FTL Neutrinos? Not so Fast…Maybe

Here we go, folks. Yet another update on the faster than light (FTL) neutrinos reported by CERN experiments (previous posts here, here, and here).

As a brief recap, last September, Physicists had detected neutrinos travelling from the CERN laboratory in Geneva to the Gran Sasso laboratory near L’Aquila that appeared to travel FTL. According to the experiment, the neutrinos made the trip in about 60 nanoseconds less than light would take. This raised eyebrows because it seems to violate the results of many other experiments, not to mention, Albert Einstein and special relativity.

Yesterday, ScienceInsider reported that a faulty cable connection might be to blame for the 60 nanosecond discrepancy. Apparently, a fiber optic cable connecting the GPS receiver and the computer was bad. According to ScienceInsider’s source, once the connection was fixed, scientists determined how long it would take data to travel down the cable. According to the article? About 60 nanoseconds.

Phil Plait commented on this article at his Bad Astronomy blog. He notes that this story is unconfirmed, so he urges caution. Although he does find it amusing that of all the mechanical and technical errors that could have caused the experiment to report FTL neutrinos, he did not think “loose cable” would be on that list.

Ars Technica also commented on the report. Skim down to the bottom and their update. Apparently, Nature News received a statement from the researchers noting that they found two potential issues (the cable being one). It would appear that the two issues skew the data in opposite directions.

In other words, more data is needed. This means more experiments on FTL neutrinos. But what I don’t get is if the cable was loose, or the connection was bad, why would data arrive earlier than expected? Strange. Anyway, I remain skeptical that future experiments will confirm FTL neutrinos. My money is on some screw-up or less-than-precise measurement. But then again, if confirmed, FTL neutrinos would be very cool indeed.