Interpreting the OPERA signal
If you’re in the mood for statistics, Antonio Palazzo of Technische Universitat Munchen has the paper for you.
It’s worth a look, even if only to dispel the pop-science idea that the neutrino observations were as simple as switching on a beam near the LHC and waiting for it to arrive at Gran Sasso. Rather, the researchers looked at a huge number of interactions between neutrinos and their detectors, applying a statistical analysis to derive a “probability density function” of the neutrino emission times.
That density function is designed to identify the point in two somewhat “smeared” waveforms – the proton events that produced the neutrinos, and the neutrinos detected at Gran Sasso – for which the experimenters can state “these neutrinos were definitely produced by the CERN proton beam at time X”.
Palazzo’s question is whether the right statistical techniques were applied: “it seems that the single waveforms are first summed together and then their sum is normalized to the total number of neutrino interactions in OPERA … such a procedure, if effectively adopted in OPERA, is questionable”, the paper states.
To help resolve this, Palazzo has asked that the OPERA researchers publish the timestamps of the experiment’s 16,000 detected neutrino interactions, along with those of the associated proton waveforms.
Walter Winter, however, doesn’t agree with Palazzo, asserting in this paper that “possible smearing effects … do not change the OPERA results”. That’s not, however, his main concern: Winter also questions the popular (among physicists) assumption that the superluminals must be “sterile” neutrinos.
His re-analysis of the reported data suggests that the “sterile superluminal” theory “can probably be ruled out”: some non-sterile types of superluminal neutrinos are, he suggests, necessary to explain the number of superluminals apparently observed.
The superluminal neutrino laser
A personal favourite of mine in the numerous attempts to explain the OPERA results is this paper by Rafael Torrealba at the University Centro Occidental in Venezuela.
In spite of some translational difficulty, Torrealba proposes the neat idea that the CERN experiment has actually invented a kind of “neutrino laser”: “the starting point of neutrinos could be shifted in time or driven by stimulated emission, as happens for an ultrashort pulse LASER traveling through an amplifier plasma with an initial population inversion”.
“In other words”, he writes, “the traveling distance of the stimulated neutrinos is shorter than that of the not stimulated ones.”
The world still turns
GPS relativity isn’t the only “mundane” source of possible error: two authors have independently asked whether the Earth’s rotation was properly accounted for in the OPERA analysis.
Markus Kuhn of the University of Cambridge (here) asks whether the effect is properly accounted for – while admitting that it would only have a 2ns influence on the reported result, insufficient to invalidate the apparently superluminal trip.
Dominique Monderen – whose paper doesn’t give an affiliation, proving that this review process truly is open to all – also queries the impact of the Earth’s rotation, noting that “the distance [of the neutrino trip] and the time of flight are measured in two different inertial time frames.”
Distance, she says, is measured in a static time frame, but the time of flight experiences Earth’s rotation.
Any of the discussions hitting the wires over at Arxiv.org could be the answer, or none of them might be.
However, before seizing on any single item as being a candidate for refuting the OPERA results, science journalists – who really should know better – would do well to keep a couple of things in mind.
First, the publication of the OPERA results at such an early stage was designed to attract exactly this kind of public scrutiny.
Second, nearly all of the explanations, questions and refutations will themselves need to be reviewed before they can be accepted. ®
The thing about this I'm enjoying most
is watching the process of scientific review being done out in the open
I've proven it by experimentation
This describes an experiment performed to identify how an object spinning at speeds approaching that of light can affect the measurement of other objects that are introduced into the system, and the sufficient comprehension thereof by the experimentor.
Firstly, we must identify inputs and assumptions.
Light Speed - c.
The only way I could effectively measure this is to find some light and then see how fast it travels.
The only light to hand was that inside a pocket torch.
I threw this across the room and measured it with a stop watch.
Time taken for the light to cross the room = 1.4s.
Distance thrown = 4 m.
My value for c = 2.85 m/s
The torch was broken in the experiment.
Given this value, I set out to examine a spinning object, and if I can accelerate to approaching light speed.
Through observation I identified that a spinning human will have rotational speed at the fingers approaching 2.8m/s, or c.
The experiment the proceeded to measuring something in relation to the spinning object.
This took the form of an extended tape measure and a balloon full of water passing through the air nearby (to give sufficient mass not to be affected by relativistic gravity effects).
The 2 things to be identified :-
* What strange effects are there in a spinning system approaching the speed of light.
* How confused could the experimentor become and still gather valid data.
-- Results --
The results were as expected, strange effects were observed, and the experimentor failed to fully understand the results as they were on going, requiring subsequent analysis and processing.
Firstly, the human experimentor (me) span up to the required speed holding the tape measure (extended). This gave the tip of the tape measure a measured rotational speed in _excess_ of light speed!
The balloon was then released and began its approach to the spinning object.
Unfortunately measuring the approach of the balloon was curtailed when it, inexplicably, exploded.
The experimentor is still perplexed by this. After cleaning up the water, it was identified that not all of the balloon was present. It appears that some has become converted directly to pure energy.
This will form the basis of a subsequent paper entitled "Cold Fusion from water balloons".
Given these results, I come the conclusion that strange things happen when spinning at light speed, and that I as a the performer of the experiment am unable to fully explain the results.
Dr Bo Gus (Ins. ANE)
"Richard, since this paper has been published you have been beside yourself with alarm and distress that relativity is being questioned, or not as useful as we thought:"
That's not the impression I've been getting. Perhaps the difference is that I know just how much is riding on this. Special Relativity is a purely logical conclusion forced on you if you accept the laws of electromagnetism discovered by Maxwell in the 1860s. Einstein's contribution was "merely" to point this out. (It is a measure of how painful the mixing of space and time is for most people that his contribution is reckoned by most people to be a separate discovery, and a *physics* discovery, and one worthy of a part-share of a Nobel prize.)
Prior to fixing the laws of electromagnetism, the only fundamental laws known were those of mechanics. Since settling on Maxwell's laws, the only new field to be opened up which *doesn't* depend on EM, is thermodynamics. (This goes much wider than physics. Modern chemistry is now theoretically grounded in quantum theory, as it relates to the behaviour of electrons and atoms. Large parts of biology are now explained with chemistry, to the extent that a chemistry A-level is more important than a biology one if you want to take the latter subject at university level.)
If Maxwell is wrong, the experimental measurements don't go away. You are left with a metric fuckton of results that we depend on in everyday life for which you need to explain why they are still true even though Maxwell is wrong.
You need a bloody sight more than 5 sigma on *one* experiment to persuade the community that they've been talking bollocks for the last 150 years and should start again.