Up is now down.

Scientists at Cern and the Gran Sasso Laboratory have performed experiments which, barring systematic error or forgetting to carry the one, have shown neutrinos going faster than the speed of light.

Sorry I didn’t pre-empt that with anything, but there’s no way to build up to that. This is just insane, if true. Totally and maddeningly so.

And not only that, but by a few billionths of a second. Regularly. Fifteen thousand times to be exact. Fifteen thousand times, and enough of them were travelling faster than light that it counts as statistically significant, i.e. it’s not just a freak occurrence.

Click ahead if you don’t like maths, but here’s how significant a billionth of a second

  • The distance between the two points is supposedly 732km, aka 732000m
  • Speed of light is 300000000m/s
  • v=d/t, so 300000000 = 732000/t
  • t= 732/300000
  • If they were travelling at the speed of light, then they should make the journey in 0.00244s
  • A billionth of a second is 0.000000001s
  • So they were out by 0.00004% ([0.000000001/0.00244]*100%), and the neutrinos made the distance in 99.99996% of the time required by the universal speed limit

This might not sound like much, but considering how every single observed phenomena we’ve ever noticed has been slower than the speed of light, and a load of everyday physics theories rely on the speed of light being inviolate. Think of E=mc^2 and the Doppler Effect, or when ambulance noises go weird. Both rely on the speed of light being unbeatable. Both have been pretty damn reliable so far.

In the words of one of the scientists who’s made this ‘discovery’*

“We are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result – because it is crazy… And of course the consequences can be very serious.”

And to add insult to injury, they weren’t even testing the speed of light. They were testing neutrino decay!

I really hope this is systematic error or something. I don’t want to have to wake up with a new world-view: that would suck.

In the words of the internet;***

“What is this I don’t even.”

* Who himself refuses to accept it as a valid discovery until it makes a bit more sense.

** Falsify in the scientific, philosophical sense, whereby you think of reasons why a theory might not work, then test it. Not, you know, sneakily changing the results whilst no-one’s looking, and moving on with our lives.

** And my good friend Cake.


Posted on September 23, 2011, in GLOOP and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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