There’s was a report out of CERN yesterday that scientists there measured neutrinos sent from Bern to Italy arrived 60 nanoseconds faster than light.

Is this a game-changer? Or just a really close call?

First, the obligatory sensational video:

And then a more considered view, in writing, of course:

European researchers said they clocked an oddball type of subatomic particle called a neutrino going faster than the 186,282 miles per second that has long been considered the cosmic speed limit.

The claim was met with skepticism, with one outside physicist calling it the equivalent of saying you have a flying carpet. In fact, the researchers themselves are not ready to proclaim a discovery and are asking other physicists to independently try to verify their findings.

Roll over Einstein: Law of physics challenged (Update 3)

As noted in the article, the scientist’s results have been pre-published in ArXiv. PDF is available there for download.

One skeptical comment to the article made what I think is a very important point, citing actual evidence from an event in the real universe:

If you do the math for Supernova 1987a, then neutrinos should have arrived 4 *years* before the supernova, not 3 hours like we observed. 60 nanoseconds *(168000 light years/730 kilometers) to years. And before you misread, even *that* was just a tortoise-and-hare problem. Neutrinos are pretty much transparent to the matter around the supernova, so they get enough of a head start to get here first, even though they travel slower than light (according to the established scientific principles at least).


More views from skeptics here:

Scientists stunned, sceptical on faster-than-light particles.

Here’s a critical review of the presentation made by the CERN team during a live webcast (archival video is now here).

I guess I’ve tipped my hand here. While impressed with the scientific method applied, I’m very skeptical of the conclusion. Not being a physicist, of course, my opinion doesn’t count for much. But there it is nonetheless. As someone who was an actual thinking adult with a lifelong interest in science during the “cold fusion” debacle, the lesson of how that “revolutionary discovery” was handled has not been forgotten.

Oh yeah, this is really funny.