Fundamentally Too Fast

After announcing in September that they had detected neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, OPERA researchers immediately set out to replicate their results. On Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel says they reconfigured the neutrino beam, which originally fired 10,000-nanosecond pulses, “to produce much, much shorter pulses—less than 10ns. And while they’ve only been running this way for a few weeks, they’ve already got 20 neutrino detections from the shorter pulses, and they see exactly the same timing anomaly.” This confirmation rules out problems with the original experimental design, showing that the OPERA results are at least self-consistent. On Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel says there could still be a “systematic error in their expected delay calculations, which may be due to something like the atomic clocks, the measurement of the baseline distance, an electronics triggering mishap, or some other mundane reason akin to these.” Independent results from an experiment called MINOS could confirm or contradict OPERA’s findings in two years, but for now we can wonder: why would a subatomic particle exceed Einstein’s speed limit by .0002 percent?