Gee Whizzz! Basics on faster-than-light research

Sep 23, 2011 By MALCOLM RITTER , AP Science Writer
Map shows path of subatomic beam from Geneva, Switzerland to Gran Sasso, Italy

Some questions and answers about the experiment that appeared to show particles speeding faster than light.

Q. What is being reported?

A. Over the past two years, Europeans scientists observed more than 15,000 particles called neutrinos shot from Geneva through Earth's crust to an underground lab 454 miles away in Italy. They found that the particles appeared to travel just a tiny bit faster than the speed of light - just 20 parts per million faster. That was a surprise because the speed of light, about 186,000 miles per second, is supposed to be the fastest anything can move.

Q. Why has this caused such a stir?

A. It threatens Einstein's , a bedrock of that produced in 1905. That theory sets the as the cosmic speed limit for material objects, although it's better known for the equation E equals mc2, which basically says mass and energy can be changed into each other. If that theory is proven wrong, it could dramatically shake up our understanding of basic laws of the universe.

Q. And would that affect my daily life?

A. Not for now. It's impossible to say what unknown physical effects might be exploited, and how. The findings - even if proven - may end up as nothing more than a footnote in physics textbooks, or they could lead to new technological breakthroughs. As one skeptic jokingly said, if it's real, people "could use `neutrinomail' rather than email. It's faster."

Q. How likely is it that this finding is correct?

A. Experts are skeptical. Einstein's has withstood a lot of experimental tests over the years. The scientists who reported the finding say they're still looking for flaws in their experimental procedures, and they've asked other labs to try to duplicate the results.

Q. What kind of flaws could there be?

A. The measurement is very complex, and all kinds of factors can enter in. For example, when the results were formally presented at a seminar Friday, a scientist in the audience suggested that the position of the moon could make a difference, because its gravity can deform the terrestrial crust through which the neutrinos passed. A spokesman for the researchers said that didn't appear to be a problem.

Q. So what happens now?

A. Scientists at Fermilab in Illinois have already started planning their own experiment. They have some experience. In 2007, they got a similar result, but the margin of error in their measurements was too big to make a definitive claim.

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Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2011
Einstein's relativity theory has withstood a lot of experimental tests over the years.
We should realize, the special relativity leads to the same outcome like the general relativity only for completely flat space-time (which the physical vacuum definitely isn't). Actually just the relativity theory could explain the neutrino discrepancies, if we consider, that space-time is not flat, but full of tiny space-time curvatures, which the photons of light are forced to follow (thus resulting into so-called CMBR noise) - but neutrinos not due their lack of EM charge. You may think, the seemingly flat space-time is full of tiny & subtle gravitational lenses, which photons follow according to general relativity laws, but the neutrinos are ignoring them.

So we could say, just the neutrinos follow special relativity exactly, whereas the photons of visible light remain influenced with tiny fluctuations of space-time in smaller or larger extent according to general relativity.
Drumsk8
2 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2011
Callippo don't bother this Q&A is grossly inaccurate, physorg should be ashamed to re-post such tripe!

15,000 neutrino's where fired. WRONG try BILLIONS only ~15,000 where registered!

As for the comment delivered in the REAL Q&A of the live webcast that was addressed and shown to not be a cause on two counts, one the data set is over 3 years, and two they're tracking the movement of the earths crust at 1cm a year. Think that's covered the moon somehow!

I am disgusted with the crap some so called science writers come out with they only show their ignorance further in the reports. To think this was an AP release TUT TUT! Go the BBC at least they even posted a link to the webcast for you!
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2011
Or is there some before unobserved mechanism where neutrinos actually have a transitory loss of mass when passing through objects, in effect slightly accelerating them ?

CaliforniaDave
5 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2011
Does this result not simply mean that these guys have managed to measure the speed of light very very accurately and that the previously measured value was very slightly wrong? Would that not make this all a storm in a teacup?
Temple
5 / 5 (5) Sep 24, 2011
Does this result not simply mean that these guys have managed to measure the speed of light very very accurately and that the previously measured value was very slightly wrong? Would that not make this all a storm in a teacup?


This may shed some light (har!) on the topic for you.

The constant "c" is "the speed of light in a vacuum" (which is not the same as 'the speed of light' or 'the speed that light travels', light is often slowed from c by its medium).

What's interesting is that c is a calculated constant which comes out of the math in Maxwell's equations. Indeed, it was this fact, that the value for c is not dependent on physical measurements, that its value comes out of the equations themselves, that gave Einstein his lightbulb moment (har!), leading him to his theories of relativity.

Continued...
Temple
5 / 5 (5) Sep 24, 2011
Since the math dictates c, no matter where you are or how you're moving, light will look to you to travel at c (or slowed by the medium).

Traveling faster than c simply breaks the math of Maxwell's equations, math upon which most of the past century's physics has been built. Very strange predictions have come out of those equations (relativity, etc), which at times can make the universe look like a funhouse mirror. But all these strange predictions have been verified to occur exactly as predicted out of Maxwell's equations.

Much of modern physics just wouldn't work if Maxwell's equations haven't stood up to such rigorous poking, prodding, testing, and attempts to break it over the past century.

This is why there is such skepticism involved in the idea that a particle has broken the equations by traveling faster than c (especially so very close to c, implying slight error).

That said, it would be absolutely wonderful if this were true. A sign of vast new knowledge on the horizon.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2011
Does this result not simply mean that these guys have managed to measure the speed of light very very accurately and that the previously measured value was very slightly wrong? Would that not make this all a storm in a teacup?
Actually you can be partially right, because in recent observations the speed of light really goes down. So if you're not checking it frequently, you can experience the superluminal velicities. You can find many links about it here.

http://aetherwave...nge.html

Of course, the variable speed of light would violate the special relativity anyway, so it's not a solution which could save the classical physics. We are talking about 60 nsec shift of 2,5 msec interval, which is relatively huge change. If the speed of light would change in such a way, we would already notify it in another experiments. But your point has definitely merit in context of many other observations.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2011
Traveling faster than c simply breaks the math of Maxwell's equations, math upon which most of the past century's physics has been built.
Maxwell derived it's equations for aetheric model of transverse waves spreading through dense elastic fluid. At the surface of water the ripples can never exceed the speed of surface waves too. But the tiny particles (solitons) resulting from coupling of surface ripples with underwater sound waves (which are indeed moving with speed of light) can still move faster a bit. In addition, the speed of surface ripples would depend on their wavelength. We just cannot observe it, because we are at the role of observers, which are using these surface ripples as the only source of information. So if some information is delayed because of lower or higher speed light, we cannot notify it, because we can compare it with anything else. Which is contextual background of relativity theory, after all.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2011
The Maxwell's theory is not quantized and it recognizes no photon concept. The photons are wave packets of energy, so their group velocity is always smaller, then the phase velocity of light. In dense aether theory only the photons of microwaves would move exactly with speed of light, just because such photons would remain indistinguishable from background CMBR noise. So that the microwaves are moving like harmonic wave through such a noise with no observable wave packets at all.

For photons of longer or smaller wavelength we should therefore always observe larger or smaller deviations from the speed of light. For example, you can imagine, these photons materialize mutually with CMBR photons. The temporary formed particle-antiparticle pairs are indeed moving with subluminal speed, so that they're slowing the global speed of photons a bit. At the case of neutrinos this situation is probably reversed, so they're moving like superluminal gravitational wave in short periods of their life.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2011
I'm often using the water surface analogy in explanations of dense aether model. But at the case of neutrinos this analogy is misleading a bit, because the water surface is highly asymmetric gradient. The phase interface inside of condensing supercritical fluid is more illustrative in this case, because such environment is both sufficiently dense, both elastic at both sides of phase interface.

In this analogy the photons correspond the normal solitons, which are forming at the water surface and they result from coupling of surface ripples with sound waves spreading through bottom liquid phase.

But in dense supercritical fluid such coupling could occur even at the opposite side of phase interface in symmetric way. It's product would be a supersymmetric particles, which are result of coupling of surface ripples with sound waves spreading in gaseous phase. I presume, these particles are just neutrinos, i.e. lightest photino soughed with SUSY models.
Ober
5 / 5 (2) Sep 24, 2011
I'm glad Temple mentioned Maxwell, as his equations have been ramblng in my mind since I first read about Neutrinos travelling faster than light, and have been baffled that no-one so far has really mentioned Maxwells equations.
I suspect (like most) that once the data is poured over, and the experiments repeated that all will be well in the Universe again. However, after saying that Neutrino's really are ODD things. Being able to change flavour on the run is really wierd. Also notice that (I think) a russian scientist showed Einstein an idea involving 5 dimensions and not 4, which Einstein initially rejected but then became VERY INTERESTED in. Perhaps Neutrino's are making a hop into a 5th dimension then returning, thus seem to jump forward in 3d space. Thus Neutrinos may never exceed C, just they took a short cut, giving an apparent average velocity exceeding C, while at no stage did their instantaneous velocity exceed C. The jumping MAY be related to their flavour change!!!
Ober
5 / 5 (1) Sep 24, 2011
If indeed the flavour change of a Neutrino provides a jump in 3d space, then I would imagine that the further a Neutrino has to travel, that the more flavour oscillations it performs, and thus the more jumps it performs. Thus Neutrinos travelling cosmic distances would show a much greater violation of C than what we have observed in the above article.
Do we even know how many flavour oscillations a neutrino performs while in flight? I don't think we do, but if the oscillation is a fixed rate, then measuring a neutrinos apparent discrepancy from C over a fixed distance would then infer the amount of oscillations and thus JUMPS.
Of course take all of what I've said with a grain of salt..... I'm just thinking out aloud for others to comment on. I haven't provided any real science, just dreams!!!!!
frajo
not rated yet Sep 25, 2011
Also notice that (I think) a russian scientist showed Einstein an idea involving 5 dimensions and not 4, which Einstein initially rejected but then became VERY INTERESTED in.
Don't know whether that's true or only anecdotal.
I do know, however, that GDR professor Ernst Schmutzer augmented Einstein's GR by one dimension to create his 5-dim GR theory dubbed projective unified field theory. (See German wiki on Ernst Schmutzer and his Projektive Einheitliche Feldtheorie).
Daleg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2011
First Maxwell's equations simply synthisized the known data on Electric and magnetic wave propagations. What Maxwell's synthsis showed was that Electricity and magnetism were simply two sides of the same coin. What was extremely important in this was that no matter how you measure it any wave propagated by these effects would always be calculated to travel at the same speed 186,282 miles per second and never be at rest. This applies to any electro-magnetic wave not just light. Since Einstein then went on to show that all Energy is electro-magnetic in origin, his theory then states that nothing can travel faster than this. I have explained elsewhere why this is basically true. Since Einstein based his theory on the Speed of Light as being equivelant to 0 time. You simply can't arrive somewhere in less time than 0 unless you started after you got there already, or arrived before you left. In essence either the nuetrinos took a short cut or they time traveled.
Daleg
4 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2011
In actuality I should be a little fairer in my explanations here. Because truth be told what Einstein actually realized was that relativistically Space and time are an illusion based on your state of motion. Einstein literally showed that motion is shared between all dimensions. Whereas light speed equals full travel through space and 0 travel through time. That is why he said you can't move through space faster then that. Because if you use any energy going through time you don't use the full energy available to travel through space like an electro-magnetic wave does, less energy= more time to get there. The other side of that coin is no one has ever seen anything going in a negative time direction, so Einstein concluded that this was why,unfortunately he was soon told that his own theory actually predicts that particles can under bizarre extremes travel faster and go backwards in time. He thought this result could be ignored on ascetic grounds as being unscientific.
Daleg
3 / 5 (2) Sep 28, 2011
One short note on this is the nature of the algebraic equation e=mc2 that causes the issue for when you algebraically solve for M you have to take a square root,
as everyone knows the square route of any number allows two solutions a positive and a negative since a negative times a negative also = a positive, so it has been conventional to ignore the negative solutions to the equations in the aspect of calculating times on the general precept that negative time is an unscientific result, or infers an unknown and thus is in the physical sense an unmeasurable quantity. This is why you hear so much about the imaginary number or the square root of -1 being used to get a positive answer. Since of course the square root of i is -1, so when you multiply any negative result by this negative number you get yourself s positive answer, restoring scientific rationality.
Daleg
5 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2011
One short note on this is the nature of the algebraic equation e=mc2 that causes the issue for when you then go to algebraically solve for M you have to take a square root,
as everyone knows the square route of any number allows two solutions a positive and a negative since a negative times a negative also = a positive, so it has been conventional to ignore the negative solutions to the equations in the aspect of calculating times on the general precept that negative time is an unscientific result, or infers an unknown and thus is in the physical sense an unmeasurable quantity. This is why you hear so much about the imaginary number or the square root of -1 being used to get a positive answer. Since of course the square root of i is -1, so when you multiply any negative result by this negative number you get yourself a positive answer, restoring scientific rationality.
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2011
In dense aether theory the space-time is modeled with low-dimensional phase interface of supercritical fluid and after then the photons are subluminal solitons resulting from mutual interference of transverse waves with bulk waves of heavier phase and the neutrinos are superluminal solitons resulting from mutual interference of transverse waves with bulk waves of lightweight phase. This physical model is quite predicative regarding the expected neutrino properties.
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Sep 28, 2011
We should realize, these new findings are accidental and found randomly independently to the theorists. It just demonstrates, the progress in science goes via random mutations, rather than through qualified thinking of their proponents. The state of engineering technology enables more sensitive devices and after then the new findings are found accidentally. The attempts to advance this approach with theories mostly failed: we didn't found gravitational waves, Higgs, SUSY, WIMPS and another stuffs predicted with theorists.
After all, whole the neutrino finding has been postdiction too. The theorists are doing postdictions rather than predictions. Therefore the progress in physics is the success of engineers, rather than theorists.