they can easily avoid most of the matter in the star but the light takes time to get through the star. But, if the neutrinos traveled faster than light to the extent OPERA data suggests then SN 1987A neutrinos should have arrived years earlier.

There are some other possibilities that would reconcile the two claims. For example, it is possible that neutrinos actually travel faster in a denser medium. This would be really weird. It is also possible that the reactions we think produce neutrinos actually produce a very short lived tachyon which itself decays into a neutrino. This starts running afoul of Occam's razor, but would explain why one would see too much velocity in the OPERA setting but not from the supernova. This hypothesis is actually also pretty easily testable: one needs to use a shorter distance for one's neutrino detectors and see if the apparent velocity goes up.

Overall, I still suspect that this is a fluke or error of some kind. But I really hope it isn't. This could be the Michelson–Morley experiment of our error, the first anomaly which leads to a glimpse of some fantastically deeper understanding of the universe. But I really wouldn't bet on it.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (4, Funny)

jfengel (409917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867922)

This could be the Michelson–Morley experiment of our error

There's a Freudian slip for ya.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | more than 2 years ago | (#37871320)

Holy batman! That's more meta than thinking about the meaning of the word meta.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

mburns (246458) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868280)

AZSquib found the problem - uncalibrated 100MHz timers. The master clock only served to obscure the drift of these ordinary Ethernet timers.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868396)

The article talks about them removing some of the systematic errors, not just doing the experiment in a new form.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868592)

So if I have this right; you're saying that since there are other more mundane explanations (none which is known to be the cause _nor_ known to not have been taken into account already), changes to remove certain potential problems with the experiment are 'not that helpful'?

I would really like to know what you find 'helpful'...

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869256)

Can't speak for the original author, but I'd find elimination of these more mundane explanations to be more useful at this point. Personally, I think marginal superluminal velocities of the sort reported, around 1 part in 25,000 over the speed of light, reek of error.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869258)

Not that helpful for non experts.

I used to be an atomic physicist, and my girlfriend worked at a major neutrino observatory (and still works in the field), and this information is not really relevant to either of us. It's very narrowly focused on the details of experimental construction of very specific experiments. It is the detail work scientists actually do, but the details of specific experiments only serve to confuse people who aren't specialists.

I have heard, from neutrino experts, several good ideas on why, on a theoretical basis, neutrinos could go faster than light, and I've heard several guesses as to how the experiment could be failing, but quite frankly I'll leave them to be the experts and let me know if they discover anything interesting after the fact. For now the details of detector delay times and synchronization and all of the stuff that goes into this require far beyond my desired time investment. Alas, I have a halloween party with a bunch of them tomorrow so I may be hearing more about it whether I want to or not.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

srees (1290588) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868982)

It's known that gravity affects light. Perhaps gravity's impact on neutrinos is less than that on light, and thus the mass of the star going supernova kept the light back slightly from the neutrinos. I wonder if the scientists in this test adjusted for the relative effect of the target moving. If two beams of light traveling in opposite directions could observe each other's speed, they'd think the opposing beam was going double the speed of light. Likewise, the rotation of the Earth during the measurement could conceivably impact the measurement if they judge the physical distance at an instant vs. distance actually covered during the transmission. It's all very minute calculations, but hey, that's what they are dealing with!

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869342)

Alas I don't have time to fully pick apart the relativity argument (which is wrong btw, they appear at the speed of light relative to each other, time dilation and all that), but they are actually sourcing the neutrinos themselves. Since photons are massless, but neutrinos might have mass they should be more effected by gravity, or equally, but that's one of the questions. Photons self interact, it's possible neutrinos self interact less than photons, meaning the 'speed of light' we observe is actually not quite the maximum possible velocity.

The earths movement and rotation during measurement is a well known quantity, so that shouldn't be an issue, but you're right, there's a lot of very tricky calculations going on here because you're combining high speeds, short distances and very small times, and a small error somewhere can make a big difference.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875732)

GR-based explanations (with or without extra dimensions) have been considered, and they don't work: http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6312 [arxiv.org] http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.5687 [arxiv.org]

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37891922)

The GR explanations have hardly been exhausted. One whole family of GR-based explanations that would be difficult to preclude involve the ultimate "democratization" of causal cones (paraphrasing R. Geroch) - each hyperbolizable first-order quasilinear system of PDEs can have within itself its own initial-values formulation, which must describe its own signal propagation. I believe Sean Carroll dealt with this recently on his blog. There is essentially no reason why any given object could not be assigned its own such system, nor any reason within GR why any object's system should have priority over any other.

Aha, here we go, after a bit of hunting: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1005.1614 [arxiv.org] and http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/09/24/can-neutrinos-kill-their-own-grandfathers/ [discovermagazine.com]

So while the papers you pointed to effectively discuss ways in which we can fail to generate a metric that accords with observations, they do not really suggest that we *must* fail to generate such a metric, and I think it would not be easy to do so within GR. This would seem to weaken the utility of the SR approximation in the limit of low spacetime curvature where neutrino interactions may be non-negligible, which would annoy lots of HEP people. However surely GR people think that fields of synchronized clocks and relative velocities and all that stuff from SR is a fundamental misunderstanding of tangent vectors on the manifold? :-)

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870536)

the simplest explanation is that the earth got smaller between the time the neutrino went and the time it was received!

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (4, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870976)

This is helpful but not that helpful. There are at this point a variety of potential explanations for what went wrong in the OPERA experiment. These include mismeasuring the tunnel length, issues with the clock calibration, and issues with the statistical analysis among other issues.

The distance measurement and clock calibration were initially proposed by people outside the calibration as simple explanations, but at this point it's clear that they are simply not credible explanations. Contaldi http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6160 [arxiv.org] suggested early on that the clocks could have been put out of synchronization by transport, but the OPERA team clarified that they were calibrated after transport, through GPS. Van Elburg, who is apparently completely ignorant of how GPS works, proposed that it could be a special-relativistic time dilation effect due to the orbital motion of GPS satellites relative to the lab frame. The distance measurement would have to be off by 20 meters in order to explain the 60 ns shift, and that's completely implausible.

All of the really obvious, stupid explanations have been ruled out -- which is not a big surprise, since 170 PhD's in the OPERA collaboration had their reputations on the line, so they were highly motivated to detect any really dumb blunders. So the remaining sources of error really are things in the general category you're referring to as statistical analysis. Some serious suggestions have been made that seem viable: (1) There could be a correlation between the direction of emission of the neutrinos and the time at which they were emitted during the 10 us beam pulse. (2) There could be a correlation between the distribution of energies in the neutrino beam and the time of emission. (3) There could be spillover from previous beam pulses. (4) There could be subtle effects in the electronics such as dead-time. Every single one of these possible errors is eliminated in the design that they're currently running, with 1- or 2-ns pulses instead of 10 us ones.

A better replication attempt is that which is being done by MINOS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MINOS [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org], the equivalent experiment at Fermilab in the US. One reason that OPERA was paying careful attention to the arrival times (when their main interest was actually in measuring neutrino oscillation) was that MINOS had earlier reported data that tentatively suggested that some neutrinos might be going too fast. Now that OPERA has done their work, MINOS is working on doing a more detailed analysis that should be out by around February.

The trouble with MINOS is that (1) they have poorer statistics, (2) the energy is lower than the one used in CNGS (and the FTL effect, if real, is energy-dependent), and (3) OPERA's design was closely based on MINOS's, so subtle sources of error that are present in OPERA are likely to be present in MINOS as well. A better candidate for totally independent checking of the OPERA result is Tokai to Kamioka (T2K).

But, if the neutrinos traveled faster than light to the extent OPERA data suggests then SN 1987A neutrinos should have arrived years earlier.

If you believe both the OPERA result and other results at lower energy, then there is an energy-dependence in the speed that is different than that predicted by special relativity. (If neutrinos were tachyons, which is consistent with SR, then OPERA neutrinos would have been slower than SN1987A neutrinos, because tachyons go slower when you put more energy in them. This is the opposite of what is actually claimed observationally.)

There is essentially no hope for reconciling this observation with theory, unless we are in the middle of a major scientific revolution where everything is so weird that we just can't make sense of it yet -- which I don't find plausible. If neutrinos really went faster than light, then they would emit Cherenkov radiation http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6562 [arxiv.org] , but the ICARUS detector has ruled that out http://arxiv.org/abs/1110.3763 [arxiv.org] . If neutrinos were FTL, then electrons would have to be FTL as well http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.5682 [arxiv.org] , which is contrary to observation. If neutrinos were FTL, then pion decay into neutrinos would be strongly suppressed, so the beam would never have been emitted from the accelerator http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6630 [arxiv.org] . If neutrinos were taking a shortcut through extra dimensions, then to explain the early (rather than late) arrival, there would need to be exotic negative-energy matter around, but that kind of matter doesn't exist on earth http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6312 [arxiv.org] .

It is also possible that the reactions we think produce neutrinos actually produce a very short lived tachyon which itself decays into a neutrino.

Interesting -- do you have a link to a paper on arxiv about this? It seems implausible to me, however. The problems discussed in the papers I linked to above (Cherenkov radiation, FTL electrons) are generic for *any* tachyonic particle coupling to the electroweak force. This has been known for decades; look back at any review paper on tachyons since 1960, and it will point out that tachyons have to be electrically neutral (and recent work has extended this to ruling out the case where they are electrically neutral but couple to the weak force).

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37876476)

If neutrinos really went faster than light, then they would emit Cherenkov radiation http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6562 [arxiv.org] ...

That's not Cherenkov radiation. Only charged particles produce Cherenkov radiation, and neutrinos are neutral (hence their name). That paper describes some other sort of emission mechanism, though - a form of pair-production that I'm not familiar with.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37884958)

The idea that the meson first decays into a tachyon, which then converts to the neutrino, is a cute one. I have a model, which is basically similar, but doesn't mention tachyons. It simply says that the neutrino is created instantaneously 18 meters away (in forward direction) from the meson decay point. This idea may seem weird, but it doesn't contradict any previous experiments, because nobody has ever seen neutrino tracks in bubble chambers or emulsions. One can also check that if the fact of the mu-tau neutrino oscillations is taken into account then the proposed distant creation of neutrinos does not violate relativistic invariance and conservation laws. More details in the preprint

http://vixra.org/pdf/1110.0052v2.pdf [vixra.org]

Eugene Stefanovich

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37891956)

It's not really Cerenkov radiation; it might better be called Cohen-Glashow emission.

http://profmattstrassler.com/2011/10/06/is-the-opera-speedy-neutrino-experiment-self-contradictory/ [profmattstrassler.com]
http://profmattstrassler.com/2011/10/11/another-speed-bump-for-superluminal-neutrinos/ [profmattstrassler.com]

(Which is beautifully QFT focused, which appeals to me, and probably to you too.)

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (2)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#37871752)

Listen bro, if we assume that only muon neutrinos are tachyonic, there's a trivial explanation as to why the neutrinos from SN 1987a did not arrive faster: lorentz-violating neutrino oscillations. First of all, the tachyonic neutrino's speed would only be very slightly above c, and every time it changes, it's speed would be slightly below c. Note that any initial acceleration of a tachyonic neutrino while going through the star's gravity field (due to its imaginary mass it goes along a spacelike geodesic) would be erased when it changes type. Not so for a neutrino in the Earth-based experiment, because most of them complete the trip quickly enough before they change type.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

Zouden (232738) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873056)

This is the best comment that ever started with "Listen bro".

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875780)

if we assume that only muon neutrinos are tachyonic, there's a trivial explanation

This possibility has been investigated, and it doesn't work: if different neutrino flavors had different limiting velocities of propagation, then neutrino oscillations would go away when the neutrinos propagated over long distances, because the wave-packets would split up. http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.5682 [arxiv.org] This is contrary to previous observations.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37876442)

Another possibility, for reconciling the OPERA result with SN1987A, is that the speed of neutrinos is energy-dependent. The neutrinos from SN1987A had energies around 10^6 eV, and traveled at the speed of light. The neutrinos detected by OPERA had energies around 10^9 eV (I think), and (possibly) traveled slightly faster.

Re:Helpful but not that helpful (1)

theolein (316044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37877902)

I think the OPERA team, judging from the various responses to criticisms, have been very thorough in avoiding the most obvious mistakes, such as GPS frame dragging etc.

My initial thought is that perhaps the GPS distance calculated between the two points uses an arc, i.e. along the curve of the earth and that the neutrinos traveling along a straight line caused the error, but I'm pretty sure that something that obvious would have been noticed after they repeated the experiment 15'000 times.

Why do it again... (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867754)

when you can just go back in time and recheck your results?

Their previous results were mixed up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867772)

...they're now gonna find the discrepancy with predicted time of arrival is even larger ;-)

Re:Their previous results were mixed up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868878)

...they're now gonna find the discrepancy with predicted time of arrival is even larger ;-)

Dude, if you turn out right, I'm going to laugh for a week straight.

Captcha: electron

effect and cause... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867784)

why aren't the results available before the experiment??

Re:effect and cause... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870890)

Because they are all Russian?

500 nanoseconds? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37867892)

If the pulses are 500 nanoseconds apart, then about 4800 pulses would have been sent before the first one is received, and the pulses would be 150 metres apart.

Though, if they were insterested only in what deviation from the expected delay or frequency there is, and not the total travel time, then it'd make sense.

No-one would want to be using the 2MHz band nearby.

Funding stunt? (0)

tp1024 (2409684) | more than 2 years ago | (#37867968)

What bothers me about this, is that there is a certain likelihood, that the reason why the story was released so early, was not so much that the researchers hoped to get more people to review their findings, as that they might have hoped to get the necessary funding and/or intstrument time for this experiment faster (or even get it at all).

Mind you, running the experiment the way they now do is certainly the right thing to do if you want to measure the speed of neutrinos. The former experiment struck me as highly unreliable and not really suited to do the job - because the initial pulse was so much longer than the time delays they wanted to measure. It would be unfortunate, if this became a precedent to releasing sensationalist findings in order to get the wherewithal necessary to do experiments properly.

Re:Funding stunt? (1)

whovian (107062) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868142)

Perhaps, but the reality is that when applying for funding, the lack of first paper/proof-of-concept or even preliminary data can count against you. I'm more inclined to look at media sources as a source of misrepresentation and hyperbole.

Re:Funding stunt? (2)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868410)

What bothers me about this, is that there is a certain likelihood, that the reason why the story was released so early, was not so much that the researchers hoped to get more people to review their findings, as that they might have hoped to get the necessary funding and/or intstrument time for this experiment faster (or even get it at all).

What bothers me about your comment, is that there is a certain likelihood, that the reason why you would post such a ridiculous statement, with so many unnecessary and misplaced commas, is that you really don't understand how projects like this operate (and couldn't be bothered to do any research before mouthing off).

Instrument time is scheduled months and years in advance for these projects. They're modifying their experiment and using instrument time that was already allocated. I suspect that there's substantial press coverage of this change not because the research group is being cynically self-promoting, but because there's a genuine, broad public interest in the outcome of this story. They've told us that they had an interesting result, and they've explained how they're doing the follow-up experiment to try to get a better handle on what's happening.

It would be unfortunate, if this became a precedent to releasing sensationalist findings in order to get the wherewithal necessary to do experiments properly.

The original experiment was designed to study neutrino transmutation (that is, the spontaneous changing of neutrinos from one type to another) between the source and the detector. Their apparently superluminal travel was an unexpected result that the original experiment hadn't anticipated and wasn't designed to detect. This shouldn't be surprising; most physicists don't say, "How can I make my expensive, delicate, experiment that I've been waiting years to conduct more complicated, so that I'll be able to quantify any unexpected violations of the general theory of relativity that could improbably arise?" Implying that their original experiment was somehow not done "properly" or not fully thought through is extraordinarily insulting.

Re:Funding stunt? (1)

nothousebroken (2481470) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868954)

Exactly.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny...”
—Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)

Re:Funding stunt? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37872010)

What bothers me about this, is that there is a certain likelihood, that the reason why the story was released so early, was not so much that the researchers hoped to get more people to review their findings, as that they might have hoped to get the necessary funding and/or intstrument time for this experiment faster

From the neutrinos point of view this story is 6 months old.

practical application even if non-FTL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868210)

So, even if they're 'only' going at the speed of light, we're transmitting a signal in a straight line at the equivalent of 100Kb/s. Would it be practical to use this as a low-latency alternative to trans-oceanic fiber-optic cables?

Re:practical application even if non-FTL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868538)

Only if you want to use a whole lot more energy in the process.

How can they be sure? (4, Funny)

GoNINzo (32266) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868374)

They changed the outcome by observing it! This is just another example of Big Physics ruining the results of science by observing the location of particles.

Re:How can they be sure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868974)

One might even ask why the particles were never given privacy from "observers" in the first place!

Re:How can they be sure? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870812)

I look forward to a world where particles can be free of observation.

Re:How can they be sure? (1)

md65536 (670240) | more than 2 years ago | (#37876256)

Terrists.

Hey at least it's better than in the states, where neutrinos have to go through a full pat-down and a cavity search when crossing borders.

Re:How can they be sure? (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#37876046)

Perhaps we could apply this concept to the government - Change the outcome by close observation

The "Gravity" of the situation.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868572)

So.... are they going to take Gravity into consideration this time?

Microseconds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869222)

10 microseconds (10 millionths of a second)

Why on earth are you explaining this on Slashdot?

There are already some explanations (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869338)

There are already some explanations, of which the following one is the most notable explanation imho (and Prof. Dr. Viatcheslav Mukhanov): http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.5685 [arxiv.org]

Re:There are already some explanations (1)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870144)

If you're interested, also check out this paper by Drs. A. G. Cohen and S. L. Glashow: http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.181803 [aps.org]
That Letter discussed the implication of superluminal neutrinos and why the OPERA result were not likely to support them. Full text is open to PRL subscribers but there's a link to the accompanying free magazine "Physics" http://physics.aps.org/synopsis-for/10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.181803 [aps.org]

FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observation (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#37871798)

Every time this is discussed on slashdot, we get comments from people asking if neutrinos are tachyonic, why did the supernova SN 1987a ones not arrive earlier. The answer is very simple: neutrino oscillations, where only some (probably muon type) are superluminal. http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.6055 [arxiv.org] PS I still think experimental error is the most likely explanation, but I'm tired of hearing the invalid criticism of the SN 1987a observations. Stop it, it's getting fucking annoying!

Re:FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observat (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873424)

Technically you are right but Occam's Razor gets pretty dull if you have to hypothesize that one type of neutrino is superluminal and another is not. Other than mass, aren't electrons, muons, and tau particles pretty much identical? Shouldn't their associated neutrinos be, too? So you are right that SN 1987a doesn't prove that muon neutrinos aren't superluminal, but it, combined with the similarities of the leptons and their neutrinos is still a strong indicator that they aren't.

Re:FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observat (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874302)

It's been known ever since Popper's time that the sort of inductive reasoning implicit in "is still a strong indicator that they aren't" is not scientifically valid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_rationalism [wikipedia.org]

Re:FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observat (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37876612)

Other than mass, aren't electrons, muons, and tau particles pretty much identical? Shouldn't their associated neutrinos be, too?

You do realize that it only takes a difference in mass for particles to be tachyonic or non-tachyonic, right? Sure, that difference is by a factor of i, but it's still just the mass.

Re:FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observat (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875044)

The tachyonic mass needed for to get the OPERA result, is easily calculated and its root minus one time 120 MeV, which is impossible as the weak decays show the masses of even the tau neutrinos to be less than a KeV, and the others less than 1eV. So tachyonic neutrinos are definitely not consistent with both OPERA ad SN1987a.

---

Alternative neutrino speed theory [blogspot.com]

Re:FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observat (1)

Prune (557140) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875544)

Can you post the calculation of the 120 MeV? Keep in mind the possibility of the beam crossing something that we haven't noticed yet, if you know what I mean. Depending on how well the new MINOS results agree with this, we shall see.

On a related topic: how to build a neutrino communications device that is fairly compact (as in, portable)?

Re:FTL neutrino: consistent with SN 1987a observat (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 2 years ago | (#37875996)

Sure, see ArVix: 1190.5917v2, but its,

Standard particles E = mc^2 /sqrt( 1- v^2/c^2), a tachyon has v>c, and an imaginary mass, m = sqrt(-1) * m(tachyonic), so we get:

E = m(tachyonic) c^2 / sqrt( v^2/c^2 -1 )

So, m ~ sqrt (2 (v-c)/c ) * E

E was around 20-40 GeV (Same speed was measured for all velocities, which doesn't look like a tachyon, in particular doesn't fit with the tachyon equation above).

And (v-c)/c ~ 2.5 *10^-5

That Gives m = 120 Mev, (or in the paper with error bounds, m~ (110 to 130) MeV

Couldn't help it. (1)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 2 years ago | (#37872378)

Superluminal Neutrinos, Take Two, and call me yesterday morning.

Sorry

Neutrino-based Internet? (1)

Karger (259348) | more than 2 years ago | (#37876480)

Given their fine control over the neutrino pulses, it sounds like the they should be able to modulate the stream---e.g., change the interval between pulses---to transmit a signal. This would give speed-of-light, noise free communication in a straight line through the earth (reducing the latency for US-australia communication by a factor of pi). It's a bit expensive for general use, but would be an amazing science-fiction level achievement.

Did anyone else notice (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37877356)

How this article has nothing to do with Opera, the browser. Despite the /. icon for this story being the trademark red O.

They are measuring the expansion of space (1)

harrington-podsworth (2273702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37901000)

The Michelson–Morley experiment doesn't show that there is no aether , only that we are not moving relatively to it. Particles that have more mass than neutrinos have more inertia to the expansion of space. Since space is expanding uniformly in all directions (like a rising cake), no matter what direction you look, the expansion is the same, the neutrinos get pulled with less resistance through the expanding space than the rest, so they arrive faster.

Light Speed Increases Over Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37943782)

Here are my thoughts and explanation of OPERA experiment.

a. The OPERA experiment shows that speed of neutrinos is greater than 299,792,458 m/s (light speed in the SI system).
b. The research A.G. Cohen and S. L.Glashow showed that neutrinos can not travel faster than light, because "most of the neutrinos would have suffered several pair emissions en route".
c. The ICARUS paper shows that speed of neutrinos is equal to speed of light.

This obvious paradox between experiment and theory can easily be resolved if the speed of light is slowly increasing and is now (or at least was during the experiment) higher than in 1970-1980 when it was measured and included into SI system. In this case the speed of neutrinos in the OPERA experiment can be higher than 299,792,458 m/s, but at the same time be less or equal to current c. The full paper can be downloaded here: http://www.smartalerter.com/Is_Speed_Of_Light_Increasing.pdf

Mark Zilberman

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