Italian physicist behind 'faster-than-light' test resigns

Mar 30, 2012

An Italian physicist at the head of a team that made a cautious but hugely controversial claim that neutrinos may travel faster than the speed of light resigned on Friday following calls for his dismissal.

Antonio Ereditato submitted his resignation before a vote on a motion by some members of his OPERA team that he be removed after tests this month contradicted the claim that the universe's speed limit had been broken.

"I hope OPERA will find new unity and a new leadership to pursue its main of observing the appearance of a new type of neutrinos," said Antonio Masiero, the deputy head of the Italian Institute for .

Masiero said another test on the speed of neutrinos, a type of sub-atomic particle, would still be carried out later this year to check OPERA's findings.

OPERA is part of the European Centre for Nuclear Research () and carried out its experiment at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy.

A headline in Corriere della Sera called Ereditato "the physicist of flop."

Ereditato's team last September announced that neutrinos appeared to have travelled faster than the speed of light, a claim that would have upended Albert Einstein's -- a cornerstone of .

The neutrinos were timed at their departure from CERN's giant underground lab near Geneva and again, after travelling 732 km (454 miles) through the Earth's crust, at their arrival at Gran Sasso in the Apennine Mountains.

To do the trip, the neutrinos should have taken 0.0024 seconds.

Instead, the particles were recorded as hitting the detectors in Italy 0.00000006 seconds sooner than expected.

Knowing their findings would stir a storm, the OPERA team urged physicists to carry out their own checks to corroborate or refute what had been seen.

CERN said technical hitches may have skewed the initial measurements, something that critics of the findings said they had always suspected.

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Pkunk_
2.2 / 5 (10) Mar 30, 2012
There goes the latest sacrificial lamb who dared question the speed limit imposed upon us by this universe.
In vacuum , C is constant , unchanging and unchallenged.
Anyone else dare question this rule handed down to us?
nappy
1.3 / 5 (17) Mar 30, 2012
Since there is an observed doppler effect when detecting rf from satellites as they approach and recede, I would have to say we already know that the speed of light is not absolute. This guy just is in trouble for saying the earth is not flat. Why is there not this sort of howling about Mann's obviously contrived "hockey stick". Science is as corrupt as politics.
drloko
5 / 5 (17) Mar 30, 2012
The doppler effect changes frequency, not velocity.
Noumenon
3.9 / 5 (18) Mar 30, 2012
Since there is an observed doppler effect when detecting rf from satellites as they approach and recede, I would have to say we already know that the speed of light is not absolute.


The Doppler effect has nothing to do with the speed of light.
Noumenon
2.4 / 5 (11) Mar 30, 2012
There goes the latest sacrificial lamb who dared question the speed limit imposed upon us by this universe.


Anyone, even lacking a basic knowledge of physics, (as nappy demonstrated above), can "dare question" existing theories. The trick is to be empirically correct and to verify, before making claims.

Had he been correct he wouldn't have lost his position, in fact he may have received a Noble. So the notion that "dare questioning" will get you canned, is illogical.

The fact is the vast majority of physicists and even amateurs knew instantly upon hearing of the experiment that the error must be in the equipment, and would not have claimed otherwise.

Ji_Podiv_n
not rated yet Mar 30, 2012
Gentlemen please.
It is pointless to discuss this matter before we get additional test results. Right now all we have are to possible equipment glitches and one new analysis of an old data using a new method.
So until May, when we hopefully get results needed for final conclusion we should avoid any premature conclusions on our side.

By the way I do not think that neutrinos can travel faster than light.
drloko
5 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2012
I believe the OPERA team felt that the experiment was going off track with the faster-than-light experiments and wanted to return to the original mission. This was not about daring to challenge accepted science, rather it was about returning to the original purpose of the experiment.
ManishR
4.9 / 5 (16) Mar 30, 2012
i think its unscientific to make someone resign just because he is wrong. science is not about that, its more about methods than results.
DaFranker
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
i think its unscientific to make someone resign just because he is wrong. science is not about that, its more about methods than results.

He speaketh the truth. Nay a one doth hear.
JIMBO
4.6 / 5 (17) Mar 30, 2012
This purely political BS is an abomination of the scientific method, & an insult to Dr. Ereditato, whose team has impeccable credentials in experimental physics. CERN's director even backed their going public with the initial results. Science demands skepticism, and to punish a scientist for taking a bold step, will only intimidate others from doing so.
Jitterbewegung
2.1 / 5 (14) Mar 30, 2012
Have any climate scientists ever resigned?
Callippo
1.5 / 5 (11) Mar 30, 2012
i think it's unscientific to make someone resign just because he is wrong. science is not about that, it's more about methods than results.
Of course it is unscientific - and unprofessional too. If nothing else, whole half of mainstream physics should be fired immediately, after then - the string theorists at the first line. What this guy actually did? He organized a colloquium about his finding at CERN - everything else is just a work of sensation-seeking journalists. Whereas the failures, whose main purpose was to strengthen the mainstream religion are tolerated in quiet. The bias of scientific community against findings, which could impeach mainstream paradigm is quite apparent in this case.

In addition, as I do firmly believe, the original OPERA results are actually relevant to reality, whereas the later findings not. Will Ereditato get a public satisfaction, when it turns out, his experiments were still correct?
Turritopsis
3.1 / 5 (13) Mar 30, 2012
I think it's rather presumptuous to assume that the resignation was, a) forced, or b) even related to the FTL fiasco. This smells of sensationalism, the FTL experiment results brought a lot of attention to the community, I would hope that the apparatus error didn't influence his decision to resign. Errors happen.

My guess would be that Antonio Ereditato's resignation had more to do with him pursuing his research interests rather than shame or disgrace caused by the falsified experimental results. He didn't jump the gun when the data came in, but placed it under high scrutiny and the error was eventually discovered. He handled the data well and ultimately found the 6 * 10^-8 second discrepancy to have been caused by a timing error generated by a loose fiberoptic connection. Ereditato followed the scientific method to the end and came out of it with true results (at least from the relativistic viewpoint).

Callippo
1.6 / 5 (7) Mar 30, 2012
I think it's rather presumptuous to assume that the resignation was, a) forced, or b) even related to the FTL fiasco.
Thinking is the manifestation of the lack of information. Don't "think" and babble at public - just review the sources first. Reports said some members of his group, called OPERA, had wanted Prof. Antonio Ereditato to resign. http://www.bellen...qd6hL4mu According to Stanco, Ereditato resigned following a vote of no-confidence. Stanco told physicsworld.com that the vote took place last night, with 65% of the collaboration opting for a vote of no-confidence in their spokesperson. He said that while a formal motion of no-confidence required 67% of votes, it seems that Ereditato decided that resignation was the correct thing to do.
Callippo
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2012
The reason for the lack of confidence, Stanco (leader of the OPERA group at the University of Padovo) says, was that many in the collaboration felt that Ereditato had failed to be sufficiently cautious when discussing the superluminal-neutrino results, having failed to make it clear that these were preliminary. "I was against the way things were communicated, Stanco says. "In front of the media, we had a duty to be more careful with our language." Stanco says that it will now take a few weeks to find a new spokesperson. "We have to carry on. We are physicists and we have a duty to continue working on this as OPERA represents a huge investment," he says.

http://physicswor...col.html
Feldagast
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2012
I sure hope he wasn't forced to resign, as far as I'm concerned he did it right. They found a irregularity, checked it, and posed it as a question to others. They never claimed it was fact or made claims about the results other than what they found. They laid out what they did and what they found nothing more and left it to other to speculate. How was that wrong to share what they had found.
Yenaldlooshi
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
Get yes ass outta here Mr. Copernicus! Same dance different tune. Shit Happens
Midcliff
2.8 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2012
This article left out the most important details of the failure:
the "60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fibre optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos' flight and an electronic card in a computer.

"After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fibre, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed,"

He got fired for announcing an incredibly unlikely finding and then wasted eveybodies time and money repeating it before having the sense to tighten all the cables and pour over the entire system seaching for faults. Someone has to be responsible for that error in judgement.

http://www.physor...cle.html
Lurker2358
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 30, 2012
This is scientific "heresy hunting" and couldn't possibly be good for the future of real research, particularly in fringe areas.

The hope of any good science or philosophy is to find the truth, regardless of whether it lines up with our perceptions previously established knowledge or belief.

If someone really does find some special case that violates the speed of light postulate, or some other equally revolutionary discovery, what then?

They will be afraid to publish the mere idea that it might have happened, for fear of being expelled from their position in university or government, or from the entire scientific community!

This sort of behavior is exactly what nobody wants, well, except maybe the idiot tea party...but I mean seriously, I'd rather reward some guy for trying and being wrong, than for not doing anything at all in new areas of science.
Lurker2358
1.9 / 5 (7) Mar 30, 2012
He got fired for announcing an incredibly unlikely finding before tightening all the cables and rechecking the entire system for faults. Someone has to be responsible for that error in judgement.

http://www.physor...cle.html


BS man.

You know what happens when you find an error in an experimental apparatus? You fix it and do the experiment over again, that's what.

You don't resign, and you don't go around firing people or demanding they resign.

I mean, if that's the case, everyone at LHC and other collider teams would be fired by now, because they've all been wrong about the Higgs over and over again. So let's can all them right?

Not that finding or not finding the Higgs would likely make much of a difference. At this point I can't imagine what sort of useful technology would come of it, nor has anyone even proposed anything that I know of, but that's beside the point. FTL neutrinos would be more revolutionary.
Midcliff
5 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2012
that's all good and well Lurker, just next time tighten the cable to your GPS before announcing a land speed record and costing us a bunch of money and reputation - on second thought, your fired!
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Mar 31, 2012
Blakut
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2012
What you fail to understand is that this is italy. If someone on his team wanted to stab this guy in the back, he had his chance. Scientists are not saints, we have our share of bad people too. Politics and rivalry are present in all research groups.
Callippo
1 / 5 (4) Apr 01, 2012
What you fail to understand is .. scientists are not saints..
I'm not sure, if it's just me, who lacks such an understanding..;-) We could even ask, why do you exactly mean, I posted this link right here?
city15
not rated yet Apr 01, 2012
There are no absolutes in theory
Blakut
5 / 5 (1) Apr 01, 2012
I mean Callippo that maybe he was dismissed because he was an ahole, i've seen this happen. People waited for an excuse to kick out someone on the team. It's not a conspiracy, he didn't discover FTL neutrinos and was dismissed because he talked. The politics behind his decision will probably come to light... or not.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
I mean Callippo that maybe he was dismissed because he was an a$hole, i've seen this happen.
?? Prove it. Ereditato released this information in the moment, when it leaked already at some blogs from internal sources. He couldn't do anything else.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
Adetailed explanation of what went wrong during first OPERA experiments. Anyway, I'm not sure, that the neutrinos cannot move superluminaly. We observed it in another experiments too and the function of their speed to energy is even pretty linear, which implies, the OPERA results aren't just a random mistake. http://cr4.global...EF89.jpg http://vixra.file...ecay.png
lbentil
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
It was one of 2 main outcomes, either he will be praised or not and he had to choose a side, he made a move and now he's basically punished for making the wrong move? Such is the nature of society.
Imperfections of a system trying to look perfect.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
now he's basically punished for making the wrong move? Such is the nature of society. Imperfections of a system trying to look perfect.
But he didn't made a wrong move. He informed about what scientists in OPERA cooperation had found as usually. It was his job to inform people, what happens in Gran Sasso underground. Was he supposed to say: "Yep, we published a preprint - but actually nothing happened yet, we still checking the data?" instead?
Blakut
not rated yet Apr 02, 2012
Kinedryl, i said maybe, which means i'm not sure. But the probability of getting fired because people dislike someone is really high in general. I don't know exactly what happened, and it seems there is not too much info about it. If i hear something i'll let you know.
Teneca
1 / 5 (1) Apr 02, 2012
But the probability of getting fired because people dislike someone is really high in general
For example, Fred Zwicky was ignored with two generations of astronomers, because they didn't like him - but he was still one of most talented and productive astronomers ever. The lazy coward sheeps simply don't like these, who don't behave in their way instinctively - the question is, if we, tax payers, should tolerate it. We as a layman publics should prefer the free communication channels with researchers, because we are actually those, who are paying them. The scientists are payed from public money, the only criterion of their jobs positions should be therefore the veracity of their informations. If they failed with something, we should want to know about it. So if someone should be fired here, then just the people, who forced Mr. Ereditato to resignation. Because what he was actually fired for was the open communication with public, nothing else.
denijane
not rated yet Apr 09, 2012
This is an absurd. This is observational science it's normal to make errors. The team had checked their results thoroughly enough, with their announcement, they were actually calling for help in finding out where is the problem (if any). A very honest and brave act, for me.
I'm reallly sorry for Dr. Ereditato.
Precisely this kind of behavior chokes real science, because every time people find something controversial, they are too scared to announce it. And in the end, we have tons of boring articles on the same issue, which merely restate we already know. Congratulations, scientific world.
Feldagast
1 / 5 (1) Apr 09, 2012
Big money in testing for the government, even the stupidest idea can rake in lots of cash. Try testing shrimp on a treadmill.
http://usgovinfo....yers.htm

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