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So, About Those "Faster Than Light" Neutrinos…

By 02.23.12

Get ready for your big payout, Randall Munroe. [via]

Back in September, researchers at CERN in Geneva released the results from an experiment which suggested neutrinos can travel faster than light, contrary to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity. In the experiment, CERN created some neutrinos and the OPERA detector in Gran Sasso, Italy, detected them. They reported the neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light with an estimated 10 nanosecond margin of error. They used a GPS to synchronize atomic clocks so they could measure the distance, and they needed to be accurate within 20 meters for their results to hold up, as well as needing to determine exactly when the neutrinos were created with accuracy within fractions of nanoseconds.

Since then, researchers have been trying to find flaws in the experiment. This weekend at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, CERN’s director of research, Sergio Bertolucci, said of the neutrino findings, “I have difficulty to believe it, because nothing in Italy arrives ahead of time.” Bertolucci, you scamp.

It appears he was correct, because OPERA just released a statement regarding two possible errors in the experiment:

The OPERA Collaboration, by continuing its campaign of verifications on the neutrino velocity measurement, has identified two issues that could significantly affect the reported result. The first one is linked to the oscillator used to produce the events time-stamps in between the GPS synchronizations. The second point is related to the connection of the optical fiber bringing the external GPS signal to the OPERA master clock.

These two issues can modify the neutrino time of flight in opposite directions. While continuing our investigations, in order to unambiguously quantify the effect on the observed result, the Collaboration is looking forward to performing a new measurement of the neutrino velocity as soon as a new bunched beam will be available in 2012. An extensive report on the above mentioned verifications and results will be shortly made available to the scientific committees and agencies. [Nature via Ars Technica]

So what they’re saying is, their GPS time-stamps may not have been synched up and — even more hilarious — a cord may have been loose. Did they also forget to jiggle all the widgets and slap the main server a couple times? Mio Dio, there’s a protocol for these things! You make-a your mamma cry.


TAGSalbert einsteinCERNITALYNEUTRINOSNIKOLA TESLAoopsphysicsscienceSPEED OF LIGHTSWITZERLANDWHOOPSIE DAISYxkcd

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