Breaking News: Neutrinos Really DO Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light!

I just had this bit of science news pop up on a blog I subscribe to: OPERA Confirms: Neutrinos Travel Faster Than Light!! It appears that the result has been scrutinized more carefully, and turns out to be correct. What this will mean for physics – and the future of interstellar travel some of us are eagerly hoping for – remains to be seen, but it certainly is interesting and intriguing!

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  • Gary

    Sorry to spoil your day, but nothing with a non-zero rest mass can travel faster than the speed (velocity) of light in a vacuum (packet velocity). It is a fine line, but if a neutrino has a non-zero rest mass, they may have seen the neutrino travel faster than the speed of light (phase velocity). But this is a commonly occurring event., demonstrated by Cherenkov radiation (bluish glow) produced in nuclear reactors as a result of particles traveling faster than the “phase velocity” of light. It’s a rather complicated phenomena, so I don’t plan on explaining it. Just be assurred that a particle with a non-zero rest mass cannot travel faster than the packet velocity of light in a vacuum, otherwise Einstein’s equations are trashed, and someone will win another nobel prize. And the packet velocity is the one that has implications for interstellar travel (like warp drive).

  • James F. McGrath

    I’m sure you’ve been following this story, and so know that they are taking those considerations into account. Physicists who’ve commented on these recent results have suggested that they are probably wrong, but if correct, would indeed suggest some new physics, or at least some modifications to the old ones. That’s usually how changes in physics occur, isn’t it? Not that an old paradigm is “trashed” but that certain extreme situations fail to be dealt with adequately by it, requiring a new expanded framework that incorporates but at the me time transcends the old.

    It is probably premature to get too excited, but since everyone has been assuming that the reading would turn out to be wrong, this bit of news seemed exciting enough to share. What it will turn out to mean is still unclear.

  • Gary

    “Not that an old paradigm is “trashed” but that certain extreme situations fail to be dealt with adequately”…maybe. But the group velocity of light in a vacuum is such a foundation of everything that Einstein did in relativity, this would destroy his foundation. As a particle approaches the speed of light, IF it has a non-zero rest mass, then its mass increases toward infinity, as the speed approaches the speed of light. Singularity. A neutrino will not do that. I don’t care what the experiment shows. Their experiment is then flawed. It is more likely that the neutrino has a zero rest mass. Otherwise, the last 100 years of physics is turned upside down.

    • Jose Pecina

      Gary the effect Cerenkov occur when the speed the particle in the medium is greater than the  speed of light in the medium (no vacuum). The postulate of SR about the constancy speed of light in all inertial frames is wrong. So Einstein is wrong. His big mistake was to ignore Heisenberg.

      Jose N. Pecina-Cruz

      PS Lets the kids playing to find the opposite.  I proved this fact ten years ago and a wise Chinese confirmed it.

  • Michael Wilson

    Gary what is non zero rest mass, does that mean it has no inherent mass. I have been keeping upo with the stories. I share Garies doubt. Einsteins theories have tested correctly for 100 years. If the experiment is replical, then we could see some weird ideas develop in our ideas of time and space. For instance, wouldn’t that mean that the Neutrinos are from the future? Are they communicating information back about the future, like future fossils?

  • Geoff Hudson

    Paul Marmet a Canadian professor of physics at various universities, and author of   about 100 refereed articles in the field of electron impact spectroscopy, astrophysics and relativity, disputed Einstein’s theory, but accepted quantum mechanics.  A few years before his death, he published a book in 1997 called Einstein’s Theory of Relativity versus Classical Mechanics.  It is an interesting read for those with a little mathematical knowledge.  He wrote in the Preface: “Einstein supposed that time and space could be distorted and that simultaneity is relative, but he did not give any serious description of what this means physically.”  Marmet uses classical mechanics and classical logic to explain physically the observations behind Einstein’s theory.

  • James F. McGrath
  • NBH

    The most important line about this:

    “The measurement therefore is only a “partial” confirmation of the earlier result: it is consistent with it, but could be just as wrong as the other.”

    This is the same experiment recreating its same results.  This does not confirm there is no systematic error in the experiment throwing off the measurements.  So the answer is still a “maybe” until all possible errors are ruled out, and probably needs to be confirmed with a different test environment.  Saying they “really do” is over-reaching sensationalism on some very bleeding-edge physics.

  • Gary

    Michael…non-zero rest mass simply means that the object has mass when it is at rest. Which is pretty much everything that we encounter in the real world. However, a photon has zero rest mass, but it does have a mass associated with it and its velocity. The relativity equations of Einstein say the mass of an object increases with velocity by the factor m = m0  times the factorwhere m0 is the rest mass. As v approaches the speed of light, c, the factor goes to infinity (singularity). For a photon, the rest mass is zero.
    Immediately after the big bang, the inflationary period resulted in “space” expanding at a rate much faster than the speed of light. But this was because “space” did not have any matter or even photons in it. So it didn’t violate Einstein’s laws. The “space” was just the framework that was then populated by energy and matter after the inflationary period.

    The neutrino experiment is extremely complicated, when you are trying to measure such small values.  So it is easy to make a mistake, and not take everything into account. Although, I must say, I’d like to see something new come out of this. It would be nice to think we could travel at warp speed. Just like it would be nice to thing we will all be resurrected. Maybe the neutrino is experiencing some quantum effect, which would be reflected in the “jump” mentioned in one of the articles. But beats me.

  • Gary

    I tried to copy and paste the factor, but it didn’t show up. “m = m0 times the factorwhere m0 is the rest mass”. Since I can’t make the factor with my keyboard, you can look it up. It is
    1 divided by the square root of (1 minus v squared over c squared). v being the particle’s velocity, and c being the speed of light.

  • Michael Wilson

    thanks gary

  • roerter

    To reiterate what NBH wrote: this new result only eliminates one of the possible sources of error in the experiment. There are still many other possible sources. 

    “Really do travel faster that the speed of light” is wildly misleading, James.

  • James F. McGrath

    Sorry for the sensationalist headline. “Breaking News: Scientists Eliminate One More Possible Error as a Step Towards the Possible Confirmation of Neutrinos Travelling Faster Than Light” would have been more accurate – but far less catchy as well.

  • Jose Pecina

    Today I had read that Opera has made a new experiment where claims that the speed of neutrinos is the same as that of the speed of light. It has been necessary to kick out all opponents.  They argument in favor of the new experiment is incredibly innocent and virginal (loose cable?). 
    Now, Opera’s guys have to respond to our scientific curiosity:  Who is wrong Heisenberg or Einstein? The light-cone is not a straight fine line but coarse thick line, because of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, so particles tunnel from time-like to space-like regions.  Perhaps, your answer would be that those particles (in space-like region) acquire negative energy. So what?, microscopy causality prevent any ridicule collapse; as a matter of fact   p^2|> =- m^2  is a Poincare invariant (group) p| > is not.  That is both masses (energies) could have two values +m or  -m  ( two inertial observers could see any of these.
    If I were a giant and Einstein is in one my hand and Heisenberg in the other, I could not  exhibit both hands at the same time because this world would not be consistent. If I hide Heisenberg, Einstein world would be consistent. But If I hide Einstein the world would be consistent but incomplete (high velocities are missing) .

    Jose N. Pecina-Cruz