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Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity states that no object in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light in the vacuum.  (Source: AP)

CERN's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland gleams in the night.  (Source: AP/Anja Niedringhaus)

The OPERA experiment shoots a neutrino beam from Switzerland to Italy. As neutrinos only interact with matter via the weak force and gravitational attractions, they can pass right through the ground.  (Source: OPERA/CERN)

The final destination of the beam is the OPERA detector in Italy.  (Source: OPERA/CERN)
Neutrinos are first ever observed example of faster-than-light travel in a non-medium, defy laws of physics

Einstein's Theory of Relativity was unequivocal -- the fastest objects in the universe could move was the speed of light in a vacuum, which works out to around 299,792,458 meters per second (approximately 7e8 miles an hour).  To travel faster than the speed of light would allow fast travel to other worlds and even the possibility of travelling back in time.  But Einstein's 1905 theory was firm -- objects cannot travel faster than the speed of light.

I. The Erosion of Relativity?

Over the last several decades, exceptions to the Theory of Relativity have cropped up in experiments.  For example physicists have discovered that photons can pass through certain mediums at a faster than light pace 
via quantum tunneling, and another study revealed pulses of sound can also outpace photons in a medium.

Now, for the first time, subatomic particles have been witnessed as travelling faster than the speed of light.  
CERN, the European physics organization known for maintaining the Large Hadron Collider, has been playing with neutrinos in its OPERA experiment.  As they don't interact with normal particles it's been sending them through the Earth, hurtling from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland to INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy.  The journey is 454-miles (730-kilometers) long.

But the CERN researchers noticed something intriguing.  The neutrino traversed the distance 60±10 nanoseconds faster than light would have according to advanced analysis using GPS systems and atomic clocks to measure the time it took the roughly 15,000 neutrinos produced to complete their journey.  Those results indicate that the neutrinos were travelling two-parts-per-million faster than the speed of light.

CERN has published 
the results [press release] and presented a live webcast late last week on the discovery.

Robert Plunkett of the 
Fermilab laboratory in Batavia, Ill. in an interview with LiveScience states, "The consequences [of faster than light travel] would be absolutely revolutionary and very profound. That's why such a claim should be treated very carefully and validated as many ways as you can."

"According to relativity, it takes an infinite amount of energy to make anything go faster than light. If these things are going faster than light, then these rules would have to be rewritten."

Michael Peskin, a theoretical physicist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., concurs, adding, "It's really thought to be an absolute speed limit. Quantum field theory, the mathematical theory on which basically all results in particle physics are based, has the property that signals cannot travel faster than the speed of light through a vacuum. It’s really an absolute prohibition."

II. Physics Gets More Complicated

Absolute prohibition?  Maybe not.  The rules of physics seem on the verge of getting a bit weirder.  After all, to the best knowledge of most physics professionals, the CERN results look accurate.  But they seem in direct contradiction to the Japanese Kamiokande II experiment, which measured neutrinos emitted from a Large Magellanic Cloud supernova SN1987A, which sits 168,000 light years from Earth.  Measurements from that exploded star indicate that neutrinos travel within 1 part per 100,000,000 of the speed of light.

That's drastically different than the new results -- 2,000 times different, to be precise.  But both results could prove correct.  
Derek Fox of Pennsylvania State University suggests that a quirk of string theory or other advanced physics theory could reconcile the measurements.

CERN isn't shying away from criticism.  It is publishing all its data in hopes that other theoretical physicists will help to verify it -- or disprove the stunning conclusion.

One indication the results may be correct, though, comes from Fermilab, a physics lab located just outside Batavia, Illinois.  In its 
MINOS experiment, Femilab researchers have been sending neutrinos in a similar experiment to a detector at the bottom of the Soudan mine in Minnesota.

In 2007 they also seemed to observe faster-than-light travel of neutrinos, but unfortunately their lesser experimental equipment made it impossible to determine whether the measurement was legitimate or merely an artifact of the high level of statistical deviation in the measurements.

Professor Plunkett, who also serves as co-spokesperson for the MINOS experiment, is excited to find out if the results were authentic.  He states, "There was something that could have been a fluctuation in the direction of things arriving early, but it didn't have enough significance for us to make such a claim. Obviously, the hunt is on and we'll be upgrading that previous measurement and also implementing something we already had in the works, which is a plan to make improvements so we can reduce our errors. One of our next objectives is going to be trying to verify or disprove this result as hard as we can."

III. Just How Weird is Physics?

One thing that's important to bear in mind is that while this appears to be macroscopic and substantial violation of the Theory of Relativity, it only applies in a special scenario.  By and large most objects in the universe still appear to be behaving as expected.

In other words, basic physics education is unlikely to change much or get much harder based on all these radical discoveries.  However, for graduate researchers in the field of physics, they better prepare themselves to deal with a lot more weird.

The possibility of harnessing faster than light travel would seemingly be wealth worth the headache, though.  Many researchers are 
already dreaming up faster than light spaceship engines.  With such engines the vast time it would take to travel to the stars could be drastically reduced.

Some quick background for the physics layperson, a neutrino is somewhat akin to an uncharged electron, though it can come in several flavors -- electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos.  Neutrinos are typically produced in nuclear reactions (including those inside stars) and when high-energy cosmic rays collide with matter.

Neutrinos are hardly rare -- 6.5e10 (65 billion) pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the Sun in the region of the Earth each second, 
courtesy of solar generation.  For that reason, researchers typically emit their neutrinos in a direction roughly perpendicular to the solar neutrons, so they can be easily distinguished and rely on careful calibration to filter out remaining inaccuracies in the detector.

Like other particles, as per the Symmetry Theory, neutrinos have an antiparticle, known as antineutrinos.  However, some believe that antineutrinos and neutrinos are actually the same particle type (it's hard to determine as they lack distinguishing charge).  If this is true, it would make neutrinos/antineutrinos the only known (fermion) example of a "Majorna" particle -- a particle that is it's own antiparticle.

If neutrinos and antineutrinos are not identical, it should be interesting going ahead to see if antineutrinos -- produced from nuclear decay and fission, among other things -- can also travel faster than light.  One might expect this to be the case, given that they only interact with matter gravitationally and through the weak force, as with neutrinos.

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how about...
By alu on 9/26/2011 10:29:03 AM , Rating: 2
1. Neutrinos have mass, so how about the problem of acceleration to the speed of light?
2. If they were to exceed the speed of light, why by such tiny margin ? Isn't it well within the margin of error of the equipment?
3. How are they able to discern between environmental neutrinos and their own?

RE: how about...
By amarcord on 9/26/2011 10:58:15 AM , Rating: 5
1) Neutrinos have a mass > 0, even though really small (< 10e-68 g)

Even if they hadn't any mass, they could let you send information through time

2) The difference in speed is greater than the statistical error

3) The same way you can distinguish the light of the sun from the light of your Display.

RE: how about...
By amarcord on 9/26/2011 11:02:57 AM , Rating: 2
Anyhow the article contains a mistake:

A majorana particle is a fermion which coincides with its own antiparticle.

Non fermion example are very common in the nature, like photons.

RE: how about...
By joex444 on 9/27/2011 5:19:29 AM , Rating: 2
I'd like to add we've never observed a Majorana fermion. (And it capitalized, as it was a person's name.)

RE: how about...
By Nelson Lam on 9/26/2011 11:31:47 AM , Rating: 1
How can the CERN scientists prove that the one particle created on one side was the one detected later on the other side? Just like if I throw a ball to a distant target and you caculate the speed of ball by measuring the distance in between me and the target, and measuring the time between the ball left my hand and the target was hit by a ball without assuring the ball hitting the target was exactly the one I threw out, then it could be wrongly concluded that I could throw out a ball with a speed faster than speed of light.

RE: how about...
By MozeeToby on 9/26/2011 11:51:37 AM , Rating: 5
They aren't dealing with individual particles, rather a beam of particles. Imagine you have a fire hose and you want to find out how fast the water from the hose travels across a room. You turn on the water for 1 second, and time how long it takes the water to get there. It doesn't matter that the first drop of water isn't the first one that left the hose.

You could even do it in the middle of a rainstorm (which is equivalent to what they did since we are always getting bombarded with neutrinos from the sun). Graph how much water is hitting the far wall, then apply some statistics to figure out when the water from the hose started getting there.

It won't be perfect but if you repeat the experiment a few thousand time (Remember, they had 3 years worth of data), you'll eventually be able to say with certainty the speed of the water, or at the very least put lower bound on the speed which is what we really care about in this case. The lower bound that the found was ever so slightly faster than c.

RE: how about...
By GulWestfale on 9/26/2011 5:29:22 PM , Rating: 5
this is the second time this year that CERN has violated the principles of causality. the first time will happen in november.

"i'm sorry, we don't serve neutrinos who are faster than light here," says the barkeeper. a neutrino walks into a bar.

now stop it with the lame neutrino jokes! i already heard them next week.

RE: how about...
By Nelson Lam on 9/26/2011 9:17:20 PM , Rating: 2
What I meant was that imagine, if the neutrinos sent out from the transmitter cause creation of other neutrinos or similar particles at a distance closer to the detector and those new particles were the one hitting the detector, and therefore it appeared that the original neutrinos had travelled faster than the light of speed.

RE: how about...
By MarkHark on 10/2/2011 7:27:31 AM , Rating: 2
Even in the case you propose, for the secondary neutrinos to be created closer to the target than the primary ones, a signal would have to travel at faster-than-light speeds from
the primary neutrinos to wherever the secondary ones should appear.

RE: how about...
By Nelson Lam on 10/10/2011 11:35:15 AM , Rating: 2
So, it could be some kind of signal that travelled faster than the speed of light and not the particle itself. It could be something without a mass and beyond what we think we understand.

RE: how about...
By ekv on 9/27/2011 2:58:09 AM , Rating: 3
Still leaves some room for doubt. Interesting nonetheless.

If the "beam of particles" were modulated or perhaps even pulsed that would lend more certainty that indeed those are the correct particles to be timed. Though with a beam then I have questions about wave-fronts and so on.

Are all neutrinos faster than light? or perhaps only these CERN neutrinos? What makes them go faster/slower?

RE: how about...
By montanagf on 9/27/2011 12:32:49 PM , Rating: 2
n the question of certainty that the particles that hit the target are the ones tranamitted. i'm not aphysicist, but as iunderstand quantum physics, there can be causality at a distance, as opposed to the pool ball causality of newetonian physics. Would that complicate the question?

RE: how about...
By montanagf on 9/27/2011 1:00:18 PM , Rating: 3
would make the calculations moot.
possible that the neutrinos measured as going through the earth, never left the sun?


RE: how about...
By Mitch101 on 9/26/2011 11:42:30 AM , Rating: 2
How incredible and far ahead was Einstein that this was 100 years ago in what seems like the dark ages of technology that he drew up such theories. He lived into the 50's but his theory on light dates back 100 years.

And why does it seem like there has not been anyone as grand/celebrated since? I cant imagine what he could do conceive with today's technology.

Ive read this article on other sites can someone explain why they believe Neutrinos allow for sending information back in time as I read it its just faster than light.

RE: how about...
By MozeeToby on 9/26/2011 12:02:33 PM , Rating: 4
Any effect that allows a piece of information to reach it's destination faster than light automatically breaks causality (aka allows information to be sent back in time). It doesn't matter how it is accomplished, all that matters is that information can get somewhere faster than light from the event that produced the message.

In very simple terms, we know empirically that something traveling close to the speed of light experiences time dilation. What people don't think about is what that really means: people will disagree about when an event happened based on how fast they are going. If you have to space ships about to have an epic battle but traveling away from each other at near light speed, you can have disagreement over who shot first based on where the observer is and how fast they are traveling. So long as everything stays below the speed of light, it doesn't matter who shot first, the math always works out so that the same ship will win the fight no matter where you're observing from.

As soon as you allow for a weapon that travels faster than light the math breaks down. For example, you can have a ship fire their faster than light weapon and hit the other ship, after the ship is hit but before everyone dies they fire their regular old laser back at the first ship, if the velocities are just right the laser can hit the first ship before they fire their special FTL weapon.

A full explanation can be found here: It's the best explanation that I've seen, but to understand it you have to wrap your head around space time diagrams, which isn't easy, especially if you don't have a good understanding of what time dilation actually implies (namely, there's no such thing as two events happening at the 'exact same time' for two different observers).

RE: how about...
By Iaiken on 9/26/2011 12:35:30 PM , Rating: 2
This get's more complicated when you think about computation and data transmission.

I could perform a calculation on a piece of data and then send the answer back in time to the very instant you asked the computer to perform it.

If you want to get even more ridiculous, you can involve two such computers with each other to calculate out non terminating decimals like pi. Each takes a turn calculating the next digit and then sending it back in time to the other which then repeats the process ad infinitum. Technically, you could ask these computers for any single digit of pi instantly as between them they will have calculated them all out.

The relativistic problem then becomes one of exactly when to ask, because neither would have the entire value set available to them nor could they as any attempt to store the data would instantaneously fill all of the storage space.

Fun times!

RE: how about...
By wifiwolf on 9/26/2011 6:46:51 PM , Rating: 2
That would be great but there's a flaw. infinite times an infinitesimal =?

When it's an isolated experiment it's simple, but something repeated infinite times like an infinite precision number, that takes a sum of each elapsed time.

RE: how about...
By JediJeb on 9/27/2011 2:50:25 PM , Rating: 3
The logic problem I have always thought of when asking about FTL communications is this.

If you had a metal rod 1 light year long, and you push on one end of it, when will the other end move?

If it moves at both ends at the same time then you have communicated faster than the speed of light. If that can not happen, then what delays the movement of the other end?

RE: how about...
By Wraithor on 9/27/2011 8:30:33 PM , Rating: 3
I would assume that if you had a set up like this what would happen when you push the rod is that it will compress the amount which you push it and simultaneously decompress at the rate which the particles would allow, for instance if your rod was made up of five 0's this is what would happen:
0 0 0 0 0
]00 0 0 0
]0 00 0 0
]0 0 00 0
]0 0 0 00
]0 0 0 0 0
, or maybe you just destroy the universe.

RE: how about...
By AnnihilatorX on 9/28/2011 3:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
It will still move below the speed of light due to pushing an object really is really subatomic electromagnetic interactions

RE: how about...
By MozeeToby on 9/28/2011 3:16:06 PM , Rating: 2
When you push one end of the rod, the other end moves much more than one year later. A compression wave travels through the metal rod at something closer to the speed of sound than the speed of light. In any normal human scenario that all happens so fast that you'd never notice it, especially in something as rigid as a metal. But imagine you had a meter long rod of jello and you push one end, the other end doesn't move immediately. The same is true of all materials, it just happens more quickly.

RE: how about...
By Mitch101 on 9/26/2011 12:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks will give it a read.

The neutrino and its ability to pass through matter and its lack of an electrical charge kind of makes me want to throw out the theories that surrounds other items of mass and say maybe this is possible.

I guess that why some believed the neutrino was mass less. Its neutrality makes me feel time shift doesn't apply like other items of charge that are influenced by items such as gravity which can influence light but not keep it from escaping.

But then if she weighs the same as a duck she must be made of wood and therefor a witch. I'll wait for the super scientist to make a nova program that I understand.

RE: how about...
By snakeInTheGrass on 9/26/2011 1:24:09 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm, so we're sitting 4 light years apart. You send me a signal via laser, so at light speed. I reply with an amazing neutrino pulse that I somehow get running at 10x light speed and reply as soon as I get your signal. It arrives back where you are in just .4 years instead of 4 years. You may be able to do something with that given that it arrives before a laser pulse or radio signal, but given a distance to traverse and a given speed, it won't arrive before it was sent in any case.

If you travel at the speed of light, the argument is that you're no longer aging. If faster (infinite energy needs aside?), do you get younger? So if you fly to meet me (FTL), arrive somehow younger, and immediately return (FTL) to your starting place, you maybe (?) are somehow younger, but you still arrive after you left, not before.

Now you go kill your grandfather. You haven't managed to kill your father by killing your grandfather. Your grandfather may wonder what in the world you're up to as you try to kill him, but there's no issue of causality - you can't receive a signal before it is sent just because it's traveling faster than an arbitrary 'speed limit', and you won't arrive before you left either. You won't erase yourself, either. ;)

I DO buy that there could be an ability to transmit data backwards in time should it turn out to be possible to transmit information through quantum entanglement. Take one of the particles, let it travel at near-light speed for a while so that it 'relativistically' ages less, now you have a particle at current time, another at current minus some amount. Should you be able to transmit data from 'current' to the 'current minus some amount' and have that data show up before you send it then? Uh, seems like it. Though so far there's an inability to actually send data.

But anyway, that's a different issue than what is being seen in this case. I suppose light speed could have magical properties, but some of it sounds about as reasonable as the Ptolemaic spheres. It's safe to say that today's concepts in physics will largely look about as advanced as the earth-centric worldview given a few hundred years - and about as ridiculous.

RE: how about...
By Steve1981 on 9/26/2011 2:04:15 PM , Rating: 2
I suppose light speed could have magical properties

I'm not sure about the speed of light, but I recall watching a documentary indicating that 88mph was the ticket to time travel.

RE: how about...
By cjohnson2136 on 9/26/2011 4:07:50 PM , Rating: 2
I watched that same documentary and it was pretty awesome

RE: how about...
By Omega215D on 9/26/2011 5:47:51 PM , Rating: 2
Observer from Fringe: Their theories are quite fascinating.

RE: how about...
By MarkHark on 10/2/2011 7:42:59 AM , Rating: 2
Did it have something to do with a flux capacitor?

RE: how about...
By MozeeToby on 9/26/2011 3:57:42 PM , Rating: 3
Light speed does have magical properties, properties that 80 years ago made every physicist in the world sit down a drool like the village idiot.

The first hint that this was the case was when someone decided to try to find out how fast the earth was moving relative to the theoretical aether that light supposedly traveled in. The result they got upended physics: You get the same value for the speed of light even if your source and/or your detector are moving relative to each other.

Imagine you have a pitcher throwing balls at the back of a truck and have the pitches arrive at the truck at the same speed regardless of how fast or even which direction the truck was moving in. It doesn't work, it breaks all kinds of classical mechanics and the math doesn't work out at all.

Unless, that is, you assume that time isn't passing at the same rate for the person throwing the ball and the person catching it. And that the distance the ball travels isn't quite equal if you ask the pitcher and catcher. And that's exactly what happens when you approach the speed of light.

RE: how about...
By JediJeb on 9/27/2011 3:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
If I am an observer at a point in space and I can see two stars one light year apart. I see a person leave one star and travel to the other star at the speed of light, then I should observe that it took them 1 year to travel that distance. How long does it appear to the person traveling at the speed of light that it took them to get there?

If by the travelers clock it took less than one year, then from their point if observation they traveled faster than the speed of light since they traversed 1 light year is less than one year. If from the travelers point of view it took them 1 year to traverse the distance of 1 light year then they did not experience time compression. How long will the journey appear to take from the two points of observation?

RE: how about...
By MozeeToby on 9/28/2011 3:22:56 PM , Rating: 2
You have a good handle on time dilation but you're forgetting other relativistic effects. Observers on the ship traveling at .99c will measure the journey time as much less than a year, what they will disagree with the outside observer is the distance between the two stars. To them it will be much less than 1 light year.

RE: how about...
By JediJeb on 9/29/2011 4:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
But if the observers on the ship know before hand that the distance is 1 light year then would they not have to assume they traveled faster than light to make the journey in less than one year?

I guess another question I have about it is whether or not Time actually slows at velocities near the speed of light or is it simply that with the increased mass/inertia that comes from traveling at those velocities causes our measuring devices to slow down which would give the perception of time slowing down?

RE: how about...
By rakarlin on 10/1/2011 11:11:22 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you. The nonsense about causality violation was getting a little deep. Now, if you can make time go negative we have a whole new situation. But at velocity C or 2C or 10C it still takes positive time to get someplace; in fact to get anyplace. Regards

RE: how about...
By zmatt on 9/26/2011 4:45:03 PM , Rating: 2
causality isn't some golden law that was passed down from the gods. It is entirely possible (although very unlikely) that causality can be violated. We just haven't seen it yet. A lot of people get uppity about stuff like this and they toss out the "it violates causality so it's impossible" argument. Given what we have seen things like this shouldn't happen and so far causality has been good, but rule #1 about science is nothing is set in stone.

As far as this announcement, I'll hold judgement until the scientific community chimes in and we see if it stands up to the scrutiny.

RE: how about...
By JediJeb on 9/27/2011 3:06:01 PM , Rating: 3
If it is true that there can be multiple timelines causing infinite parallel universes then it would be possible to return to the past and kill your grandfather and still continue to live. You would simply cause a fragmentation of the timelines at that point and start another parallel universe where you were never born, yet your timeline continues as if nothing ever happened.


RE: how about...
By Phoque on 10/2/2011 10:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
3) The same way you can distinguish the light of the sun from the light of your Display.

No, read back 5th paragraph of section III.

RE: how about...
By Iaiken on 9/26/2011 11:06:03 AM , Rating: 3
1. It's not really a problem, it just means that our relativistic model might not be the correct explanation for it.

2. Why not by such a tiny margin? Peer reviews and replication should rule out any equipment problems or margin for error.

3. Quantity and direction. The sensor is always picking up background strikes from the sun and other neutrino sources, so they send a burst of them moving in the same direction.

The only possible problem I could see is the relativistic time differences between source and destination, but that can be worked out the same way it was for the GPS system.

Again, this just goes to show how little we actually know about the physical make-up of the universe and how much of it is still just guess work.

RE: how about...
By amarcord on 9/26/2011 11:12:19 AM , Rating: 2
2) Nice point.

Actually this paper has not been peer reviewed.

They published the document on their journal, so they reviewed their own work.

There has been a lot of polemics around this, in the local physics community.

My personal opinion, is that there is a very slight chance that this might have been an effort to divert the public opinion. The director of CERN has been involved in political scandals.

RE: how about...
By MozeeToby on 9/26/2011 11:42:47 AM , Rating: 2
You might argue that they would be aware of how the media would latch onto it, but seriously what else are they supposed to do? They asked experts in the field to review the results and procedures. They gathered data for 3 years and didn't leak a word of it until they had as close to statistically certain results as possible. Then they released their results with all the proper reminders of caution and a request for replication by an independent teams. How else are you supposed to release potentially foundation shaking research?

RE: how about...
By amarcord on 9/26/2011 1:54:31 PM , Rating: 2
they could have published the paper on an international journal, so it would have been peer reviewed.

RE: how about...
By kittypuncher on 9/26/2011 11:10:34 AM , Rating: 2
f they were to exceed the speed of light, why by such tiny margin ? Isn't it well within the margin of error of the equipment?

I am very intrigued by this, and am interested to their findings. One thing that comes to mind; Supernova 1987A's light and neutrinos arrived basically the same time... If CERN noticed this discrepancy in a journey across the EU, then why didn't 1987A's goodies arrive years apart?
Not discounting the CERN's findings, as they are quite a smart bunch... But none the less, I've yet to find an explanation for this discrepancy. :)

RE: how about...
By amarcord on 9/26/2011 11:15:47 AM , Rating: 2
1) The japanese experiment wasn't as accurate as the Cern's one, still it revelead a slight possibility that neutrinos might have been superluminar

2) The Neutrinos might have slowed down to subluminar speed during their travel,

3) You have no way to precisely know when and where photons and neutrinos were emitted, thus you cant compare them.

RE: how about...
By zmatt on 9/26/2011 10:47:04 PM , Rating: 2
especially since they have a non zero mass. It is conceivable that they lost some of the energy over the multi-light year trip and slowed down.

RE: how about...
By joex444 on 9/27/2011 5:26:34 AM , Rating: 2
This isn't directed to you personally but everyone here needs to realize something important that is consistently being said incorrectly:

The neutrinos were produced at CERN. They were detected at Gran Sasso with the OPERA experiment. The detector is OPERA's *NOT* CERN's! All CERN did was produce the neutrinos, using the LHC's PS and SPS rings. And of course help OPERA with time synchronization. Though when I watched the talk given last Friday from the OPERA experiment they felt more comfortable with the knowledge of the distance the neutrinos traveled than they do about the time measurement. Still, their result is a six sigma deviation and in the field we use three sigma for "evidence" and five sigma for "proof."

RE: how about...
By Reclaimer77 on 9/26/2011 11:59:23 AM , Rating: 2
Neutrinos have always been a "problematic particle" ever since their discovery. It would not surprise me at all if under special circumstances they were able to shatter relativity. It wouldn't be the first scientific theory Neutrino's have wrecked havoc with and caused a change in our understanding.

Personally I've never liked the little buggers! I have heard it said that some 40 billion of them pass through our bodies after having flown through the Earth a microsecond after having flown though some other persons body! Every SECOND! *shudders* I feel so violated :P

RE: how about...
By ekv on 9/26/2011 1:33:30 PM , Rating: 3
There oughta be a law ... 8)

RE: how about...
By delphinus100 on 9/26/2011 6:42:13 PM , Rating: 2
That's okay. Because they don't respond to the strong nuclear force, they don't know you're there, either...

RE: how about...
By ekv on 9/27/2011 3:04:39 AM , Rating: 2
Excuse me. What was that?

RE: how about...
By jecs on 9/27/2011 11:59:16 AM , Rating: 2
I am less than qualified to discuss this but anyway.

What it will also means is the size of the universe may need a recalculation too and what is assumed for accepted distances in the universe used to calculate time and space. So maybe the discrepancies are due to what numbers we are currently using in the math formulas for what we think we know vs the more accurate measurements with new observations (*?).

RE: how about...
By Bascom Toadvine on 10/3/2011 10:10:36 AM , Rating: 2
see "Hmmm..." comment. the simultaneous arrival of the supernova light and neutrinos is interesting.

RE: how about...
By Targon on 9/26/2011 12:33:33 PM , Rating: 4
Most humans(myself included) have a problem understanding that there is more to the universe than we can currently understand. The basics of that is this belief that radiation, primarily light, is an indicator for EVERYTHING out there. If you think about it, all of our preconceptions of the "Big Bang" stem from observations made about light and radiation, and that may be where all of this "weirdness" comes from.

If you took people who are born blind, and never interacted with ANYONE who has used sight, and you cut the idea of sight out of the language, you suddenly have a LOT of the universe that is beyond their comprehension. Now, for all we know, there is a layer to the universe that based on our current senses, we just are unaware of, and by our biology, we would never be able to perceive. Until something that we can interact with can show us what we are missing, it leaves a hole in our understanding of the universe.

We don't understand why things work the way they do, because we just don't have senses that are able to pick up on certain things. Until humans can accept that there may very well be things going on that we are physically incapable of detecting, it will take a lot of trial and error to come up with equipment needed to do the work to interact in this way. Acceleration to the speed of light does not preclude using some area of physics to get things from place to place faster.

Another way of looking at this, if flight were not known(no birds or flying insects), then traffic might seem to be an area that has no solution. Now, add the concept of flight, and you go right over the traffic, bypassing the problems. With physics, why not just skip over these issues by using another similar leap to bypass certain limitations. The idea of wormholes, or even cutting a hole in the universe and slipping through it to go outside, then come back in at another point MAY be seen as science fiction right now, but what is to say they are not possible, our current inability to do it?

The problem then, is that most people assume that things can't be done, and so don't work on the problem. Remember that scientists thought that the sound barrier could not be broken, until it was.

RE: how about...
By HercDriver on 9/26/2011 2:02:58 PM , Rating: 2
Perhaps we do have senses that can pick up on this. Maybe this is a way to explain deja-vu and other psychic phenomenon. Perhaps our brains subconsciously pick up on signals sent back from our future brains, and we don't yet know how to interpret them, or receive them consciously.

Just food for thought.

RE: how about...
By Kleles on 9/26/2011 3:13:52 PM , Rating: 4
Our biology does limit our awareness and understanding of the universe(s) within which we exist. Technology, guided by physics, allows us to go go beyond our senses. Great progress has been made, but, I think, we are much closer to the beginning than the end of our knowledge about how things work.

It is possible that paranormal experiences arise from sensations of events that arise from dimensions (broadly speaking) that are beyond our ken. At this point point we cannot rule out this idea, nor attest to its veracity. Such is the wonder of our brains - and we don’t even understand how they work!

RE: how about...
By Reclaimer77 on 9/26/2011 3:38:31 PM , Rating: 1
Remember that scientists thought that the sound barrier could not be broken, until it was.

/off topic

I keep seeing people repeat this, but it's not true. Engineers thought it wasn't possible because they didn't know how to do it or thought it couldn't be built. I cannot find any record of a majority, or even significant number, of physicists who held that the speed of sound was some unbreakable barrier. Especially given the fact that we had ample and widely known proof of meteors and asteroids breaking this so-called "barrier". At least as far back as WWI there was artillery that had muzzle velocities greater that that of the speed of sound.

The difficulties were in engineering, not physics. With the speed of light, there is a much more fundamental reason to the speed limit, namely that spacetime won't let you break it.

Or will it? :)

RE: how about...
By LRonaldHubbs on 9/27/2011 2:31:27 PM , Rating: 2
At least as far back as WWI there was artillery that had muzzle velocities greater that that of the speed of sound.

This was true for small-arms rounds at the time as well. The .30-06 rifle cartridge, adopted by the US Army on 1906, has a muzzle velocity >2x the speed of sound. Even the 9mm Parabellum, an already widely adopted handgun round at the time, is supersonic.

So you're exactly right, breaking the speed of sound was an engineering issue, not a physical one.

RE: how about...
By MarkHark on 10/2/2011 8:57:36 AM , Rating: 2
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong
Arthur C. Clarke said this phrase some time ago. Still holds true.

RE: how about...
By Phoque on 10/2/2011 10:08:21 AM , Rating: 2
3. How are they able to discern between environmental neutrinos and their own?

Neutrinos are hardly rare -- 6.5e10 (65 billion) pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the Sun in the region of the Earth each second, courtesy of solar generation. For that reason, researchers typically emit their neutrinos in a direction roughly perpendicular to the solar neutrons , so they can be easily distinguished and rely on careful calibration to filter out remaining inaccuracies in the detector.

By odessit740 on 9/26/2011 10:46:15 AM , Rating: 5
Make way for "Ludicrous Speed!!!"

By woofersus on 9/26/2011 11:56:19 AM , Rating: 3
They've gone to plaid!

By Natch on 9/26/2011 1:45:03 PM , Rating: 4
I want to go to plaid too, dammit!! ;)

I'd also like to quote these lines from Stargate SG-1, concerning neutrinos:

Samantha Carter: Normally neutrinos pass right through ordinary matter, no matter how dense. I mean, something like five hundred million billion just passed through you.

Jack O'Neill: Hey, if you'd been listening, you'd know that Nintendos pass through everything!

The New Relativity Theory
By RedemptionAD on 9/26/2011 10:48:59 AM , Rating: 5
The directly obeserved speed limit for an object is the speed of light. Light speed is the limit of visual oberservation and that is where I believe that Einstein derived his theory. The particles in the above artice were indirectly observed(not followed the whole path).

RE: The New Relativity Theory
By SiliconJon on 9/26/2011 2:24:27 PM , Rating: 2
What if they achieved a space warp - pushing the neutrinos between the "space-time" fabric for a brief duration. One could not observe such events directly from the normal space-time position for that which is travelling "between" the space-time fabric would not be interacting with or travelling upon the space-time fabric, thus free of its limitations such as C, and thus requiring indirect observation - at least for now.

RE: The New Relativity Theory
By SiliconJon on 9/26/2011 5:02:35 PM , Rating: 2
A -60 nanosecond (+/- 10ns) discrepency would equate to a 15-21 meter warp field (or sum thereof) if the neutrinos were travelling at the speed of light. A larger field would be necessary if the neutrinos were travelling slower of course.

RE: The New Relativity Theory
By TSS on 9/26/2011 2:54:52 PM , Rating: 2
For sure, you have to be lost to find a place that can't be found, elseways everyone would know where it was. - Captain Barbossa

Maybe you have to not look for something that cannot be seen in order to find it :p

By Camikazi on 9/26/2011 10:32:10 AM , Rating: 1
OMG my head hurts when trying to figure out string theories or quantum physics or all those other weird little physics things. Someone figure out the rules and make my head stop hurting :(

RE: Physics
By FaceMaster on 9/26/11, Rating: -1
RE: Physics
By FaceMaster on 9/26/2011 12:19:32 PM , Rating: 3
Oh damn did I forget the /sarcasm again?

RE: Physics
By cjohnson2136 on 9/26/2011 4:19:37 PM , Rating: 2
for a second a though you were a bible thumper, then I saw the sarcasm post lol.

RE: Physics
By delphinus100 on 9/26/2011 6:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not a biblical scholar by any stretch, but he did have me wondering for a second where that chapter and verse on particle physics was...

RE: Physics
By kittypuncher on 9/26/2011 12:24:10 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Physics
By Frostburn on 9/26/2011 4:20:07 PM , Rating: 2
I like these articles. The one's that thrill people into questioning and thinking, and not trolling. That's why I think Mankind should focus on space exploration more than building iPads.

RE: Physics
By Reclaimer77 on 9/26/11, Rating: -1
Cerenkov Radiation.
By greylica on 9/26/2011 11:23:01 AM , Rating: 2
Cerenkov Radiation was one of those intriguing facts, Cerenkov said that electrons travel in Nuclear Reactors faster than light, and when they return to a bound light velocity, those electrons polarize their neighbor water particles. Electrons for me are considered Macro Atomic Particles (from particles that are agregated to form Cloud and Nuclei). And, at such amounts of energy, the pressure over small particles still obey the laws of physics through it's mass/magnetic field, and there are lot's of space between stabilized Macro Atomic Particles while they're running normally (Neutrons, Electrons and Protons). Those tiny particles can travel pratically free trough every media available, (They can cause a boom on them like the supersonic aircrafts), but I have another teory in my head, vaccum is poor for tunneling those, because weak interactions in vacuum can turn into strong magnetic force attractions, changing interactions in a way they influence those particles. I have to myself that those particles atract themselves in vaccum better than in tunneling medias. But it's a teory.

RE: Cerenkov Radiation.
By MozeeToby on 9/26/2011 12:40:39 PM , Rating: 2
Cherenkov radiation is caused by electrons leaving the reactor traveling faster the speed of light in water (actually, the phase velocity of light in water). The speed of light in water significantly slower than the speed of light in vacuum.

RE: Cerenkov Radiation.
By delphinus100 on 9/26/2011 6:51:23 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed, when tachyons were theorized, some of the first searches for them involved looking for occurrences of Cherenkov radiation in vacuum. But assumptions had to be made as to what sources of tachyons might be.

And anyway, Cherenkov Radiation only works for electrically charged particles. It wouldn't help us confirm tachyonic neutrinos.

Speed Of Gravity
By KentSimon on 9/26/2011 7:01:05 PM , Rating: 3
Gravity is. It does not travel at the speed of light but a gravitational event is experienced through the universe instantaneously.

Try to remember when thinking about the gravitational pull of a mass that each particles gravity is separate from the others. Each individual particle of the suns mass effects the planets individually a tiny little particle millions of miles away!

Who said gravity was weak?

Who said the speed of light is constant, when you finally figure how much a particle of light slows down over distance and time your picture of the universe and its expansion will have to change.

I await the results of LISA

RE: Speed Of Gravity
By Motoman on 9/27/2011 6:40:40 PM , Rating: 1
No one said the speed of light is constant. Scientists have slowed down and "captured" individual photons in research labs.

Also, gravity has no "speed" as it doesn't propagate as a particle or wave. There's no good analogy between gravity and light, or any other energy, at all.

And gravity is weak, compared to other forces. Like the forces that hold subatomic particles together, for example. Gravity can only be "strong" based on what, and where, you're comparing it to. For example, if you compared gravity on the surface of the Earth to the force exerted by light bouncing off a mirror, you'd conclude that gravity is pretty damned strong. If you compared the strength of gravity in empty interstellar space, where the nearest body of matter is a few lightyears away, to the force of light bouncing off a mirror, you'd decide that gravity was a wuss and that light is much more powerful.

RE: Speed Of Gravity
By rakarlin on 10/1/2011 11:03:26 PM , Rating: 2
General Relativity predicts gravitational forces travel at the speed of light: C. We have yet to discover a gravitational wave or particle, so this is untested.

By bennyg on 9/27/2011 4:40:31 AM , Rating: 3
...else someone would have come back in time to us already to demonstrate how it was done.

I would bet on someone's interpretation being incorrect, or an incorrectly calibrated instrument, or a software bug, or someone forgetting to carry the one, than Einstein's 80 year old theory being wrong all of a sudden.

By AwesomeDuck on 9/27/2011 10:49:20 AM , Rating: 2
Theoretically you could only travel as far back in time as your time machine existed. If you build one tomorrow, then September 28, 2011 will be the farthest back in time you will ever be able to travel. In theory. I don't know whose theory though.

By merlin_r68 on 9/26/2011 2:10:29 PM , Rating: 2
To calculate the neutrino's speed, wouldn't they need to know the distance traveled to a high degree of accuracy? I can see marking a time interval with atomic clocks, but measuring the distance traveled seems like it could be a source of error. Does the Earth not expand and contract at the scale we're talking about?

RE: Distance
By MozeeToby on 9/26/2011 4:02:27 PM , Rating: 2
We're talking about an observed difference of 18 meters worth of time. In contrast, the sensors that they are using to calculate distance do double duty to calculate continental drift (averaging 1 cm/year at the detectors location, with a large 5 cm jump caused by an earth quake one summer). Distance tracking is pretty simple when you have the equipment that is available to these labs.

By M.A.Padmanabha Rao,PhD (A.I.I.M.S) on 9/26/2011 10:42:47 PM , Rating: 2
A FRESH INTERPRETATION OF EINSTEIN’S MASS –ENERGY EQUIVALENCE supports the Italian experiment OPERA unveiling evidence that “ fundamental particles known as neutrinos can travel faster than light” as CORRECT . There have been similar situations where X-rays travelling faster than light. (1. Solar flare on April 21, 2002 has shown strong, localized bursts of high energy X-rays coming from the base of the flaring region well before the initial brightening in the EUV. 2. " the X-ray emissions of flares are followed, an hour or two later, by a pulse of extreme ultraviolet containing three times more energy than the initial X-ray burst". “The observed delay in EUV emission to the X-rays has been attributed to X-rays traveling faster than EUV, against the traditional wisdom the X-rays and EUV travel at the same speed C".

The famous Einstein's mass--energy equivalence widely used for sub-atomic particles such as electron having a mass cannot be directly applied to neutrino with near-zero rest-mass or for gamma or X-ray having zero rest mass. Since gamma, X-ray or light photon are said to have no mass, all these photons are assumed to have negligible but equal mass. When m is given a value 1, E equals to the square of light velocity C. On replacing C with V, which represents relative velocity, energy E of a gamma, X-ray or light photon equals to square of Velocity (V). If this modified formula is really true, 40 keV X-ray photon goes 100 times faster than 4 eV light photon. Similarly EUV photon can go faster than an infrared photon. Basically, this formula justifies X-rays travelling faster than a light photon from cosmic sources.

On similar lines one can understand why neutrinos can travel faster than light, when neutrino’s near-zero rest-mass is considered somewhat close to X-ray’s zero rest mass. For accuracy, the above formula may need further modifications for applying to neutrino in view of it’s near-zero rest-mass.

By rakarlin on 10/1/2011 10:55:58 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but another explanation for this is that the xrays were generated earlier than the EUV. In earth based labs, xrays, visible light, gammas, and infrared all travel at C in vacuum.

Faster Than Light
By rakarlin on 9/26/2011 11:57:02 PM , Rating: 2
Velocity is distance divided by time. Neutrinos travel in straight lines. One wonders that this through the earth straight line distance is known to better than 2 parts per million.

Of course, it is possible that neutrinos travel faster than photons. The Higgs boson, assuming one is ever found, may travel faster yet. So C, the limiting velocity, is the velocity of the neutrino rather than the photon, and the value changes by a few ppm. So???

RE: Faster Than Light
By mrwassman on 9/27/2011 1:42:21 AM , Rating: 1
You can't use V=d/t at anything near C...

You couldn't even build a 40 year old TV with that equation.

Has me wondering...
By MastermindX on 9/26/2011 1:08:08 PM , Rating: 2
... did they take into account the rotation speed of earth in their mesurement?

By marraco on 9/26/2011 1:45:03 PM , Rating: 2
Eistein photo says "Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity states that no object in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light in the vacuum"

Well, that is false. Theory of Relativity is clear when says that any object raveling faster than light would have imaginary mass.

... and there are experiments compatible with neutrinos having imaginary mass:

CERN Broadcast
By jah1subs on 9/26/2011 1:55:30 PM , Rating: 2
CERN broadcast a live presentation of the (I am guessing) project leader presenting the results to an audience that looked to be 100 to 200 or more people.

At the beginning of my career, I pursued a PhD in physics but my thesis experiment proved to be impossible so I went to business school before looking for a job. My thesis area was not elementary particle physics.

I listened carefully to the broadcast, understood very little and found that I was in no position to evaluate the results. There were many questions and I thought that this is a very well done experiment. The ability of other groups to repeat or not repeat the results will be interesting.

CERN Broadcast
By jah1subs on 9/26/2011 1:56:17 PM , Rating: 2
CERN broadcast a live presentation of the (I am guessing) project leader presenting the results to an audience that looked to be 100 to 200 or more people.

At the beginning of my career, I pursued a PhD in physics but my thesis experiment proved to be impossible so I went to business school before looking for a job. My thesis area was not elementary particle physics.

I listened carefully to the broadcast, understood very little and found that I was in no position to evaluate the results. There were many questions and I thought that this is a very well done experiment. The ability of other groups to repeat or not repeat the results will be interesting.

term "weird"
By mrwassman on 9/26/2011 3:12:39 PM , Rating: 2
If you are going to write about something as scientific as this, the term "weird" should not be repeated so many times.

By Fred Garvin on 9/26/2011 6:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
maybe it’s changed.. as we breach time and space into a new dimension.. the next sign post up ahead.. “the twilight zone..” maybe that explains the faster than light neutrinos.. are we ascending into a a new time and space.. dimensional reality.. cause I want to barf.

By kjartan00 on 9/26/2011 7:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
This article is mistaken: Einstein's theory precludes particles from crossing the speed of light, not from going faster than the speed of light. Which is to say, if a particle is created going faster than light (a tachyon), then it can never go slower than light, and a particle which is going slower than the speed of light can never go faster than the speed of light.

faster than speed of light
By ranjith321 on 9/26/2011 8:39:44 PM , Rating: 2
Neutrinos experiment may right.If time travels faster in neutrino, then we should agreed that neutrinos should run faster than speed of light.

By ballist1x on 9/27/11, Rating: 0
By UraPhake on 10/14/2011 1:22:00 PM , Rating: 2
For a good read about just how information could be sent back in time check out Gregory Benford's short story, "Cambridge, 1:58 a.m." -- it involves the pulsing of tachyon waves to encode a message in something like Morse code. Of course, this does involve the usual paradoxes but he handily removes them. The story was written in 1975.

Benford is a physicist who also writes Science Fiction.

could it be...
By ballist1x on 9/27/2011 9:10:08 AM , Rating: 2
anything to do with thse numbers:

A) The Earth rotates or spins at over 1000 miles per hour, taking 24 hours, our day, to make one rotation.

B) The Earth revolves around our star “The Sun,” at 30 kilometers a second or 67,000 miles per hour, taking one year to make one revolution.

C) Our solar system ( Solar =’s, the sun, --, System =’s, the planets, moons, asteroids and comets) revolves around the galaxy at 885,139 kilometers per second or 550,000 miles per hour, taking 225 million years to make one rotation around the galaxy.

But what is that relative to? How do we know how fast our galaxy is traveling as the solar system is only relative to the galaxy...we could be moving faster than we even know - we just dont know it because we have nothing to relatively benchmark it against accurately?

All the time in the world
By codeblueuk on 9/28/2011 11:12:00 AM , Rating: 2
I’m not an academic or a physicist, so shoot me down as you will:

What if the neutrinos only had to marginally exceed the speed of light. The effect created that as they approached this speed, time slowed down to a point when it stopped (it did not go into reverse). Once this had occurred, the neutrinos had ‘all the time in world’ to complete their journey to the collector, time was restarted and the light caught up. This would explain the very small difference is journey time. I would expect if my theory was true, the longer the distance, the greater the time difference as the neutrinos would travel further before being slowed below the speed of light, cancelled out or stopped by a collector.

Is this mad or have I just won a Nobel Prize? :O

Gravity Tensor
By rakarlin on 10/1/2011 10:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
Another thought on this neutrino result. The GPS system was locating 2 points in 3D space, both on earth's surface. The neutrinos traveled in a straight line through the earth, and therefore at a slightly lower gravity. Was the lower gravity corrected for?? It is a small difference, but so is 2 ppm.

By Bascom Toadvine on 10/3/2011 9:55:48 AM , Rating: 2
Perhaps neutrinos do not originate at the event but rather arrive at the event from "out there". Such a bizarre subatomic could merely be the universe's response to an circumstance of imbalance at the event horizon. This might explain why they arrived at the OPERA detector before they were supposed to arrive.

Couple of questions...
By LectureRoom3B on 10/6/2011 9:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
I am a newcomer to the quantum physics realm so these may seem a little odd (or even old science).

Would a neutrino use the "geodesic" pathway through curved spacetime? if so, how, and would we need to graph neutrino cone the same way we do light cones?

And, could neutrinos be used to measure the gravitational forces through black holes by comparing event horizons?


By dheeraj on 10/8/2011 5:18:22 AM , Rating: 2
what makes neutron not react normally like other particles

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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