The “are neutrinos faster than light” controversy continues to speed along. Last month I noted there was a major red flag in readings for the test that showed neutrinos could beat Einstein’s speed limit:
When it comes to relativity, frame of reference is everything. The satellite in this experiment was moving from West to East, tilted 55º in reference to the equator. Taken from this vantage point, the distance between the source of the neutrinos at CERN and the detector in Italy are actually changing. The excellent Physics arXiv blog at MIT’s Technology Review quotes van Elburg as saying, “From the perspective of the clock, the detector is moving towards the source and consequently the distance travelled by the particles as observed from the clock is shorter.”
Van Elburg says that this would throw off the experiment’s timing by 32 nanoseconds on each end of the experiment, for a total of roughly 64 nanoseconds of error in the experiment overall. This would mean that neutrino speed is quite similar to that of light, but not faster.
But this week scientists have conducted more readings accounting for this time frame reference shift and still reproduced positive results:
To account for this, the beams sent by CERN in this latest experiment were around three nanoseconds shorter, with large gaps of 524 nanoseconds between them, meaning the scientists at Gran Sasso would time their arrival more accurately.
“In this way, compared to the previous measurement, the neutrinos bunches are narrower and more spaced from each other,” the scientists said. “This permits to make a more accurate measure of their velocity at the price of a much lower beam intensity.”
Jacques Martino, director of the French National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics, who worked on the second experiment, said that while this test was not a full confirmation, it did remove some of the potential systematic errors that may have occurred in the first one.
“The search is not over,” he said in a statement. “There are more checks of systematics currently under discussion.”
So it seems even when correcting for the clock, neutrinos still appear to be faster than light in the latest experiment. If this continues to hold true it’s going to revolutionize physics…but there’s still a long way to go on this one.
Light-years, even. Just keep time travel technology out of Mike Huckabee’s hands. Please.