Faster than the speed of light

There have been lots of headlines and quotes from various people about the press release from CERN about observations that indicated that they have observed neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. There have been a number of “authorities” claiming that these results must be wrong, because its absolutely certain that nothing can travel faster than light.

Of course, most of the media coverage more or less completely ignores the content of the press release from CERN. What they actually said was that over three years and many (thousands) experiments they have consistently observed that the time taken for the neutrinos to travel the 730km between CERN and Gran Sasso the time taken has been 0.00000006 seconds shorter than light takes to cover the same distance. This is equivalent to the distance being 20m shorter than it actually is, so the difference is actually very small, but measurable and consistent.

The scientists at CERN are doing what all good scientists do when their observations clash with accepted understanding. First, they look for errors and alternative explanations to account for their measurements. After exhausting all the explanations that they can think of, and not finding any of them account for the discrepancy, before announcing the demise of one of the cornerstones of current physics, they have made their methodology and data available to others, and asked them to verify the methodology and to examine the data for alternative explanations. Only when heir results are confirmed, and quite possibly replicated (or not) by others, will they feel somewhat confident in claiming that there are indeed some particles which can exceed the speed of light.

Its good to see that at least in some quarters, the scientific method is alive and healthy, with scientists freely and voluntarily sharing their methodology and data with others, and asking them to validate or disprove their findings.

Contrast this with so-called “climate scientists” who, along with the organizations that employ them, spend millions of dollars to avoid having to share any of their methodology or data, and famously wrote to somone asking for a copy of the data: “Why should I share my data with you when I know that all you will do with it is look for problems”.

Of course, looking for problems is exactly how real science works, not by having a few mates read a publication, declare it good, then claiming that the science is settled.