Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Remember those faster than light neutrinos?

Great, now forget them! Turns out the neutrinos along with not mutating and heating up the planet are also not travelling faster than the speed of light, they're just travelling *close* to light speed. Boo! Hiss! A Dutch scientist has completely rained on CERN'S parade. It's all very complicated but essentially what it boils down to is that the GPS satellites used to measure the departure and arrival times of the racing neutrinos were themselves subject to Einsteinian effects, because they were in motion relative to the experiment. This relative motion wasn't properly taken into account, but it would have decreased the neutrinos' apparent journey time. Or something to that effect, basically they don't go faster than the speed of light until someone from CERN comes back to tell us otherwise (yes yes I know you're all waiting with baited breath).

My point anyway is that this is what I love about science. "Science knows it doesn't know everything, otherwise it would stop." We're not going to see a cataclysmic schism akin to the Reformation over this. The CERN scientists will turn around and go "Bugger, perhaps we should try this again." And someone else will be waiting in the wings to test and test again until they break their big giant Haydron Collider and have to rebuild that all over too. We do not have to rely on faith, the CERN scientists are not going to say that the Dutch scientist is wrong because "It is writ in the great book that the neutrinos have traveled faster than light, and those who believe may also travel at the speed of light. And those who lack faith will forever be condemned to travelling on Ryanair!" It doesn't work like that, the Dutch scientist is not going to be burned for being a heretic or turn into the Martin Luther of the neutrino world. All that's going to happen for the next while is that you'll have to cancel your E-Bay bid on that Delorean because you're stuck here for another while.

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