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Q & A: CERN neutrinos: Do we need to rewrite Einstein?

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Most recent answer: 11/22/2011
Q:
If neutrinos are found to actually travel faster than the speed of light, will scientists have to rewrite everything (formulas ect) or will they have to devise new formulas? Also, if neutrinos act as if moving through a vacuum while traveling through physical objects, do they pass through atoms or force them to move? It would seem either way energy would need to be exerted and thus decrease speed. Thank you
- Gabrielle
Ellensburg
A:
If this experiment is correct then the theory of Special Relativity is in trouble.   I hope that some minor detail of the experimental procedure can be shown to be incorrectly parametrized and make things right.  Unfortunately that's not easy.   I have read their preliminary paper and these experimenters have done a good job.    .  But, there are many many things that can go wrong, perhaps they missed one.   There certain to be a flurry of activity in the physics community looking for an answer.  Physicists at Fermilab will be tooling up to check this out.

About your second question:  neutrinos are so weakly interacting with ordinary matter that on their flight path from CERN to GranSasso they only rarely interact with anything.   It takes a multi-ton detector in order to see an interaction or two.

LeeH

(published on 09/23/2011)

Follow-Up #1: More on the superluminal neutrino problem

Q:
They say that the faster-than-light neutrinos have been re-confirmed. They did indeed excedeed lightspeed. It is unbelievable!!!! What's gonna happen now? Einstein was wrong??? How can we explain this? What's gonna happen to time dilation and Lorentz's transformation??? What's gonna happen to our understanding of the universe? If c isn't the limit, then why do we use it in E=mc2 ? Why photons travel at c? Why gravity move at c? Why???????
- Anonymous
A:
Not so fast... don't bet the farm yet.    The new measurement addresses only one of the several possible systematic errors in the experiment.   What they did was to adjust the timing of the internal accelerator beam to reduce the time spread in the proton bunches that make the neutrinos. Good. But there are still things to be checked.  The main one in my opinion is the synchronization of the CERN clock with the Gran Sasso clock by means of GPS signals.  There are some tricky general relativistic corrections that could mimic the effect.     My money is still in uncle Al's corner.  Stay tuned, it's not over yet.

LeeH

(published on 11/18/2011)

Follow-Up #2: neutrino prisms?

Q:
Re. Whether neutrinos are superluminary or not. Would a much quicker and much cheaper expt. to clarify this point be by passing a beam of neutrinos through a prism? Surely, if the neutrinos are superluminary, the beam should be deflected in the opposite direction to light, i.e towards the upper apex?
- John Hagel (age 60)
London, UK
A:
Neutrinos interact so weakly with matter that there's no way to make anything like a neutrino prism. Recently Cohen and Glashow claimed that superluminal neutrinos would give Cerenkov radiation, which was not detected. Of course, some theoretical assumptions went in to that prediction.

For now, we'll stick with our earlier evaluations.

Mike W.

(published on 11/22/2011)

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