Physicists at CERN have recorded particles moving faster than light

10 posts


Looks like Einstein may have been wrong — An international team of scientists at CERN has recorded neutrino particles traveling faster than the speed of light.
According to Reuters :

io9 spoke with James Gillies — head of communications and spokesman for CERN — about the team's results.
"It's important to make clear is that nobody is claiming a discovery, or any contradiction with relativity," explained Gillies. "The OPERA experiment has a measurement they can't account for, so they're opening it up for further scrutiny, and hopefully an independent measurement from another lab."
The OPERA experiment that Gillies is referring to is designed to investigate the phenomenon of neutrino oscillations, wherein elementary particles known as leptons spontaneously transmutate (or shift) from one flavor of subatomic particle (called muon-neutrinos) into another (so-called tau-neutrinos). (You can read all about leptons, muon-neutrinos, and tau-neutrinos in our Ultimate Field Guide to Subatomic Particles .)

Niccolo and Donkey



On his blog, Dave Goldberg gives a compelling argument as to why we should view this report of superluminal neutrinos with scepticism.
Team Zissou

I seem to recall an argument long ago with somebody on LF who just about went crazy when I said the speed of light was constant. What if you're in an F-16? And you have a laser light? And you shoot the laser forward? HOW CAN YOU DENY THIS. FACT! Nope, I said. I don't think the guy ever responded to me again.


Haha... Yes, the going theory is that the speed of light is constant and that distance and time are relative.

For some reason this irks some of (anti-scientific) evangelicals.
President Camacho

Western science split the once "indivisible" atom into protons electrons and neutrons; eventually it was discovered there are even smaller particles like quarks, neutrinos, etc. Now some swear that "string theory" is on the verge of demolishing orthodox quantum physics, and it appears now that the speed of light can't even be a given as constant.

All this is demonstrative not of the "progress" of science, but of it's inherently unstable foundations and the limitations of human knowledge. The scientific method cannot bring man closer to the mysteries of creation, to the metaphysical truths of the universe, and this is the ultimately Faustian tragedy that is playing out in Western civilization.

gus vasa

Aether is back.

SCIENCE marches on.
A couple of points: string theory will not 'demolish' quantum mechanics in the sense of rendering it useless; it was developed specifically to formulate the theory of gravity within a quantum mechanical framework. These "pre-revision" theories often turn out to be low-energy or small h-bar approximations of a more generalized theory, as Newtonian mechanics is acknowledged to be an approximation of QM.

In this vein, theory of fundamentals progresses heirarchically; QM and relativity are both resoundingly successful theories in their own rights (successful in that they have generated large amounts of empirical data). Where these theories may fail to generate meaningful data is within energy realms greater than those in which the theories' prior success was demonstrated (for Newtonian mechanics, this breakdown occurs at speeds approaching a significant fraction of lightspeed, and at submolecular scales and smaller. For QM and relativity, the breakdown occurs at very extreme densities and energies found within black holes, the early post-big bang universe, etc). IOW, this trend is not new.

Does this demonstrate the "failings" of science? I don't believe it does. A technological revolution has been borne on the back of modern physics: microelectronics, transistors, lasers, atomic energy (for better or for worse). These things owe their success to the success of quantum theory.

Your statement that science cannot probe metaphysical statements smacks of tautology, since metaphysics, by definition, lies outside of the experimental realm. Certainly, science has increased our understanding of "creation" (in a mechanistic sense) and pushed back the boundaries of realms that were once considered metaphysical.

Consider the aforementioned splitting of the atom. During the time of the ancient Greeks, the notion of atomism was still considered metaphysics, and competed with Anaxagoris' notion of infinite divisibility. Today, atoms are firmly within the grasp of experimentation. Galileo's work demonstrating the nature of Heliocentrism toppled the Church dogma of Geocentrism. Hubble's expanding universe has replaced the static universe conjecture. There are countless other examples.