If you follow scientific news at all you probably saw the headlines in September of last year when an experiment done by a particle accelerator at the CERN facilities in Switzerland appeared to show neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light (see my earlier post). A beam of neutrinos sent from the Super Proton Synchotron in Geneva seemed to arrive at a detector 730 kilometers away in Italy 60 nanoseconds faster than a beam of light sent at the same time. Of course, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity says that nothing can go faster than light, so this was potentially momentous news.
Fast forward to this week (but not faster than light!) and the scientists involved have announced that the results of the experiment are in doubt. They may have been caused by a data transmission problem. A fiber-optic cable that fed data from a GPS used in the timing procedure wasn’t as tight as it should have been, and that bad connection could potentially have produced a time discrepancy that suspiciously matches the 60 nanoseconds at the heart of the furor.
Now, this isn’t a clear-cut conclusion that the experiment was a bust, just an admission that an equipment problem could have accounted for the controversial results. The smell test says it probably did, and Einstein is still on his throne.
Which also means warp speed is still fiction. For now!