Wednesday, November 2, 2011

European Physicists Will Race Neutrinos Again, Trying to Reproduce Faster-Than-Light Results

OPERA Detector A lateral view of the OPERA detector. 
Gran Sasso National Laboratory

PopSci - The physicists who claimed to see neutrinos moving faster than light are moving quickly to replicate their experiment, hoping to substantiate their results before submitting them for publication. Since announcing their bizarre, seemingly impossible findings last month, physicists around the world have offered a few possible explanations. But perhaps the best test will be a retest.

The OPERA experiment sends a beam of neutrinos from CERN in Geneva, through the mountains to Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory. The point is to look for flip-flops in neutrino flavor, which requires precisely measuring and averaging the chargeless particles’ arrival and departure times. It was in this routine timing that a team led by Antonio Ereditato found particles apparently moving faster than light. They were arriving at Gran Sasso about 60 nanoseconds earlier than the time it would take light to travel the same distance. This violates the known laws of physics, but the OPERA collaborators saw it happen so frequently that it couldn’t be a fluke; they released their findings to the greater scientific community, hoping for some insight. Several other physicists have since proposed new theoretical explanations, including the possibility that the clocks on the GPS satellites used for the precise arrival-departure timing do not themselves account for relativistic motion.              More