It’s all relative: superluminal neutrino discovery explained

Gran Sasso Lab Neutrino detection contraption

Update: October 17 00:00 UTC:  whether this supposed explanation out of at least 80+ different papers attempting to debunk the neutrino FTL results has a shred of truth will take a while for the physics community to sort out.  Regardless, the point of this post was to show that the frontier science journalism/communication falls victim to “viral theories” that have not been adequately tested.  In this day and age, anyone with access to a computer and the internet can engage a global audience with their cockamamie ideas on physics or perhaps climate change or medicine.  The moral of the story is that with any new discovery which may challenge conventional wisdom is to be patient and keep an open mind. — Ryan Maue.

Not so fast little neutrinos. Turns out that the discovery of superluminal or faster-than-light (FTL) neutrinos at CERN has been “explained”.  Before reading the explanation, here’s a tidbit of information that would have probably tipped off a lot of skeptics from the start:  to measure the “speed” of the neutrinos from point A to point B, the scientists used our constellation of GPS satellites in earth orbit.  Turns out Einstein’s theory of relativity comes in handy to explain those missing 60 nanoseconds over 730 km distance…

I won’t spoil the explanation any further:  from an open source Physics journal:  Faster-than-Light Neutrino Puzzle Claimed Solved by Special Relativity

— somehow I’m betting the real explanation is still out there…

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112 Responses to It’s all relative: superluminal neutrino discovery explained

  1. — somehow I’m betting the real explanation is still out there…

    Here is another explanation out from there…

    Sequel 1
    The Truth About The Creation Or The Big Bang Theory Commonly Explained

    For detailed explanation click on: http://www.visutech.net/peace365/index.asp?pageID=86

  2. Brian H says:

    Autodynamics, anyone? The commentary at that site is getting bloody …

  3. Greg Cavanagh says:

    The article says “the radio waves carrying the time signal must travel at the speed of light”, but is this true, satalites using radio waves I mean?

  4. Gary Hladik says:

    Oh crap. There goes my Alpha Centauri dream vacation!

    I wonder if I can get my deposit back?

  5. Jeremy says:

    Why are they using GPS? The clocks for this experiment are so key to what you find, why not have your own? In fact, why not simply synchronize a laser along with your neutrinos?

    /the answer is probably funding.

  6. jones says:

    If a superluminal neutrino was a car and it turned it’s headlights on would anything happen?

  7. NW says:

    Y’know, if this is the right explanation, it’s major egg on lots of faces at CERN. But top scientists never goof up that big. Right? ;-)

  8. clipe says:

    Only one science is settled?

  9. Amy Ridenour says:

    Love your opening line.

  10. LazyTeenager says:

    It’s an interesting post but this will bring the Einstein cranks and conspiracy theorists out of the woodwork as usual.

    Amazing the number of bloated egos out there who reckon that if they can’t/won’t understand something, thereby conclude that that something must be wrong and that the people who do understand it must be stupid.

  11. Helen War says:

    Ahhhhh Einstein. Never fails to impress, even now. Kinda like a good wine.

  12. AnonyMoose says:

    Don’t GPS location systems already compensate for relativistic effects? The GPS system functions by very precisely finding the local time, and using that to compare the travel time of the GPS signals in order to find the position. I thought that compensating for relativistic effects was necessary in order for the system to function… although it has been years since I reviewed the algorithms.

  13. Sam Hall says:

    Greg Cavanagh says:
    October 15, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    The article says “the radio waves carrying the time signal must travel at the speed of light”, but is this true, satalites using radio waves I mean?

    Radio waves only travel at the speed of light in a vacuum. In the atmosphere, they are slower. How much depends on the water content. Now, the change is very small, but for very precise measurements, you need to take the speed difference into account.For example, military GPS units correct for it.

  14. Filipe says:

    Forgetting to consider change in the frame of reference when inter-calibrating clocks would be a huge and moronic mistake, enough to fire a guy holding a research position.

  15. JohnWho says:

    The explanation seems perfect.

    I wonder – were all the other objects being observed in the test slightly slower than expected?

  16. amy-gaffigan says:

    Very interesting. I, like many of my nerdy friends, got really excited over this, thinking, “Trekkers are not believing in vain!” Ah, but we’re wrong. But you know what, it doesn’t matter, because the discovery that we may be wrong helps us improve. So, we are improving our ways of debunking Einstein’s Relativity. :) Thank you for sharing this.

  17. DocMartyn says:

    This is a possible explanation, not necessarily the correct one. Thet can test this relatively easily by timing a high powered laser across to GPS connected points. If this shows that light is faster than light, all well and good, if not, then this hypothesis is incorrect.
    That is the way is should go, testable hypothesis, test hypothesis to destruction.

  18. The thing is they had synchronized atomic clocks, that were used to take the actual measurements, and atomic clocks do not break sync. Once the clocks were synchronized, which would have factored in the effects of relativity because the satellites and the locator equipment take those effects into account which is how they can be accurate to 20cm on the distance.

  19. James Sexton says:

    Filipe says:
    October 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Forgetting to consider change in the frame of reference when inter-calibrating clocks would be a huge and moronic mistake, enough to fire a guy holding a research position.
    =======================================================
    I hope not, he’d be writing cli-sci the next day.

  20. Greg Cavanagh says:

    Re; radio waves and their speed. I didn’t realise radio waves was in fact electromagnetic radiation, longer than infrared light. My bad.

    The original article says “The result has sent a ripple of excitement through the physics community. Since then, more than 80 papers have appeared on the arXiv attempting to debunk or explain the effect.”. So this isn’t the only valid explanation. Reading through the comments on the linked page is a fascinating read in itself.

    We are measuring the motion of an object through a earth sphere travelling around a sun at 107,300 km/h using multiple satellites orbiting (or geosynchronous?) around the earth, while the sun orbits around the galaxy at 220km/s, while the galaxy is moving 630km/s relative to what I don’t know.

  21. TomT says:

    This only explains it if E=MC² , but if the OPERA experiment is right then maybe E≈MC².

  22. Duke C. says:

    OPERA used two Septentrio PolaRx2e GPS receivers in common-view mode. Timing accuracy is ~2 nanoseconds. There is no way that reference frame time drift was overlooked, IMO.

    http://www.septentrio.com/sup/sites/default/files/NR_OPERA_final.pdf

  23. Mike McMillan says:

    Darn, I was kinda hoping for barycentrism or teleconnection.

    I wouldn’t think they’d be using GPS satellites for anything other than synchronizing their atomic clocks on the ground. Too many variables need too much adjustment (sorta like GISSTemp).
    The satellites orbit up around 12,500 miles, which means the radio waves travel through mostly vacuum at one speed, but a varying amount of air retardation depending on the elevation above the horizon. Besides relativistic compensation, GPS also has adjustment for the Sagnac effect, the non-constant value of c in a rotating frame.
    The speed of the waves also depend on frequency. GPS uses two, but I don’t know if neutrinos have a frequency, or if they did would it make a difference since matter is transparent to them.

    They can sync ground-based atomic clocks very precisely, and get much more measurement accuracy than they could with GPS satellites. We’ll need more info on how they measured to settle this science.

  24. MrX says:

    The GPS thing was debunked before it was even mentioned. In fact, the consensus is that the author of that article has no clue what he’s talking about.

  25. edbarbar says:

    How about Occam’s razor here. There is a compelling argument that part of Einsteins special relativity theory (and a basic one), was overlooked. Seems most likely to me.

  26. Mooloo says:

    How about Occam’s razor here.

    A razor that cuts both ways.

    What seems most likely to me is that someone goofed (or even that some piece of equipment is malfunctioning).

    Best to just see if they can replicate it again.

  27. anna v says:

    For a comprehensive summary of what systematical errors may have been overlooked or missused have a look at the blog entry of Lubos Motl on possible errors.

    The truth is that this is a difficult measurement, many systematic errors are involved and the complicated path of getting the numbers out may still hold unknown systematic errors that have to be explored. A main reason one has more than one expensive experiment in high energy accelerators is that independent experiments and experimenters can reduce drastically getting excited with discoveries whose statistical significance gets diminished once systematic errors are correctly included. Different experiments have different systematic errors and can test different methodologies.

    The Opera researchers themselves opened the discussion with the CERN lecture and asked the physics community to send them any thoughts on what systematic errors could have been ignored, because they themselves are surprised by the results.

  28. Jeff D says:

    I may be reading more into this but here is my take on the neutrino.

    Science has taken a huge hit with Climategate and all the other BS we have all come to know and love. The hit was deserved by they was and has done more to damage science then anything else I can think of in recent times.

    Cern probably one of the most respected world institution offers up a shining torch for all to see. Really, not being sarcastic here. They proffer a scientific parody that could rock the foundations of their dearly beloved world of physics. We all at WUWT were impressed in the way it was done, asking the world to double check the facts and offer alternate explanations. They had months to check and recheck for this anomaly before the release. When it was released do you really think that they didn’t have a strong indications as to where the error was? To keep them from looking like total dweebs they did offer in the release that it was more then likely an error.

    My take is that this little mini drama was a polite way to gobsmack the scientist in the world into returning to standards and methods that have allowed us to progress from the days of Galileo and the branding of heretics who disagreed was rampant.

    Granted the publicity didn’t hurt seeing how the Higgs is still in hiding and yeah I am thinking its hanging out with the missing heat.

    Anyways my personal take on the attempt to bring credibility back to science.

  29. I think any problems or verifications must occur by replicating the experiment at a greater distance, if the difference remains linear to the distance between sites then there is confirmation if it increases according the the relay distance of the satellites then someone screwed up.

  30. Morris Minor says:

    A joke…
    The barman says “We dont serve Neutrinos that travel faster than light!”
    A neutrino walks into a bar………………

  31. P.G. Sharrow says:

    ” this as caused by a GPS error” Yeh sure over only 730 kilometers.

    Interesting, neutrinos arrived slightly ahead of photons. photons and neutrinos peak and decline together. WE need less B.S. ( Bad Science) and more real thought. pg

  32. Jeff D says:

    Forgive the typos in the above post. I should know better to try and write anything while sleep deprived. My fingers swear it was right when I typed it but after reading it my mind disagrees.

  33. John Brookes says:

    Patience! Any possible explanations will have to wait for peer review. Or at least for the people who know this stuff to say, “Yep, that explains it”, informally.

    So maybe the explanation given is good, or maybe not. It would be exciting if something really interesting caused the result.

    Is probably impossible to have a light vs neutrino race. The neutrinos go straight through the earth, so a distance of several hundred kilometres is possible. Light can only go through the atmosphere, so you’d be lucky to get 100km. The shorter distance would affect accuracy.

    The problem of highly accurate clock synchronisation is not limited to measuring the speed of neutrinos and running the GPS. The “square kilometre array” (SKA) of radio telescopes has a total area of a square kilometre, but this is spread over more than 1000km. The clocks at each individual element of the SKA have to be accurately synchronised. I imagine the data analysis from SKA will be fully automated – and will make no sense at all unless the times at each location are precise.

  34. jimmi_the_dalek says:

    It’s nonsense.

    The GPS system takes into account corrections from both Special and General Relativity. They are using synchronised atomic clocks, and they have checked the synchronisation several times. They even got an external group in to make the checks in case it was something which had been overlooked.

    I suspect it will eventually turn out that something was overlooked but it will have to be a lot more subtle than this.

  35. I agree with one of the comments to the article which makes the point that the satellites do not have an atomic clock, the atomic clock being groundbased is static to the reference frame of CERN.

    Anyway, the argument for relatively is hardly convincing: “The speed of light is a constant therefore space and time must vary”. All you need do is define a new variable “speed of light” which varies to allow space/time to be constant, and you have a Universe which is identical but where a new set of metrics vary to allow other metrics to remain the same.

    In other words stating the speed of light is constant, is a definition which then requires everything else to fit. Using the same relationship, it is therefore quite possible to define something else as “constant” and have everything else (including the speed of light) vary.

    This has nothing to do with this example, but personally I just prefer my definitions to be based no what makes sense in experiments rather than trying to make sense of experiments in terms of arbitrary definitions.

  36. Daniel Vogler says:

    Lolol! that neutrino joke cracked me up!

  37. Ian E says:

    ‘jones says:
    October 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm
    If a superluminal neutrino was a car and it turned it’s headlights on would anything happen?’

    Yes – a lot of greens would complain that it was a waste of energy!

  38. TerryS says:

    Re: NW
    > it’s major egg on lots of faces at CERN.
    No it isn’t. This is how science is done
    Physicist: I have results that go against everything I think I know. I will publish them so others can tell me where I am wrong.
    Climate Scientist: I have results that go against what I think I know. I will delete them and graft on some other measurements.

  39. The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley says:

    I’m still convinced that they take a shortcut through time & space using another dimension. It’s the ‘best’ explanation.

  40. Lars P says:

    Well, since neutrinos from supernova come at the same time as light (at least from what I read so far) it sounds only logical it was a measurement error for this experiment. Question is if they found the right explanation.

  41. David Schofield says:

    Morris Minor says:
    October 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm
    A joke…
    The barman says “We dont serve Neutrinos that travel faster than light!”
    A neutrino walks into a bar………………

    That just HAS to appear in the next series of ‘Big Bang’! Or the last series.

  42. Dagfinn says:

    jimmi_the_dalek says:
    October 16, 2011 at 12:35 am

    It’s nonsense.

    The GPS system takes into account corrections from both Special and General Relativity.

    I’m sure you’re right, but we don’t even have to know that. If it didn’t do those corrections, the (larger) margin of error would be known and documented. Anything else would be mind-bogglingly unprofessional. So would the neutrino researchers’ overlooking a known and documented margin of error in their timing.

  43. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    Scientific terminology cop: Shouldn’t it be Supraluminal? /cop

  44. LdB says:

    As others have pointed out this junk was debunked and carried by no-one.

    I go to physics sites for physics discussions not WUWT for probably a good reason.

  45. Keith says:

    Tell will time…

    By the way Dr Maue, what’s happened to your web pages? The 2m NH temps and the ECMWF and GFS pages seem to have gone kaput :-(

  46. Matt says:

    Jeremy, are you seriously suggesting they should send a laser through 730Km of solid rock? :)

    Anyway, it was already proven that neutrinos do not travel faster than light long before they conducted the experiment, so the entire thing had been mis-represented by the MSM anyway. They never claimed to have proven that neutrinos are faster than light, it was more of a public call for explanations/ideas on where they had taken a wrong turn – and now we know. Great.

  47. Kasuha says:

    They have caesium clock on each site and that is their primary source of timestamps. GPS is only used to keep the two synchronized. And they even did direct comparison of these two clocks, they took a portable caesium clock, measured the Gran Sasso clock with it, then transported it to CERN and measured the CERN clock with it and these two clocks were no more than 2.5 nanoseconds off and fluctuations were on sub-nanosecond level.

    GPS is used for synchronizing measurements with orders of magnitude higher accuracy (picoseconds, not nanoseconds) for long-base radiotelescope interferomentry for instance, and very successfully. No, I don’t think they made an error in this, they in fact used proven and well established technology.

  48. John A says:

    Sequel 1
    The Truth About The Creation Or The Big Bang Theory Commonly Explained

    Terrific. As soon as a scientific theory that has been tested to extremely high accuracy gets questioned, out come the loons.

  49. Steve from Rockwood says:

    It does prove that Einstein was a relatively smart guy.

  50. DEEBEE says:

    What no reviling of these consensus shakers, no conspiracies to keep them out of publishing. What are these wimpy physicists thinking? This cannot be real science.

  51. Mike McMillan says:

    So are we certain it was the same neutrino?

  52. Tom_R says:

    I agree this is a poor explanation. As pointed out in the earlier thread, SN87a showed that neutrinos do not travel faster than light. The most likely error IMO is the distance measurement. The receiver is deep undeground, so the location can’t be direcvtly measured by GPS. Is there an article that describes exactly how the position of the receiver was determined?

  53. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    A simple case of relativity!

  54. Tom in indy says:

    Would the speed of sound be the theoretical universal speed limit in a universe in which humans are blind and can’t perceive light? :) In other words, is it possible there are ‘things’ in our reality we can’t perceive, and those ‘things’ travel faster than light?

  55. Jack Simmons says:

    Morris Minor says:
    October 15, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    A joke…
    The barman says “We dont serve Neutrinos that travel faster than light!”
    A neutrino walks into a bar………………

    The neutrino says, “Am I late?”

    Bartender says, “I don’t know, the photon isn’t here yet.”

  56. G. Karst says:

    Well, it IS an explanation. I have some doubts, The trouble, I see, is that if this correction is applied to previous experiments (for all light speed particles) and clocks, a new error would appear in those experiment’s calculation. Like a tile setter, once you shift one tile, you must shift all the other tiles.

    I don’t think we have heard the last of this experiment. GK

  57. NotTheAussiePhilM says:

    Scottish Skeptic:
    “Anyway, the argument for relatively is hardly convincing: “The speed of light is a constant therefore space and time must vary”. All you need do is define a new variable “speed of light” which varies to allow space/time to be constant, and you have a Universe which is identical but where a new set of metrics vary to allow other metrics to remain the same.”

    “the argument for relatively is hardly convincing” is one of the more uninformed statements to come out of this web-site in a long while!

    May I recommend this Youtube series on Special Relativity from Stanford University

    Or this one, if you’re in a hurry

  58. JDN says:

    The CERN result still stands. I think its hilarious that a pompously written article that mentions a relativistic correction is immediately taken as “disproof”. I read the beginning of the article, and, I can assure you that it was written for maximum density. It was poorly written.

    It’s easy to figure out whether the clocks at the emitter and detector sites are synchronized. The issue is whether the distance is 730 km or 730 km plus 20 meters. It could be that they used a spherical approximation to the earth (which is an irregular prolate spheroid) as part of the GPS measurements. However, that “debunking” article should not be taken as proof. I’m waiting for Penn Jillette to entry the fight.

  59. gopher says:

    The article states in the final paragraph: ” Finally, making all calculations from the correct reference frame might also lead to further improvement of the accuracy of GPS systems as the errors reported here for the time-of-flight amount to a ±18 m difference in location”

    This is already corrected for in basic GPS algorithms. The error budget for the standard positioning service is on the order of several meters, where as for precise GPS it is on the order of cm.

    For more details on precise GPS algorithms and accuracies see:
    http://igscb.jpl.nasa.gov/igscb/resource/pubs/UsingIGSProductsVer21.pdf

  60. Vince Causey says:

    Scottish Sceptic,

    “All you need do is define a new variable “speed of light” which varies to allow space/time to be constant, and you have a Universe which is identical but where a new set of metrics vary to allow other metrics to remain the same”

    No, the universe would not be identical. If the speed of light was not constant then you would observe all kinds of anomolies that aren’t observed. For example, if a distant body started moving towards you, the light would be approaching you faster than the light that left before the change in motion occurred. This would result in light that was emitted later overtaking light emitted earlier. To the observer, this would appear as if events were running backwards. I am sure it was realisations like this that led Einstein to conclude that the speed of light must be constant under all frames of reference. He then had to show how.

  61. Roger Longstaff says:

    If GPS processors did not account for relativity (S&G) your car satnav would be out by tens of metres. An experiment carried out millions of times every day.

    There must be another explanation (perhaps related to the uncertainty principle, applied to particles of “negligable” mass?).

  62. Theo Goodwin says:

    TerryS says:
    October 16, 2011 at 1:20 am

    Very well said. You distinguished the spirit of science from the spirit of !@#$%-science.

  63. Roger Longstaff says:

    A further thought – I wonder if the GR correction to GPS was applied to surface geometry? Subsurface locations for source and emitter would encounter lower gravitational fields than those at the Earth’s surface.

  64. J Calvert N says:

    Tom_R: I was thinking along these lines too. It seems to be a distance measurement problem. They cannot have received GPS signals at the bottom of a 1km deep shaft. If they projected a surface GPS position vertically down (i.e. radial to the centre of Earth) from the top of the shaft that would be wrong. But surely CERN wouldn’t make an error that basic! The position of the receiver would have to be projected to the surface via a line that was a) normal to the straight line through the earth from Cern to G. Sasso (this defines a plane); b) vertical only in the normal plane defined in a).

  65. Steve from Rockwood says:

    Roger Longstaff says:
    October 16, 2011 at 8:40 am
    A further thought – I wonder if the GR correction to GPS was applied to surface geometry? Subsurface locations for source and emitter would encounter lower gravitational fields than those at the Earth’s surface.
    —————————————————
    Roger,
    I believe your assumption is based on a spherical earth of constant density. If you are talking about changes in the measured speed of light over 720 km then I doubt those two assumptions are correct. I recall a friend taking gravity measurements in a mine underground and the values were higher than on the earth’s surface several hundred meters directly above the drift.

  66. Steve from Rockwood says:

    Why wouldn’t they use a fiber-optic cable to connect the two sites? Then they wouldn’t have to burn a hole in the rock ;)

  67. jrwakefield says:

    All I can say is, of course. Faster than light? The universe could not exist. Albert never stirred one bit, but I’ll bet he’s now chuckling at the reason.

  68. NotTheAussiePhilM says:

    I think the thing to do is to watch the Lecture given at CERN about the experiments:

    http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1384486

    Here you can see all the things they did & didn’t do, and how they got the accuracies they claim for distance & time measurement.

    The general feeling seems that the distance is known better than the time
    – i.e. there are a lot more possibilities for error in the timing of the detection of the neutrino burst (whereas the distance measurement is believed to be less prone to error)

    For example, one of the tables shows a 1ns delay through an FPGA
    – well that was my understanding
    – if so, this can’t be right, as the delays through an FPGA are many times that…

    It is still most likely a timing calculation error, in my opinion.

  69. NotTheAussiePhilM says:

    (Sorry, I mis-read the chart on the FPGA delay – it’s actually a believable number)

  70. Luboš Motl says:

    This “paper” is just one paragraph from my widely read September 24th blog entry,

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/09/potential-mistakes-in-opera-research.html#clocks-thirty-nanoseconds

    including the description of the problem and the 30-nanosecond result etc. Please check it; I personally think it’s more likely than not that the author has simply copied this calculation of mine and made an arXiv preprint out of it. It’s silly, Anthony, for you to promote this one possible explanation about dozens of potential explanations to a full-fledged WUWT article, especially if you completely ignored all the other analyses and discussions of people who know 50 times more about the stuff than the Dutch guy, such as myself.

    Yes, you’re probably right that this is probably not the mistake they have done. GPS just doesn’t work in this way. The satellites’ reference frame plays no role and the events on Earth are given their full 4 spacetime coordinates, from an Earth reference frame, regardless of the motion of the satellites.

  71. Gary Pearse says:

    60 nanoseconds light travels 1.8m or so (am I right). As a geologist/engineer I would suspect the elasticity of the earth’s crust, tidal effects, seismic vibrational effects, tectonic effects (flexing) could make 1.8m an error bar for the 730,000m the neutrino travelled. Using a constantly moving medium to measure this accurately seems like a poor choice for a very costly infrastructure. The engineer in me advises that this experiment be repeated about 30 times and the average taken.

  72. Gary Pearse says:

    My shot at the neutrino joke:
    “We dont serve Neutrinos that travel faster than light!” and the reason is:

    A neutrino walks into a bar………………but he left before he got there.

  73. Based on viewing the CERN presentation
    http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/1384486
    they seem to have considered all the time and space variables in great detail. They spelled them out for the entire scientific community to evaluate possible errors in measurement or analysis. Snide critique of CERN based on the anti-science posture of the official Climate Team is unwarranted, IMHO.

    Most likely there is some subtle error not yet exposed and understood. If not, the apparent result is correct and, under certain circumstances, neutrinos may be superluminal, and travel, or appear to travel, faster than light seems to travel.

    On the other hand, we know that Space/Time curves, perhaps quite tightly in some of its several dimensions. So, what if, under certain conditions, light and neutrinos, etc., go straight (or more directly) and are not affected (or less affected) by this curvature? Might that explain how the most careful experiment could come up with a superluminal result?

  74. TerryS says:

    Re: Gary Pearse

    > Using a constantly moving medium to measure this accurately seems like a poor choice for a very costly infrastructure.
    If you could point to 2 points on the Earth, separated by 730,000m, that wouldn’t have seismic, tidal and tectonic effects then let them know. One other thing, one end needs a Super Proton Synchrotron to generate the neutrinos.

    > The engineer in me advises that this experiment be repeated about 30 times and the average taken.

    The experiment was conducted over a period of 3 years and over 16,000 neutrinos detected with this anomaly.

  75. DesertYote says:

    NW
    October 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Y’know, if this is the right explanation, it’s major egg on lots of faces at CERN. But top scientists never goof up that big. Right? ;-)
    ###

    How is it egg on faces? The scientist collected data that did not make sense, they could not figure out what was wrong, if anything, they asked for verification and alternate explanations. In other words, they acted like scientists.

  76. NotTheAussiePhilM says:

    Gary Pearse says:
    60 nanoseconds light travels 1.8m or so (am I right).

    No, you’re wrong, in 60ns, light travels 18m

  77. George E. Smith; says:

    “”””” TomT says:

    October 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    This only explains it if E=MC² , but if the OPERA experiment is right then maybe E≈MC² “””””

    Simply not true. E = mc^2, IS true.

    No idea what the hell E = MC^2 refers to.

    How many times does it need to be said in science; WORDS HAVE MEANING.

    And if you change the words, you change the meaning; and that includes the symbols in formulae too.
    And the problem with changing words in a science discussion, so as to change the meaning, is that it immediately suggests that you don’t understand the meaning of the words; nor the effect of changing them willy nilly to something else; it suggests you aren’t even aware that the words or correct symbols matter.

    Hope this was simply a typo TomT; please be more careful, you never know who is reading your stuff.

    George

  78. Dave Springer says:

    I don’t believe the problem is a failure to take into account the different inertial reference frames of satellite and ground clocks. Reletivistic effects are routinely accounted for in the GPS receivers. In fact they must be in order to attain accuracy in the centimeters. It’s actually much more involved than that. Local differences in the force of gravity between one satellite’s ground track and another’s are also compensated for as change in the force of gravity of course changes the local space-time curvature and, slight as the difference is, is still enough to introduce relativistic errors. Gravity isn’t however measured “on the fly” so to speak but is rather contained by the instruments in pre-calculated tabular format.

  79. Billy Liar says:

    Gary Pearse says:
    October 16, 2011 at 11:33 am

    am I right

    No! One order of magnitude out – I’ll leave it up to you to work out which way.

  80. G. Karst says:

    Ira Glickstein, PhD says:
    October 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    On the other hand, we know that Space/Time curves, perhaps quite tightly in some of its several dimensions. So, what if, under certain conditions, light and neutrinos, etc., go straight (or more directly) and are not affected (or less affected) by this curvature? Might that explain how the most careful experiment could come up with a superluminal result?

    That would be evidence of what sci-fy calls “hyperspace”. No scientist is going to stick their neck out – that far. Since, I conclude FTL speed is not possible (for the simple reasons stated by Vince Causey above 8:05 am)… Sooner or later, shorter distances through curved space must be considered (after excluding measurement and calculation error). If there is a particle, that can slip through such space – it would be the neutrino/tachyon. Just ask Kirk or Spock. GK

  81. John A says:

    I would be curious as to the corrections for the different rates of the clocks at each location, and how those were accounted for.

    Do I think that neutrinos travel faster than light? No. The evidence has to be a lot stronger before I would begin to give credence to this apparent result.

  82. u.k.(us) says:

    JDN says:
    October 16, 2011 at 7:49 am
    “It’s easy to figure out whether the clocks at the emitter and detector sites are synchronized.”
    =========
    The skeptic in me wonders how you can make this statement :)
    The only way to determine the synchronicity of the clocks, is using light speed, which is the “variable” being measured.
    Gosh, conjectures are fun !!

  83. Dave Springer says:

    Say, did you guys hear this joke that’s going around Cern?

    “The bartender says ‘We don’t serve your kind here’. A neutrino walks into the bar.”

    My theory is that this is a glitch in The Matrix.

  84. Mike McMillan says:

    If you look at standard spacetime diagrams, you find that FTL implies reverse travel in time.

    A neutrino backs out of a bar..

  85. This looks like a good approach. Could be applied to cli-sci predictions and make us all rich? http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/neutrinos.png

  86. TerryS says:

    There is a hypothesis that if Moore’s Law continues to hold true (computing power doubles every couple of years) then as a consequence a point will be reached whereby it will be possible to simulate entire Universes. At this point there will be many simulated Universes, but only one real one so the chances are that you exist only in a simulated Universe. Especially since the simulated Universe can have simulated people in them that simulate their own Universes!
    A question then arises as to how can you tell if your existence is just part of a simulated Universe or part of the real Universe. One answer is that simulations are not perfect and as a result they will have bugs in them that can be detected. Bugs such as neutrinos appearing to travel faster than light…..

    Note: I think a belief system like this is called simulism

  87. Elftone says:

    George E. Smith; says:
    October 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm
    ” TomT says:
    October 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm
    This only explains it if E=MC² , but if the OPERA experiment is right then maybe E≈MC² “””””
    Simply not true. E = mc^2, IS true.
    No idea what the hell E = MC^2 refers to.

    Had me foxed for a bit as well… but if you look closely, it’s not an “=”, but an ““.

  88. LdB says:

    The adjusted comment you make is

    “Regardless, the point of this post was to show that the frontier science journalism/communication falls victim to “viral theories” that have not been adequately tested.”

    The real point is there was NO THEORY they released a result which didn’t agree with General Relativity.

    In WUWT terms it would be equivalent to releasing a result showing there wasn’t Global Warming.

    There were a hell of a lot of CERN scientists not happy about the release and New Scientist carried a story about the angst of a few of them who say the result should not have been released.

    The fact is it was released and it was openly discussed and yes there was alot of fruitcakes with whacky theories but the science survived.

    To my mind the whole process was how science should work an unpopular result was released openly for discussion … now consider what would happen if this was in climate science …. could it even get published and past the defense team.

  89. anna v says:

    Gary Pearse says:
    October 16, 2011 at 11:33 am

    60 nanoseconds light travels 1.8m or so (am I right).
    You are off a decimal. It is 18 meters under discussion, when GPS gives accuracies of 20cms and even 2cm or who knows how much smaller for military use.

    My intuition tells me the error hides in the GPS, the number of corrections entering is enormous . It is quite possible that the widespread use of GPS for measurments of earth has redefined the meter. The meter is defined as a specific fraction of the the distance light has covered in vacuum in a second. The GPS is not working in vacuum but its electromagnetic pulses go through the atmosphere and ionosphere and are corrected for that. If a systematic error enters there though, the fact of the precision of measurement with GPS, not disputed, would be a demonstration of the difference between accuracy and precision. It makes no difference for earth transactions if what we call a meter is by 10^-6 off . It matters in measuring the velocity of light. The neutrinos are not affected by matter to have a significant index of refraction, and seem to be covering more “meters” than vacuum meters because the scale is off.

  90. LdB says:

    Anna if you are going to comment on physics you perhaps need to read the entire background.

    They have checked and rechecked all the obvious stuff … they don’t want to look like idiots. You really think they haven’t checked all that sort of stuff the checklist is on the CERN website if you feel you are some sort of genius.

    Nuetrinos are weird and they have a weird effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikheyev%E2%80%93Smirnov%E2%80%93Wolfenstein_effect)

    Let the physicists do there job they will find the answer … the first question is to get the result verified by a second laboratory setup until then discussion of the result is pointless.

  91. Ryan Maue says:

    LdB: I should be more precise: the open-source peer-review system is in its infancy and this particular contribution providing an explanation for the FTL neutrinos has received considerable play in the media. That’s the viral theory I was referring to — and not the original experiment.

  92. LdB says:

    Thanks Ryan that makes a hell of a lot more sense to me.

    I just thought WUWT should be the last site complaining about release of inconvient experimental results that are not in line with expected science and science defenders would love to silence.

  93. anna v says:

    LdB says:
    October 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Anna if you are going to comment on physics you perhaps need to read the entire background.

    This is my weighted opinion. I am an experimentalist, particle physicist, retired to be sure, but still reading up. I listened to the lecture and I read their paper and their checks. They have been very thorough, but they cannot check what might be an insidious systematic bias within their experiment: they depend on the GPS accuracies for their space and time accuracies, and the GPS was not built for measuring the velocity of light. In their table 1 there are large corrections in nanoseconds, from GPS only 350, when they are talking of a 20ns discrepancy. A lot of trust in calculations goes into the GPS, and as I said, nobody doubts it is precise, but whether it is accurate in its meter offer is something that has to be checked by another experiment.

    Here is a link that discusses the errors for location by one satellite.

  94. Kevin says:

    Dangit! This is so disappointing. I was already designing warp engines.

  95. Retired Engineer says:

    I was hoping they had found a tachyon. Oh well …
    The relativistic explanation doesn’t wash. As others have pointed out, GPS takes that into account. The 1 pulse per second time signal is good anywhere on the planet. Short term, it has a lot of jitter, long term, better than 1 nanosecond. My primitive, by CERN standards, rubidium frequency standard has a GPS input. Give it about 6 hours and it synchs up to the nanosecond level, and stays there without jitter (well, at the 10^-11 level) CERN’s cesium standards are far better. Ditto position. One shot measurement can be off as much as 30 meters. Average over time and you get to the centimeter level. 60 nanoseconds? About 18 meters. All well within basic measurement capability. Nanoseconds are easy. When I worked on a project with the folks at NIST a decade ago, they talked attoseconds (10^-18) That’s hard. I assume (dangerous, I know) that the folks at CERN took all the above into account. And they announced it in the proper way: “We found an anomaly. Any ideas?” As opposed to climate scientists “proving that the earth is going to melt unless we get a vast increase in funding.”

    Too bad Fermi shut down the Tevatron. Perhaps they could reproduce it.

  96. LdB says:

    Anna then you should know better the discrepency is 60ns not 20ns so given you can’t get that fact right excuse me if I take a grain of salt on the rest and doubt your analysis.

    All the rebutal papers so far have been debunked and fermilab is gearing up to do a test so we will soon have either confirmation or rebutal rather than some biased speculation.

  97. mathman2 says:

    I wish more of the posters would read the published article before posting their comments.
    GPS was not used for the timing. Atomic clocks were used for the timing. Once synchronized, the clocks were periodically checked using GPS to verify their staying in synchronization.
    The distance issue is thoroughly discussed in the paper.
    And the disparate energy levels of the supernova neutrinos and those in this series of experiments is also an issue.
    Come on, folks. Read. There were many experiments, and we read about a compilation of incidents.

  98. Tim Clark says:

    Speed of light from GPS satellites is affected by water vapor. They used the water figures calculated by NOAA GISS.

  99. Jim G says:

    Not sure they took all of the relativistic consequences into account:
    1 time difference due to speed of satellite relative to earth
    2 length contraction in direction of motion of satellite
    3 time difference due to lower gravity in space (free fall does not count only the actual difference in gravity at that altitude).

    Anything I am missing?

  100. LdB says:

    How many times do you need to be told

    => the atomic clocks were AT THE SITES not in the dam satelite.

    The clocks were simply syncronized to the satelite signal and the technique has been done and tested to an accuracy of 1ns

    So everything you bring up Jim G is not in play.

    Can you all please go and READ before making silly comments mathman2 spelt it all out for you all above and made the same conclusion you all can’t or won’t read yet want to have your say.

  101. LdB says:

    Final comment I should need make for those who still think the GPS sync on atomic clocks is not valid it has been checked via a two way communication technique

    (http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?arnumber=563247) or google “Ultra-precise clock synchronization of remote atomic clocks with PRARE onboard ERS-2″

    The technique confirms accuracy of GPS sync’ed atomic clocks to 1ns end of story.

  102. Elftone says:
    October 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    George E. Smith; says:
    October 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    You both got it wrong.
    e < ΦC∞ is a new observation

    This is a new (well, not new, known for at least more than 40 years) explanation concerning a sub-particle traveling faster then the speed of light, rest of it is an illusion. That's what he said.

    For detailed explanation go to:
    Sequel 1
    The Truth About The Creation Or The Big Bang Theory Commonly Explained at:
    http://www.visutech.net/peace365/index.asp?pageID=86

  103. anna v says:

    LdB says:
    October 17, 2011 at 9:21 am

    Anna then you should know better the discrepency is 60ns not 20ns so given you can’t get that fact right excuse me if I take a grain of salt on the rest and doubt your analysis.

    You are right, it is 60 ns corresponding to about 18meters with the error in the baseline measurement 20cm, which must have confused me. Mea culpa.

    I have not as yet seen an answer on whether the “meter definition” after all the GPS corrections, is the meter defined by the fraction of the distance covered by light in in vacuum on Cs clock second. One can interpret the experiment as demonstrating that it is not, since the neutrino does not suffer of refraction effects.

  104. Retired Engineer says:

    Last time I looked, the meter was defined as a bunch of wavelengths (to many decimal places) of cadmium red light. GPS is useful for calibrating a precision/atomic clock. Do it in my lab. Assuming (dangerous, I know) that CERN took the known stuff into account, the issue is not with the time measurement. Perhaps the neutrino detector has an problem, that’s far beyond my expertise. But time? That’s easy.

  105. anna v says:

    For those who are still following this, there exists a paper in archive where the complicated relationship of moving systems in special relativity is examined, where time and space cannot be considered independently. The author estimates an “error” of maximum 64 ns when this is not taken into account.

  106. LdB says:

    Anna as we have said relativity was never in play the paper has been totally debunked.

    They even had a full CERN theoryfest just on it http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21064-neutrino-watch-speed-claim-baffles-cern-theoryfest.html

    The only real new information is ICARUS does not see Glashow radiation for its nuetrinos it saw but that assumes we understand the physics correctly.

    You may like to argue your case then go to a physics website not a climate website … until then the physicists have spoken and the issue is far from dead although everyone is rightly skeptical.

  107. Jim Masterson says:

    >>
    Retired Engineer says:
    October 18, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Last time I looked, the meter was defined as a bunch of wavelengths (to many decimal places) of cadmium red light.
    <<

    You should look again. The speed of light in a vacuum is defined as exactly 299792458 m/s. The (see NIST) definition of a meter is “the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 of a second.”

    Jim

  108. Retired Engineer says:

    I’m a bit dated,obviously. In 1960, the definition was “Hyperfine atomic transition; 1650763.73 wavelengths of light from a specified transition in Krypton 86 ” rather than cadmium. In 1983, it became “Length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second” (from Wiki of all places) Problem is obtaining a good vacuum down here on Earth. On a practical basis, the wavelength of a certain Helium-Neon laser is defined as 632.99139822 nm. None of which depends on the GPS system. When designed, GPS had a major objective of position measurement for the military. (Remember Selective Availablity?) and a second objective of time synchronization. The system accomplished both, a rare feat for the government. Like Spirit and Opportunity, a 90 day mission that lasted over five years. Once in a while we do it right.

    Assuming no obvious blunders, I think CERN has made an interesting discovery.

  109. Jim Masterson says:

    >>
    Retired Engineer says:
    October 19, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Assuming no obvious blunders, I think CERN has made an interesting discovery.
    <<

    I agree. We are looking at a new source of error that crept into this experiment, an old source of error that was overlooked, or maybe new physics. (That’s not an exhaustive list.)

    I have seen experiments where the physics concepts are easy to understand, yet the results lead to incorrect interpretations. The field equations of General Relativity are so complex, that the possibility of overlooking some minor detail is pretty good. I’m sure physicists will solve this quickly. I have far more faith in these scientists than those in the climate group.

    Jim

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