Thought for the month

“Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction the sign of truth.” Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and physicist (1623 – 62).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Could be slower (or faster)

Many in the scientific press have decided that the potentially theory busting neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light are no more. The primary culprit being the timing system. However the recent press release from CERN and the OPERA group could be interpreted as a wonderful mix of honesty confusion and damage limitation. The groups have informed funding agencies that it has identified two possible effects that could have an influence on its neutrino timing measurement. One of them, due to a possible faulty connection in the fibre-optic cable carrying the GPS signals between Switzerland and Italy, would have caused the experiment to underestimate the neutrinos' flight time, thus negating the faster than light claim. The other effect concerns an oscillator in OPERA's particle detector that gives its readings' time stamps synchronized to GPS signals. Researchers think correcting for an error in this device would actually increase the anomaly in neutrino velocity, making the particles even speedier than the earlier measurements seemed to show.

The potential extent of these two effects is being studied with further experiments scheduled for May.

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