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December 04, 2011

The Latest on Speeding Neutrinos

Son Jarah was interviewed last week on CRI, China's English-Language equivalent of the BBC. The subject was the possible evidence of neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, which came from an experiment at CERN. Here's the show description from CRI:

2011-12-02 Speed of Light
The Speed of light. It's the universal speed limit. A constant that has informed physics since Albert Einstein laid out his theory of special relativity.
But a new experiment may disprove all of that. The OPERA lab in Italy has early results suggesting that sub atomic particles called Neutrinos may travel faster than the speed of light.
Today our panel of experts are taking a look first at the experiment itself, then at the reactions and impacts to the discovery and finally at the outlook of physics in light of these new results.
- Jarah Evslin, Professor at the Institute of High Energy Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
- Alexander Vikman, a CERN Fellow.
- Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, A theoretical Physicist from Sapienza University of Rome.

111202today1[1]>The Interview

When asked about a paper by a Nobel-laureate which says that the CERN results can't be right because they are theoretically impossible, Jarah says "Of course a theoretical argument cannot disprove an experiment, only a failure to repeat the experiment by another group can do that." All three interviewees are thoroughly scientific in both their skepticism about the results of an experiment which has yet to be independently replicated and their willingness to consider that a long-standing interpretation of Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity may be wrong despite the fact that it's accepted wisdom.

Jarah actually gives Einstein a hall pass and says that special relativity only claims 1) that nothing can exceed the speed of light IN A VACUUM (the possibly superluminal neutrinos were passing through the very solid crust of the earth); and that no subluminal particle can become superluminal (the neutrinos probably began their journey at - not below - the speed of light).

All three scientists agree that the CERN results are "probably" wrong. However, the last question of the show is "are we on the brink of a major shift in our understanding of the universe?" Only Jarah says "yes".

Jarah's latest paper on what the OPERA experiment might tell us if confirmed is at http://arxiv.org/abs/arXiv:1111.0733.

related post:

v-c: What If It’s Positive?


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