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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Einstein Still On Top - Neutrinos Not Faster Than Light

Just about all physicists, including this one, were skeptical about a year ago when a neutrino experiment in Europe announced it had evidence that neutrinos move a bit faster than light.  The OPERA collaboration is similar to an experiment at Fermilab, where neutrino beams are shot through the Earth to detectors hundreds of miles away.  This experiment published its results and wanted the scientific community to try to figure out if any mistakes were made, knowing that the significance of this result did nothing short of suggesting Einstein's theory of relativity was flawed.

But now, five independent groups have reproduced the experiment and verify neutrinos obey relativity and move slower than light.  A likely problem with the OPERA experiment is in its fiber optic timing system.

This is a wonderful example of how science is supposed to work.  Results are published, and other scientists need to be skeptical and open-minded about the results.  Repetition and reproducibility lie at the heart of the process of science, where ideally independent groups repeat experiments to confirm results.  Science works through observation and experimentation, where physical evidence rules the day.  So the foundational theories of physics, relativity and quantum mechanics, still come through in the heat of tests.

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