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Posts tagged ‘cern’

September 23rd, 2011

Can neutrinos travel faster than speed of light?

So, this perhaps has nothing to do with software as we use it, but CERN has a very important place in the history of the web, so I couldn’t resist.

This is what the scientists in CERN have found, and are trying to validate: They bombarded beams of neutrinos (many of them, so that they can collect many results) from the CERN laboratory near Geneva, and observed the beams of neutrinos from their station in Gran Sasso moutain, in Abruzzo in Southern Italy.  The latitude/longitude values for these places are (46 14’04.68″ N, 6 02’37.27″ E) and (42 28′ 09″ N, 13 33′ 53″ E) respectively.

Using the latitude/longitude to distance calculator (see, for example, http://www2.nau.edu/~cvm/latlongdist.html), we can calculate the aerial distance between these two places to be: 730.3127 KM.  However, the neutrinos and other particles travel in straight line, not on the surface of the earth, so for that we need the distance in 3 D space.  That distance is said to be 730 KM by the publication (obviously, decimal details not included).  This can then be translated into light seconds by dividing it with speed of light, which is,  299 792 458 m/s, and we obtain that the beam of neutrinos should take 0.00245350178949465 seconds, that is, about 2.45 milliseconds, or about 2453502 nanoseconds.  However, they we were able to observe the beams reaching in approximately 2453442 nanoseconds.  If this result were to stand, it would mean that neutrinos traveled faster than the speed of light.  Since the instruments can have errors in their own data collection, scientists have tried to measure that as well, and estimated the combined margin of error to be about 10 nanoseconds. That implies that even if the instruments erred on the side of underestimating the time taken, the time taken was still about 50 nanoseconds less than light.

No one wants to mess with Einstein, so the scientists at CERN are approaching this very cautiously, and simply reporting this as the experimental findings, and letting the scientific community help them with validation, or refutation of the results.

My question is – should we try to account for the effect from Einstein turning in his grave?

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