23 September 2011
Neutrinos Travelling Faster Than Light??
Posted by Dan Satterfield
Adrian Cho has a story on Science NOW about the scientists at OPERA in Italy asking for some help. OPERA is studying neutrinos released from CERN and they keep coming up with a result that shows the neutrinos are traveling faster than light! Cho rightly points out that this would be the greatest discovery in physics for a half century, but I think it would rank higher than that. This is pick me up off the floor and find me a trash bin to stuff the standard model into kind of stuff!
When I visited the South Pole I signed one of the neutrino detectors at Ice Cube, so I’m always fascinated by any news in the field. Imagine a particle so small and wispy, that it could travel through a slab of lead one light year thick and likely bump into nothing! There are billions passing from the sun through you right now and it doesn’t matter if it’s dark where you are, they go right through the Earth and you! Neutrinos come in 3 types and one of the biggest discoveries of the last few years is that they oscillate between these different flavors as they fly along at near light speeds. This is what OPERA is investigating, but their neutrinos seem to be arriving early!
It takes 2.43 milliseconds for the neutrinos to travel the 730 km from CERN but they are apparently arriving 60 nanoseconds ahead of schedule. The folks at OPERA are trying to find out where they are making their error but have not been able to do so. They are now formally asking for help from the rest of the physics community and they will certainly get it. You do not have to be an expert in particle physics to learn the fundamentals and appreciate the gravity (pun not intended) of the questions being asked these days.
Carl Sagan’s wise words are obviously the guiding principle here “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.” It’s far more likely that there are measurement errors here and the neutrinos are not traveling faster than light and furthermore, the researchers at OPERA know this. If particles travel faster than light, then all kinds of spooky things happen including travel backwards in time, and my developing a taste for the music of Lady Gaga. Both are profoundly serious consequences.
Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has just posted some wise words on this as well and the BBC has an exc. story on it. Think of it this way, you get a result that is either a mistake or 100 years of physics is all wrong. Which is more likely?? Unless you’re writing books aimed at those who refuse to accept the scientific evidence for evolution or climate change, you lean toward the mistake side of things!
Let’s step back away from the thorny bushes of day-to-day history and try to look at the trees a bit. As we enter the autumn of 2011, the LHC folks have looked in most of the likely places for the Higgs Boson and still not found it, while the mystery of dark matter and dark energy is deepening (neutrinos seem to be ruled out as the missing matter that holds the galaxies together). Do you get the feeling that we just might be on edge of a whole new understanding of our universe? I asked astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson last year about not finding the Higgs and instead of a worried or puzzled look, his eyes lit up!
I think I understand why…
And… Is it true that they have now developed a neutrino based supercomputer that completes the infinite loop 3.1 nanoseconds before starting?
[;-) .. only joking – amazing story]
I like 😉 That’s a good one!!
Well OPERA in Gran Sasso is located south and well East of CERNs facility. Could there be some kind of frame-dragging effect unaccounted for?
I haven’t read the paper myself and I’m hardly the one to make the calculations. But still.
A pretty straightforward generalization of Einstein’s rule is that nothing can accelerate to the speed of light, either from above or below. So subluminal things like snails and rocketships and electrons can’t speed up to c and superluminal things (mabe like these neutrinos they’re detecting) can’t deccelerate down to c. The problem with superluminal particle is it’s very hard to iinteract with them and detect them. Maye that’s why neutrinos are so hard to detect in the first place. Incidentally, the “rest state” of superluminal particles ought to have infinite velocity with respect to our reference frame. So they are basically everywhere at once. This sounds suspiciously like dark energy to me – we can’t detect it but it is apparently all over the place.
If 73% of the total mass-energy in the universe is dark energy and another 23% is dark matter, that only leaves 4% for everything traveling slower than the speed of light. It would seem more natural for there to be equal mass-energy on either side of c. If the velocity of all the tachyons (> c) relative to us was infinite, they would appear to be everywhere all the time and their portion of the mass-energy budget would tend toward 100%. The fact that it is only 96% is a signature of their actual velocity distribution.
So tachyons appear to have more energy than they actually do. And the excess grows as their speed increases, asymptoting to infinity as their velocity (relative to us) goes to infinity. This is probably a result of how we are interpreting the indications of dark energy’s presence – using inappropriate subluminal physics.
In 1932 Nikola Tesla reported that neutrons are small particles, each carrying so small a charge and they travel with great velocity, exceeding that of light.
Experimental tests of Bell inequality have shown that microscopic causality must be violated, so there must be faster than light travel. According to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, nothing with nonzero rest mass can go faster than light. But zero rest mass particles can go faster than the light. Neutrinos have a small nonzero rest mass. Faster than light interactions are a necessity and they provide the non local structure of the universe. We should understand the relation between local and nonlocal events like the dynamics of universal structure. In any physical theory, it is assumed that there is some kind of nonlocal structure violates causality. If neutrinos are traveling faster than light, then neutrinos must be on the otherside of the light barrier going backwards in time, where the future can interact with the past.
There are lots of theories and research regarding this matter including Cherenkov radiation, Standard Model Extension, Heim theory, Novikov selfconsistency principle, Casimir effect, Hartman effect, Casimir vacuum & quantum tunnelling, Tachyons, etc.
– Nalliah Thayabharan
Cherenkov radiation is given off by particles travelling faster than the speed of light in the medium they are in but that does not imply the particles are travelling faster than c, As for the rest…you seem to have your facts twisted. Relativity does not imply zero rest mass particles travel faster than light- I believe it implies that zero rest mass particles must travel at c.