Faster than a speeding photon…

… or perhaps not after all.

wooo! check out them photons.

Last year, the physics world was all excited about some preliminary results from CERN regarding neutrinos that were faster than light. The neutrinos were recorded as travelling the 730km test distance 60 nanoseconds faster than light, and that was exciting because it meant that Einstein’s special theory of relativity may have been shown as incorrect, or at least, inaccurate.

However, these results were qualified by the research team as being subject to checking and re-checking, to confirm that the data were accurate. Reported in Science Insider, and the BBC (amongst others), there is new evidence that this astounding reading may have been erroneous after all. The team have checked their GPS equipment and found two things:

1) that the ‘oscillator’ – the thing that synchronised the GPS units at the start and the end of the test distance – was playing up and this was affecting the results. This would actually slow down the time recorded, which seems weird, but also

2) the GPS equipment wasn’t plugged in properly, and that would artificially increase the speed of the neutrinos.

The BBC story raises the pertinent question: if these experiments were conducted over 3 years, how is it that no-one checked the equipment?? Surely people should be checking that things are plugged in properly?

But, on the upside, this has meant that there is a lot of collaborative work going on and equally, a lot of competitive work going on, to answer the question “can neutrinos travel faster than light?”. The original team is still working to see if their initial results are valid, and many other groups around the world are also working on that question.

Hey CERN, how’s that work on the Higgs boson going? Got everything plugged in and calibrated? 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Faster than a speeding photon…

    • Hi! Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is a lot of time and money. But the thing that gets me is that it took them so long to realise that their equipment wasn’t plugged in properly! It’s a fundamental element of experiment set-up.

  1. Pingback: Not any faster than normal. « Increasing Disorder

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