Neutrinos: Faster Than Light?
DawnGurl: Experiments in Europe have implied that neutrinos may be traveling faster than light by arriving at their destination as much as 60 nanoseconds ahead of expectations had they been traveling at the speed of light. If this is true then many concepts will have to change and most significantly, the whole notion of cause and effect. Imagine receiving a reply to your text before you even send it.
What do you think? Is this possible? Or are scientists making some systemic mistake?
DawnGurl: By the way, Einstein postulated that the nothing can exceed the speed of light, unless there is an unusual event like light traveling through a 'wormhole.'
Yan26: If you are referring to the one carried out by the Italian guys most reoprts say that errors have already been found in them.
DawnGurl: However the same results were confirmed at CERN recently, and also at Fermi in Chicago. So theres more to this mystery than a few 'mistakes.'
DawnGurl: That Register article was very good and the best refutation Ive read yet. But CERN reported similar findings; opponents say the GPS clock usually 'drifts' by 10 nanoseconds which would skew the results. We shall see.
Corwin: Well, if it turns out that these neutrinos are in fact traveling faster than light... I imagine they will be in deep trouble... how dare they break the laws of Relativity?
CoIin: What's interesting is that the neutrino was first introduced as an "ad hoc hypothesis" by Wolfgang Pauli.
"Interestingly enough, the neutrino was first invented as an ad hoc hypothesis, in order to save the laws of conservation of energy and momentum from falsification. Around 1930, in the first detailed studies of radioactive beta-decays, it was found that some energy and momentum went missing in each decay. Beta decay involves the conversion of a neutron into a proton, accompanied by the emission of an electron, and nothing else visible. The energy carried away by the electron ought to match the energy released by the atom in the process – but it didn't! Wolfgang Pauli proposed to explain this discrepancy by postulating that an additional, invisible particle was emitted along with the electron, carrying away the missing energy and momentum. This "ghost particle" was named neutrino. (For some of Pauli's original musings about the neutrino, see Mössbauer (1998).)"
It's often the case in science that some data or evidence fails to dovetail with the theory in question. Now, if we were strict Popperian falsificationists, we would bite the bullet and reject the theory. In practice this almost never happens, after all, good theories are hard to come by. Instead, one of two things normally happens:-
1. The recalcitrant data or phenomenon continues to defy explanation and is labelled an "anomaly". The precession of the perihelion of Mercury under Newtonian mechanics is an obvious example. It was never accounted for until the whole Newtonian paradigm was usurped by Einstein's relativistic mechanics, which explained it very nicely.
2. An "ad hoc hypothesis" is proposed. This is something like a patch for a theory. It suggests a way for the theory to be salvaged, but there is absolutely no evidence to support it (at least to begin with) and we admit it, perhaps tentatively, ONLY BECAUSE IT SAVES THE THEORY.
Ad hoc hypotheses, which are not only found in science, run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous. If your data failed to fit your theory, you might posit the existence of an unknown force or particle, you might postulate that the data was gathered on a Thursday and that the day of the week has an effect on the phenomenon at issue (silly perhaps, but at least independently testable) or you might blame it on Satan (which would not be independently testable).
The most famous example of an ad hoc hypothesis-come-good in science is the discovery of Neptune. The orbit of Uranus was known to be at odds with the predictions of Newtonian physics. Instead of rejecting a highly cherished theory, and rather than sweep the anomaly under the rug, the existence of a previously unknown planet was proposed; its gravitational pull was purportedly responsible for Uranus's misbehavior. Well, the mathematicians did the calculations, the astronomers pointed their telescopes, and hey presto, they found it!
Well, getting back to these fleet-footed neutrinos, I don't think we should be too surprised if the results are indeed validated. General relativity, insofar as it is inconsistent with quantum theory, has been under suspicion almost since its inception. It was undeniably a stunning intellectual achievement, and will forever remain so, even if or when it is superseded, but when we have to posit that 96% of the universe's furniture is the so-called "dark matter" and "dark energy" (how's that for the mother of all ad hoc hypotheses? ) in order to save the theory, things would appear to be getting a bit precarious.
Corwin: I've just had an interesting thought here.....
What if these neutrinos in question weren't actually traveling faster than light, but instead traveling 10 nanoseconds back in time?
And if so, would it not appear the same either way?
DawnGurl: Quark: knock knock
Tachyon: who's there?
Quark: Old Lady
Tachyon: Old Lady Who?
Quark: I didnt know you could yodel!
Corwin: A lepton, a gluon, and a quark walk into a bar.
The bartender says, "What is this... some kind of a joke?"
Meanwhile, a Higgs Boson dances next to the jukebox, along to the song "We're Here For a Good Time, (not a long time) "
Okay, okay.... cut me some slack... I'm still drinking my coffee.
Some good-morning wake-up music anyway, from Canadian classic-rock band Trooper.
Corwin: On a more serious note---
I gave the matter of the faster-than-light neutrino some thought a while back when I first heard wind of it, which gave me the idea of the time-traveling neutrino.
Being a stubborn man, who wishes to believe that Einstein was fundamentally correct with his theories on Relativity, I began to think of loop-holes that could keep the basic theory intact.
We know that the Universe already compensates with things like Red-Shift to ensure that photons don't break the C speed limit... and we know about Time-Dilation which slows time for matter as it approaches C.
... But in a manner of speaking, photons already break this speed limit all the time... picture a light-bulb... photons escaping opposite ends of a light-bulb will be traveling at twice the speed of light relative to each other. (or C*2) Something so obvious, yet it breaks the rules with flagrant disregard.
So... (and this is pure speculation, I'm no Physicist)... what if the actual speed limit is C*2 (or more accurately "energy limit" ), but with certain rules bent by the Universe to compensate and keep all the checks and balances intact... and keep Mr. Einstein out of the dog-house.
So let's say that matter or particles that are forced, or simply allowed, to exceed C have no other recourse (as time is already halted and the C barrier met) than to monopolize on the effects of Time-Dilation and expend that added energy by contracting the time-envelope beyond the limits of dilation, and squeezing the two points in space-time together.
I suppose what I'm suggesting is just as kin to a worm-hole than actual time-travel... this is suggesting moving through space, without moving through time (which Einstein insisted was impossible).
But it would explain how those neutrinos appeared to outrun C. The neutrinos were only observed arriving too early... maybe we're jumping the gun by assuming that they broke the speed laws... we know nothing yet about the "time laws".
Imagine a starship... from what we know now, a ship traveling at light speed could travel 10 light years, with the trip being instantaneous for the traveler, but 10 years passing during the trip from the standpoint of someone at the point of departure.
But, let's say that as the ship approaches C*2, and is forced further back in time, it is allowed to reach it's destination at the same moment it departed.
But with C*2 being the ultimate ultimate speed limit (or rather "energy" limit), as I imagine the Universe would not allow a ship to arrive BEFORE it departed. Call me old-fashioned, but I refuse to accept the possibility of time-traveling into the past.
What I am proposing is time-traveling into the present, but with distances involved... so the distance traveled would be proportionate to how much this doubled Time-Dilation would be allowed.
Like I said, I'm no Physicist, and this is probably all nonsense... but if it isn't... we could have a true "warp-drive" within our reach... and a Higgs Boson Field may be what could allow us to do it.
Hmmm?? Your thoughts on this?
On a foot-note... I really did come up with this on my own... I didn't read it somewhere... I'm just waiting for an actual Physicist to explain to me how retarded I am.
If nothing else, it would make for some reasonable Science-Fiction premiss.
(I've made some EDITS btw)
(Edited by Corwin)
So I'm not the only one who felt that this could have time-travel implications.
But in that article I feel their model is flawed. In my C*2 model it doesn't allow matter or information to travel into the past... only to the present over distance. If we do away with cause-and-effect, and do away with Relativity altogether, then I feel the model falls apart.
And I believe in a Universe that would not allow cause-and-effect paradoxes to be possible.
In other words, NO going back and meeting yourself, and certainly no going back and shooting your own grandfather before you were born. In a thought experiment, I feel that the mere suggestion of a possible paradox means that we would be barking up the wrong tree, and need to go back to the drawing board.
I would prefer if we could keep Relativity as is, and simply expound beyond it... not do away with it.
Just as we didn't throw Isaac Newton out the window regarding gravity... we just fine-tuned the whole model, and took it further. Newton observed "what" seemed to be happening, and Einstein explained "why", and discovered more going on than mere billiards.
Unless of course we create a model of the Universe where infinite alternate realities all exist simultaneously, and we would avoid a paradox by simply entering one of these alternate realities... where you could go to your young grandfather's funeral and exist in a Universe where you were never born because you are actually only a visitor to that reality.
But something just feels wrong about that... and I think we would be making the Universe out to be far more complicated than it really is.
DawnGurl: In an infinite universe, every possible configuration of particles would be realized, including alternate realities. So past, present and future could exist as alternate realities and possibly even traveled to. Sorry to give you a headache Corvin but I just had to say this lol.
Corwin: Don't feel bad... I'm giving myself the headache.
Ah.... but that's another good point.... IS the Universe infinite? I don't believe so.
I imagine the Universe as an expanding bubble of space-time... it began infinitely small, but I feel it is likely finite in nature... unimaginably huge, but finite nonetheless.
Some have trouble with this model, and always ask "But what lies outside of it?"
Well.... nothing does... not even space-time... no canvas to paint on.
But to imagine a model of the Universe as infinite is something equally difficult to wrap our heads around. It could just be my simian brain which is too limited to grasp such a thing... but my gut tells me that infinity is something that exists solely in algebraic expression... we need it to make our numbers work, but I don't accept the notion of infinite space.
Corwin: Oh... I'll just mention... the reason why I have trouble with infinite space, but I can accept infinite mass or density, is because all you need to make something infinitely dense is to remove physical dimension, such as in a singularity. (it's just numbers)
Even a grain of sand would have infinite density and mass if perceived to be traveling at the velocity of C,... but to the grain of sand, it would still just be a grain of sand.
Again... it's all "relative".
Gawd... I need a drink.
CoIin: Hey Corvin. Love the way you think, buddy
And you've ruined my plans for this morning. I can't stop thinking about all these riddles you've cooked up for us
Well, I'm no physicist either, and if one comes in here, he'll doubtless tell me how retarded I am too
But a few thoughts...
1. Most importantly, I think, we tend to confuse ourselves when talking of relative qualities, because in other contexts, we might use them in an absolute sense. We speak of Mary being "taller" than Susan, but we also talk of Bill being just "tall", which assumes some objective standard of "tallness".
Even in less ambiguous cases like east vs west, while we do recognize that you can travel east for an eternity without getting any closer to an absolute "east", then again, within certain contexts, we might speak of Los Angeles being in "the West".
So for example - "and we know about Time-Dilation which slows time for matter as it approaches C"
You might just have phrased this carelessly, but you make it sound like time is in danger of stopping entirely. And you make it sound like it's only gonna happen to the hapless other dude. Whatever "happens" to him "happens" to you too.
Time (if Einstein is right), as you well know, is a relative quality. Time does not get "slower" or "faster" in any absolute sense, just as your position on the surface of the Earth cannot get absolutely "easter" or "wester". Time can only get slower, and your position can only get easter, with respect to another observer.
So, if it appears to you that the other dude is suffering the effects of time dilation, he will of course observe likewise in you. He'll be thinking "Gawd, that Canadian dude is sloooooooowwwww "
I always find it helpful to put myself in the other dude's shoes. No matter what weird effects we might think he's experiencing, he'll be standing there saying "But nothing's happening!" Kinda like us right here and right now. A million alien eyes may be trained on us right now, all of them coming to different conclusions as to our speed and mass. And which one is right? Well, all of them. And none of them.
2. I love your brainteaser about the photons shooting off in opposite directions from a lightbulb. I've been giving it some thought...
You said - "We know that the Universe already compensates with things like Red-Shift to ensure that photons don't break the C speed limit... and we know about Time-Dilation which slows time for matter as it approaches C.
... But in a manner of speaking, photons already break this speed limit all the time... picture a light-bulb... photons escaping opposite ends of a light-bulb will be traveling at twice the speed of light relative to each other. (or C*2) Something so obvious, yet it breaks the rules with flagrant disregard."
First thing to note is that we needn't worry about any rebellious photon travelling faster than C, because C JUST IS the speed of a photon. That's the definition. A man can't escape his definition LOL. A triangle needn't worry about waking up after a hard night's drinking and wondering whether he still has three sides
We might wonder if other things can travel faster than light, but we can rest assured that light will continue to travel at the speed of light.
Now, if we were to measure the speed of these 2 photons leaving the lightbulb, we'd surely measure C for each. So far so good. No laws have been broken. I think the apparent paradox in your scenario results from adding the speeds (i.e. relative speed - speed relative to YOU) of the two photons together and reaching 2C. Naughty naughty!
I don't think Relativity allows us to do that, does it? I think the mistake we make here is, as I said above, to confuse relative speed with some (non-existent) absolute speed.
Let's say you're standing in the middle of DawnGurl and me, and you unleash one of your notorious silent-but-deadly olfactory treats. DawnGurl bolts to the left at 100kph (let's ignore acceleration for simplicity and assume she achieves this speed instantaneously) and I bolt to the right at 100kph AS MEASURED BY YOU. See diagram below:-
................................ ... ...
The mistake now would be to infer that DawnGurl's speed relative to me is 200 kph. If Einstein is right, it will be ever-so-slightly less, Shirley?
Dang. I think I need a drink now too . But this is fun
CoIin: Or maybe this is clearer....
..... <<<<<<<< 0.9 C <<<<<<< >>>>>>> 0.9 C >>>>>
Consider the case of the snake. Let's call him Slasian . The camel and koala are both moving away from him at 0.9C. This does NOT mean, however, that the camel is moving at 1.8C relative to the koala.
They would measure each other's speeds to be somewhere between 0.9C and C. But I dunno how to do the exact calculations
Corwin: Ha ha ha...
I wish I was a real Physicist so I could do the "exact" calculations and laugh at you and your silly ideas... and if I was a real Physicist I could laugh at myself.. and MY silly ideas... (or not have these silly ideas at all).
But here we are....
High five, you snickering hound.
Ya never know.... I could be on to something... or I could be a drunken idiot... or both...
It all depends on where you're standing.
CoIin: The following is quoted from the link DawnGurl posted:-
"According to Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, neutrinos shouldn't even be able to match light speed, much less break it. Neutrinos have (very small) mass, and as Einstein posited in his famous E=mc squared equation, mass is equal to energy. As something speeds up, its energy increases, too. Because energy is equivalent to mass, its mass increases. Now you've got a heavier object, so you've got to add even more energy to get it going faster. Before you know it, you need "completely unreasonable" amounts of energy to keep inching your object toward light speed, said Harvard University physicist Gary Feldman.
"You keep accelerating but you just incrementally approach [light speed], so you have to add more and more energy to go faster and faster, but it becomes less and less effective," Feldman told LiveScience."
At the risk of being accused of hubris, and with all due respect to Prof. Feldman, I think we're being offered a misleading picture. As I've said, I'm not a scientist, but I can't help thinking that he's explaining this badly. I wish we did have a real physicist here LOL.
Take for example:-
1. @ - "As something speeds up..." - Isn't this a meaningless statement? "Speeds up" compared to what? He seems to be falling into the same old trap of assuming that some particular frame of reference is privileged.
Consider us here on Earth. Relative to various observers out there in the universe, who may be accelerating towards us, accelerating away from us, or in uniform motion, we may be said to be slowing down, speeding up, or moving at constant speed. Which is it? Are we speeding up right now? It's meaningless unless another frame of reference is specified.
2. @ - "... its energy increases, too. Because energy is equivalent to mass, its mass increases."
Again, think of us here on Earth - we're told that there are galaxies out there accelerating away from us at nearly the speed of light. Which is equivalent to saying that we're accelerating away from them at nearly the speed of light. Does that mean we are "gaining mass" as we sit here? It's meaningless unless another frame of reference is specified.
I think it would be more correct to say, observers in certain frames of reference (i.e. those accelerating away from us) will MEASURE our mass to be increasing. And vice versa, of course.
So who's REALLY getting heavier? This is the crux. There is no correct answer to this insofar as mass is not an absolute quantity and no particular frame of reference is privileged.
Ahem, well, that's what I think . Can anyone help?