Transluminal Neutrinos? Not So Fast!


186,000 miles per second. It's still the law!

Last year researchers in Italy claimed to have detected neutrinos that traveled faster than the speed of light. If true, this could signal the era of a whole new physics. Who knows? Perhaps warp drives or some such technique for traveling between the stars might be possible. On the other hand, most physicists were betting that Einstein was right and that there was something wrong with the Italian experiment. It seems that the doubters of transluminal neutrinos are right. ScienceInsider reports

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos' flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed. Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.

One further note: Some Reason commenters seemed frustrated (you know who you are) that I had not reported on this allegedly transluminal phenomenon. Two points: First, since this is an opinion magazine and website, I tend to limit my reporting to scientific issues with a public policy angle, e.g., uncontroversial topics such as climate change, embryonic stem cells, biotech crops, demographic trends, epidemiology, genetic testing, etc. Second, with regard to just sheerly fascinating experimental results, my reportorial tendency is to wait until the results have been duplicated and confirmed. Just saying.