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Faster-than-Light Neutrino Mystery Likely Solved

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about 3 years ago

Science 0

Hugh Pickens writes writes "It's now been three weeks since the extraordinary news that neutrinos travelling between France and Italy had been clocked moving faster than light and more than 80 papers have appeared attempting to debunk or explain the effect. Now Ronald van Elburg at the University of Groningen has made a convincing argument that he has found the error. The OPERA team says it can accurately gauge the instant when the neutrinos are created and the instant they are detected using clocks at each end but the tricky part is keeping the clocks at either end exactly synchronized using GPS satellites, which each broadcast a highly accurate time signal from orbit some 20,000km overhead. But there are two frames of reference: the experiment on the ground and the clocks in orbit. If these are moving relative to each other, then under special relativity "from the perspective of the clock, the detector is moving towards the source and consequently the distance travelled by the particles as observed from the clock is shorter," writes van Elburg. How big is this effect? Van Elburg calculates that it should cause the neutrinos to arrive 32 nanoseconds early but this must be doubled because the same error occurs at each end of the experiment accounting for 64 nanoseconds, almost exactly what the OPERA team observes. "If it stands up, this episode will be laden with irony," according to the Physics arXiv Blog. "Far from breaking Einstein's theory of relatively, the faster-than-light measurement will turn out to be another confirmation of it. ""

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