And, yet, you've spent lots and lots of energy and you can't find the problem yourself. And what if there is something there? There are many famous cases of experiments that weren't confirmed by theory until well after the fact; theorists often don't bother to think about a particular corner of the unthinkable until an experiment calls attention to it. So you've just got to publish your data, but also be prepared to laugh it off when the mistake gets identified, or the data proves irreproducible. And then to spend the rest of your career laughing it off, because this spurious result may be the most famous thing you ever publish.
You've got to have a good sense of humor to survive as an experimentalist.
 I wish I remembered which teacher said this.
From Gary Taubes' (the author) website: Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion is book of science history by Gary Taubes about the early years (1989–1991) of the cold fusion controversy. It is not a scholarly work, but a popular retelling of the events, based on interviews with over 260 people. The book presents a timeline of the events, making the case that the cold fusion field has many examples of poorly-performed science. The actions of Martin Fleischmann, Stanley Pons, and Steven E. Jones, the scientists who made the dramatic first claims of fusion, are described in rich detail. The book then shows the worldwide reaction and later disrepute of the cold fusion field, with Taubes placing himself in the side of "good science". Taubes says at the end that cold fusion had only demonstrated that research can continue even if the phenomena doesn't actually exist, as long as there is funding available. Taubes had previously written an article for Science in which he insinuates that the cold fusion work of A&M University was fraudulent.
The speed of neutrinos is less interesting, because I don't get anything out of it right now. A "huh" and some new physics textbooks and all that, at best.
(I'm personally excited, but that's because I am more excited by unlocking the secrets of the universe than by being able to drive an SUV for free. Because I already have a vehicle whose energy source is practically free.)
And if it's wrong and you overstate it, it's again one of those one-in-a-career results, but merely because that's where your career as a scientist ends.
Heinrich Paes at Dortmund University and colleagues believe it might be possible for neutrinos to move through hidden, extra dimensions of space and effectively take shortcuts through space-time. "The extra dimension is warped in a way that particles moving through it can travel faster than particles that go through the known three dimensions of space. It's like a shortcut through this extra dimension. So it looks like particles are going faster than light, but actually they don't."
Another potential explanation for the observation was given by Alan Kostelecky at Indiana University, who has devoted his career to violations of the limiting speed of light. He proposed in 1985 that an energy field that lies unseen in the vacuum might explain the finding. The field allows neutrinos to move faster through space than photons, the particles that make up light.
"It may very well be that neutrinos travel faster than light does in that medium. It is not at all unreasonable that that would be the case."
Is it possible that it is everything else that is moving linearly along a fifth dimension, thus slowing us down, and these neutrinos were moving cleanly through space-time?
A few other possible explanation that crossed my mind and I'm sure are wrong and already thought about:
* the distance between both sides was measured very accurately, above ground. The earth is not flat, so the distance underground is shorter. I'm too tired to calculate how much shorter.
* relatistic effect of the beam going deeper underground on its way over; I read elsewhere that they already considered the effect of altitude difference between the two stations and that it was orders of magnitude smaller.
* some other mistake in distance measurement; have they tried sending other, easier to measure, signals over to figure out the distance? Or some other independent
way to measure that distance?
To put it in terms that people here can understand, suppose you're three days into tracking down some incredibly obscure bug and your mother asks "Did you try turning it off and turning it on again?"
The neutrino production "curve" looks like a a square wave pulse as a function of time
and the detection points look like this
with ∆t ~= 700km/c time distance between the two pulses.
The claim is that the "most likely guess" of the received
pulse shape (obtained from many measurements) is too far right to be consistent with speed of light, but the ∆t measured where?
between the onset of the pulses?
between the place where the pulses go down?
What they did some mega calculation (maximum likelihood stuff), to predict the best approximation to the shape of the pulse at the receiving end -- so somehow they take on the approximation of the whole pulse (which is much wider than the claimed discrepancy).
They should downgrade the claim from: "speed of neutrinos is...." to: "speed of pulses of neutrinos ..... on average, as predicted by the maximum likely shape of the pulse",
which sounds much less profound.
The conf was good though, the speaker stood up to a lot of
serious scrutiny. My guess is the problem is with the ML curve shape calculation.
This would apply to every paper in existence. If you want to know the methodology, you read that section of the paper. Putting it in the title only obscures the message.
It's true that it makes the analysis a lot harder, and one of the questions after the talk was about making shorter bunches of neutrinos. The duration of the pulses are probably just set by the width of the proton bunches in the ring, in which case it would be nontrivial to make it much shorter.
Where the leading and trailing edge are is irrelevant here, as the complete shape of the pulses are compared.
"three large experimental halls, each about 100 m long, 20 m wide and 18 m high and service tunnels, for a total volume of about 180,000 cubic metres"
I mean, the interesting question is now: how much time will it take to repeat the experiment, either by others or by the CERN but with other reception point?
There have been numerous experiments that perfectly validate both the special and general theory of relativity. The outcomes of the same experiments will not suddenly change. The theories predict the outcomes of these experiments to within experimental accuracy. GPS wouldn't work if special relativity wasn't a sufficiently accurate description of reality.
However, it may turn out that there are also experiments that are not sufficiently described by the theories of relativity, even thought that was previously expected.
Also, if I recall my college physics correctly, special relativity not only predicts that the speed of light will be the same for all observers but that it will also have a particular value, based on some physical constants related to electromagnetism.
If, for example we now find out that neutrinos move with 1.0002% of the speed of light, but that their speed is the same, measured by any observer, we will just replace the speed of light constant in the special relativity formulas with the speed of neutrinos constant.
But that all depends what the interpretations of the results are going to be.
I learned a lot in that, and one thing that actually surprised me is that in many cases, I was able to make a good argument that Einstein was wrong, and there was no empirical evidence to support his view on the particular point we were discussing.
The point of that is not that I believe Einstein was wrong. It is that this is not a situation where any single experimental result can show that the theory doesn't hold, or does hold. There are many experiments where his theories do seem to hold (though I enjoyed poking holes in them). If this result is repeatable and turns out to be correct, it will cause many physicists to re-evaluate many theories, and have huge implications.
Einsteins work resulted in many theories, and of course a grand set of them called relativity (and special relativity)... the media simplifies this to "nothing can move faster than the speed of light".
I can see the situation where this causes an adjustment in the specific interpretations of his theories. Or it could turn out that these results are both true, and consistent with his theories. For instance, prior to the understanding of matter there were many theories about mass that are essentially true on the macroscopic scale, though once you understand that matter is made up of atoms you see where they don't hold on the microscopic scale.
This result could reveal a level of reality beyond what Einstein understood, such that he's right from our macroscopic scale, but there's a whole other branch of physics in there.
So, I'm not declaring victory. I think this is good news, though, because it might be the beginning of the revelation of an error in understanding that, when resolved, results in a big jump forward in physics.
PS- I'm not interested in getting into a physics debate. Its been too many years, and I've spoken vaguely because the specifics are not what I'm addressing.
> I learned a lot in that, and one thing that actually surprised me is that in many cases, I was able to make a good argument that Einstein was wrong, and there was no empirical evidence to support his view on the particular point we were discussing.
> I'm not interested in getting into a physics debate. Its been too many years, and I've spoken vaguely because the specifics are not what I'm addressing.
You can't go making a claim like "there was no empirical evidence to support his view" about nearly any of Einstein's physics papers and then not want to debate it.
That's like saying "I have proof that bigfoot exists, but it's been too many years and I don't want to actually present that proof, so just believe me because my background is in being a bigfoot expert".
In any case, your assertion is false - there is a great deal of empirical evidence for all of Einstein's important theories.
Sure none of this evidence is proof, but it is good evidence. We know that if Einstein's theories of relativity are not true they are at least very good approximations over a very wide range of scales. It would take truly extraordinary evidence to justify a conclusion about the falsehood of relativistic theories at large scales. Some of this has been done (physics, like all science, is an ongoing debate), but many of those original theories are still believed to hold.
> So, I'm not declaring victory. I think this is good news, though, because it might be the beginning of the revelation of an error in understanding that, when resolved, results in a big jump forward in physics.
Taking the position that a piece of science will be eventually proven wrong and gloating when it is proven wrong isn't big or clever. Every theory of the past has gone the way of Phlogiston, and we can reasonably expect every theory of today to go the same way. However, saying "I think this is wrong" isn't contributing until you say "and here is my evidence".
By the way, "I'm not declaring victory, but" is the same as "I'm not a racist, but".
You're taking a statement I made about a particular view in a set of topics that were chosen for the purposes of debating where he might be wrong, and applying it to the entirety of his "papers".
"In any case, your assertion is false - there is a great deal of empirical evidence for all of Einstein's important theories."
I never asserted there was no empirical evidence for Einstein's theories.
The fact that you didn't address the point I was trying to make, and instead are giving me what seems to be an unsophisticated laymen view of "einstein couldn't have been wrong about anything!!!" is exactly why I'm not interested in debating physics here. Plus, its irrelevant to the actual topic.
And that of all the thousands of folks who have claimed to have a "proof" that relativity is wrong, the they break down as about seventy percent simple misconceptions and thirty percent complete nonsense, with the remainder being zero?
At the time, I would engage the other members of the lab in an ongoing debate about Einstein, where I'd take the position that Einstein was wrong (About anything, or everything, whatever the handy topic was.) I was, and am, an Einsteinian skeptic.
It's a good thing you left physics for programming, because it doesn't sound like you have a particularly strong commitment to scientific principles. To get a Nobel Prize it would be perfectly sufficient to show convincingly that Einstein was wrong about one thing [insert caveats here, obviously I don't mean trivial things]. If you believe Einstein was wrong about "anything and everything" then you're just committing the cardinal sin of believing things because you want them to be true, rather than because there's sufficiently convincing evidence that they're true.
science isn't about believing in anything to be the truth; it's about constructing analytical models that make accurate predictions while consistently exercising skepticism about the ability of any model to do so.
I don't think that "believe" is a particularly bad word for the relationship of a rational person to a fairly well established fact, though. I believe, for instance, that the Earth has an iron-nickel core. I fully acknowledge the possibility that it might not, and am fully ready to change that belief based on new evidence, but I think it's fairly well established and I am willing to act as if it were true.
It is also apparent that Quantun Chromodynamics is also wrong because it does not account for gravity. But it works for super small stuff including CPUs and subatomic theory.
But they both work tremendously well for their scope. Hence the seeking for a Theory of Everything, because each is incompatible with the other without that mystery glue. But they both are "Wrong" - because they themselves say their theories are incomplete.
Again, I'm not arguing this shouldn't be addressed if you disagree with some or all of it, but it isn't like this is some kind of trollbait that usually receives this kind of aggressive downvoting...
Will Tesla have the last laugh?
I stopped reading at:
"As far as I know, no book on the history of physics mentions Tesla"
which is a statement approximately as correct as "As far as I know, no book on the history of the United States mentions Woodrow Wilson"
A probably nonsensical idea about the super-nova point they make: maybe what it means isn't that neutrinos are traveling faster than light but that they are traveling just ahead of light. In other words, they are some kind of shock wave moving through space at speed c but at a location just slightly ahead of the disturbance. Maybe we are detecting the supernova neutrinos a few nano seconds before when we're supposed to be.
Still, it's probably a measurement error.
Most likely this is a problem with the equipment. I'm sort of hoping that some other aspect of our knowledge of physics has been revealed to be off, though, since that is where real progress comes from.
It might even be that the most straightforward but most improbable case is right, and these neutrinos actually are traveling faster than light. That would be awesome, but also terrifying since then its only a matter of technology to get a device that would permit communication with the past.
How did you derive a negative bound? A negative bound suggests that arrival times could be slower than c.
The paper indicates that arrival times are always faster than c.
From the paper:
"An early arrival time of CNGS muon neutrinos with respect to the one computed assuming the speed of
light in vacuum of (60.7 ± 6.9 (stat.) ± 7.4 (sys.)) ns was measured."
They spent a lot of time triple checking the accuracy of their instruments without seemingly thinking about higher level factors such as the Theory of relativity...
http://static.arxiv.org/pdf/1109.4897.pdf Of course there are 99% chances I am wrong, but just throwing this out there :)
Anyway, relativity cannot possibly be relevant in explaining the time difference. I will not explain why: please actually read what they published. It will be crystal clear why it isn't relevant.
BTW, relativity is relevant in the OPERA experiment. Theoretical physicist Luboš Motl explains why: http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/09/potential-mistakes-in-oper...