22
Sep
11

I don’t know what’s more shocking…

…the possibility that CERN just found a faster-than-light particle with nonzero mass, or the let’s-not-get-ahead-of-ourselves caution permeating its reporting:

(Okay, the caution didn’t make it to the headline.)

Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab said Thursday they have clocked neutrinos traveling faster than light. That’s something that according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity — the famous E=mc^2 equation — just doesn’t happen.

“The feeling that most people have is this can’t be right, this can’t be real,” said James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, outside the Swiss city of Geneva.

Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.

“They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they’ve done and really scrutinize it in great detail, and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements,” he said Thursday.

My money’s on instrument failure of a new and subtle kind.  On the other hand, I can’t wrap my head around the idea of anyone at CERN releasing these results unless they’d checked them out about as thoroughly as they possibly could manage.  So this means that if nothing else, a few physicists will learn something important about how their tools work, which can only be a good thing.

——

Okay, obviously observed FTL masses would be more shocking than journalists reading CERN press releases and immediately squeeing “OMG spaceships!”  If this actually holds up, it could be as game-changing as a poly-time 3SAT solver.  I’m not gonna hold my breath, mind you, but seeing as how the article hints at a similar result from Fermilab I’m not willing to write it off completely either.

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