Neutrinos Faster Than Light?

Big big news yesterday: researchers at CERN, over the course of three years of experiments, recorded neutrinos going faster than light. This is, of course, an issue, since modern physics, since Einstein, is based on the idea that by definition nothing goes faster than light. But as they say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so no one is close to accepting CERN’s results just yet (not even CERN).

These results will get picked at and blasted from all angles for the next while I assume, and other labs will have to try to replicate their results, although apparently there are only two other labs in the world capable of doing so (one of them is Fermilab, whose particle accelerator Tevatron was left in the dust when CERN created the Large Hadron Collider (now wasn’t that last LHC post relevant? (although the LHC was not involved in this neutrino discovery (close brackets)))).  

Suffice it to say, if this discovery did end up being true, we’d be witnesses to an insane scientific revolution, overturning special relativity and probably making physics even more incomprehensible. But it probably won’t be true.

From Physorg:

European researchers said they clocked an oddball type of subatomic particle called a neutrino going faster than the 186,282 miles per second that has long been considered the cosmic speed limit.

The claim was met with skepticism, with one outside physicist calling it the equivalent of saying you have a flying carpet. In fact, the researchers themselves are not ready to proclaim a discovery and are asking other physicists to independently try to verify their findings.

“The feeling that most people have is this can’t be right, this can’t be real,” said James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, which provided the particle accelerator that sent neutrinos on their breakneck 454-mile trip underground from Geneva to Italy…

Einstein’s special relativity theory, which says that energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, underlies “pretty much everything in modern physics,” said John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at CERN who was not involved in the experiment. “It has worked perfectly up until now.”

… So if the neutrinos are pulling this fast one on Einstein, how can it happen?

Parke said there could be a cosmic shortcut through another dimension – physics theory is full of unseen dimensions – that allows the neutrinos to beat the speed of light.

Indiana’s Kostelecky theorizes that there are situations when the background is different in the universe, not perfectly symmetrical as Einstein says. Those changes in background may alter both the speed of light and the speed of neutrinos.

But that doesn’t mean Einstein’s theory is ready for the trash heap, he said.

“I don’t think you’re going to ever kill Einstein’s theory. You can’t. It works,” Kostelecky said. There are just times when an additional explanation is needed, he said.

If the European findings are correct, “this would change the idea of how the universe is put together,” Columbia’s Greene said. But he added: “I would bet just about everything I hold dear that this won’t hold up to scrutiny.”

Now we must sit on the edge of our seats while they spend the next 10 years trying to replicate this.

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4 Responses to Neutrinos Faster Than Light?

  1. looihw says:

    If the scientists are right that neutrinos can travel faster than light, then we have to conclude that contrary to what most experts say, neutrinos do NOT have mass. And since they do not interact or interact as strongly as light with as many of the other types of particles, antiparticles, dark matter and gravity found in an absolute vacuum, they should be able to move faster than light. Light, though fast in a vacuum, is still being slowed dowm by many of these entities and as such cannot hold the speed record. The “C” in Einstein equation should be the speed of neutrinos in a vacuum.
    Actually, the particle or entity that has no mass, no charge and absolutely no interaction with anything in this universe should be the one that holds the ultimate speed record. Unfortunately, such a particle or entity by definition is impossible to detect.

    • andrepineda says:

      Actually I think the conclusion of neutrinos not having mass would require a whole other slew of experiments and provide its own separate uproar. As it is, I’ve read at least a few explanations for how this speed result could possibly be true – for example, neutrinos taking a shortcut through another dimension (“dimension” in the space-sense, not the alternate-universe sense) [edit: this is actually mentioned in the article above]. In any case, there’s no explanation for how neutrinos could be going faster than light that scientists would assume as a default, so even if this speed result is confirmed and agreed upon over the next however-many-years, explaining it will take an indefinite number of more years into the future. Nothing left for us but to wait 🙂

      • h w looi says:

        Alternatively, if neutrinos do have a tiny mass, then the speed of light in an absolute vacuum where there are none of those numerous types of energy, particles, matter, gravity etc. is in fact much higher than the 300,006 km/sec of the speed of the measured neutrinos. In other words, C > 300,006 km/sec and the neutrinos has not exceeded the real unimpeded speed of light. The speed of light that we have been measuring is not the maximum speed that light is capable of if it is not slowed down by the numerous “things” that really exist in a so called vacuum.

  2. Dr Looi says:

    Although I still feel that neutrinos can go faster than light because their vacuum impedance is less than that of light photons, here is another possibility that needs to be considered:

    What if I pretend that I am an innocent little boy who knows nothing much, but who thinks that neutrinos can go faster than light because neutrinos do not really exist as such, but are actually nothing more than just pulses of energy that is transmitted along an almost infinitely strong and rigid “needle” of length which varies from a few microns to billions of miles and which is incredibly thin.

    These needles could be made of stacks of Higgs Bosoms and fill up throughout the universe to form the so-called Higgs Field.

    Since the needles are almost infinitely stiff, if energy is applied to one end of these needles, the energy pulse (“neutrinos thus created”) would be transmitted almost instantly to the other end and if the other end is associated with an electron in the detector material, the energy would be converted into matter and appears as an electron neutrino. If the other end is associated with a muon or tau particle, the energy pulse (“neutrino”) would be converted into a muon or tau neutrino.

    If we have a bundle which is made up of these needles of varying lengths, and if we have “neutrino” detectors along the whole length of the bundle we will be detecting neutrinos of different types along the length of the bundle. This could explain why neutrinos appear to change flavours or oscillate as they move along. And this could also explain why neutrinos can pass though a large mass like planet earth as the earth is already being pierced by trillions upon trillions of these almost infinitely stiff needles that form the fabric of space.

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