Loose cable may explain speedy neutrinos, according to an article in Science vol. 335 p1027 2 March 2012, DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6072.1027.

In December 2011 physicists at CERN in Switzerland caused a great stir in the scientific community when they published results of experiments indicating neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. As part of the process of checking for anomalies, scientists have measured the time taken for light pulses to travel along an 8 km optical fibre that connects an external GPS receiver to the Gran Sasso laboratory, Italy, where the neutrinos were being detected after being fired from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland.

According to Science: “The investigators discovered that the pulses’ transit time varied by several tens of nanoseconds depending on how tightly the coaxial fibre cable was plugged into a socket attached to a card inside the experiment’s master-clock computer. The card converts the light pulses into electronic signals. Any loose connection was supposed to stop the pulses from being registered, but instead it appears that the card allowed the delayed pulses to get through. So a loose connection during the experiment would have stamped neutrino pulses with arrival times suggesting faster-than-light travel”.

Meanwhile, further experiments are being carried out by the CERN team, using two independent timing systems, and in the USA by scientists at Fermilab near Chicago who are sending neutrinos to the MINOS detector in a mine in northern Minnesota.

Editorial Comment: If you have had trouble getting your GPS to work, you can stop feeling so bad now. If quantum physicists can’t plug in their GPS properly, what hope have the rest of us got?

However, the fact that the CERN team and the Fermilab team, as well as some Japanese researchers, are prepared to keep experimenting means there was enough in the original results for them not to write the whole thing off as bad wiring, just yet. We await their results with interest.

Evidence News 21 March 2012

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