Thursday, 23 February 2012 21:51

CERN's neutrinos slow down to light speed

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It seems the error in the recent neutrino experiment has been discovered, Einstein can finally stop rolling in his grave.

Just before Christmas, iTWire reported an experiment that produced highly improbable results.

According to those results, a stream of neutrinos fired through the Earth's crust from CERN's Opera experiment on the French - Swiss border was arriving at a detector in northern Italy about 60 nanoseconds sooner than it was expected to arrive.  The inescapable conclusion was that the neutrinos were travelling faster than light; something that Einstein was quite sure couldn't happen.

In announcing the results, the researchers also didn't believe them, but having been unable to fault the experiment, they invited other research teams around the world to duplicate the experiment and either agree or disagree with the result.

It turns out that the duplication isn't necessary.

Science Insider (the popular science announcement forum from the American Association for the Advancement of Science) today published a report based on insider knowledge at the detecting facility.  They've found the error.

It seems that an optical fibre connector linking the GPS receiver to the primary computer was slightly loose.  Testing of the connection found that the mismatched connection was introducing a 60 nanosecond delay into the timing information, thus allowing the neutrinos to *appear* to arrive 60 nanoseconds too soon.

Although still planning to re-run the experiment, the team seems confident that they've slowed their neutrinos back to exactly the speed of light.  The Karl Popper inspired falsification of Relativity has fallen at the first hurdle (test and re-test your equipment!).

Oh, and in case you're wondering, a highly accurate GPS receiver is a very useful way to get a properly synchronised time signal for both the sending and receiving stations.


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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