Superluminal Neutrino Paper Submitted to JournalCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: November 18, 2011 11:17AM
In September researchers from CERN released a preprint version of a paper discussing neutrinos, a subatomic particle, travelling faster than the speed of light. The implications of this finding, if true, could unsettle some of the most important theories to science, which is why the researchers released the paper as they did; to crowd-source the checking of the paper, more or less.
Since September, the researchers at CERN have been checking their data on the first series of experiments, and running a new experiment. The original data was produced by beams of protons striking a target to create a flash of neutrinos. The new data was collected by firing shorter bursts of protons, roughly 1-2 nanoseconds long, temporally spaced out. This would allow the detected neutrinos to be connected to the original proton burst, and thus increase the precision of the data. The results were actually in line with the earlier data, with the neutrinos coming 60 ns before they were expected, with an error of only 10 ns. This check has given CERN the confidence to submit their research to a peer-reviewed journal.
Just as before, not all of the scientists at CERN have signed the research, as they lack confidence in the data. Four of the original 15 non-signers have signed the new paper, while four new people have decided not to sign the submitted results. The concern over these results is understandable though as particles travelling at superluminal speeds violate the Special Theory of Relativity. Relativity requires that information can only travel as fast as the speed of light, or slower. If it were to travel faster, then cause and effect could be violated. Here’s an example: you, being a dedicated member of OCC, watch the homepage for news all the time. When something comes up, you see and read it immediately. You notice I have misspelled a wodr and post a comment about it instantly, to let me know. If the information of this news post travelled to you faster than the speed of light, and then the comment traveled back equally as fast, it would be possible for the comment to come before the news post is up. If the difference between the time it took for the information to travel to and from you is sufficiently more than the time it would take travelling at the speed of light, then the conclusion would have to be the comment came before the news was posted.
Now, take how confused you are by that example, double it, and make it challenge principles scientists rely on. That’s why so many scientists are very cautious about these results.