Scientists make startling discovery

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Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Jeremoot » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:30 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15017484

In a recent study, scientists observed subatomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light. The laws of physics are collapsing around us as we speak.

I don't know whether to stand in awe or fear.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Gracerath » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:50 pm

Warp theory will be next and then.. Vulcan!
Bye space sword!
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Worldie » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:54 am

In before time travel.

On a serious note, it's a very important discovery, looking forward to see its definitive confirmation
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Treck » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:14 am

Gracerath wrote:Warp theory will be next and then.. Vulcan!

Unlike this recent discovery, warp theory has ALWAYS been a scientific possibility.
Moving faster than light in regular space has never bee "possible" according to science.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby valura » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:20 am

The idea that one of the major cornerstones of modern physics migth not actually be a cornerstone at all is terrifying in both positive and negative sense. I am eager and reluctant to see what influence it'll have on the scientific community and what scientific progress we have coming our way...
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Sagara » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:35 am

valura wrote:The idea that one of the major cornerstones of modern physics migth not actually be a cornerstone at all is terrifying in both positive and negative sense. I am eager and reluctant to see what influence it'll have on the scientific community and what scientific progress we have coming our way...


That's what I love about the scientific method as a whole: self-doubt. Never sit on your laurels, thinking you've seen it all - it's a huge, unknown universe out there, and EVEN if you hunt those marvels your entire life, you'll only have scratched the surface.

Mind-blowing is a perfect word here. As a GM for Mage, i just WANT that to be true, just imagining the fun Real Life's GM must be having seeing us scrambling about. :lol:
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Brekkie » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:14 am

I'm gonna wait to get excited until the results are duplicated.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Shoju » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:31 am

Brekkie wrote:I'm gonna wait to get excited until the results are duplicated.


Emphasis is mine.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby cerwillis » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:58 am

I think the excitement is in the question. Just thinking, "What if?" gets me excited, and I have minimal understanding of these sorts of things.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Shoju » Fri Sep 23, 2011 9:05 am

Oh yeah, I'm totally excited about the probability of something breaking the "speed limit" of physics. Especially, because Einstein's theory has held true in so many instances, that finding something that is capable of breaking it, and proving it can be done is truly an astounding place to start new research.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby theckhd » Fri Sep 23, 2011 11:19 am

This really feels like a total non-story to me, but I'm a little biased since I have a thesis to defend on the topic next week. The neutrinos saw a fractional advancement of ~60 nanoseconds in a total traversal time of 2.4 milliseconds. Without more information, it's impossible to tell whether 60 ns is relevant.

For example, I have an experiment running right now where photons are "traveling" faster than the speed of light. That doesn't mean that Einstein causality is wrong, or that the cornerstones of physics are crumbling beneath our feet. It means that someone out there doesn't understand what those cornerstones actually say, and what their implications are.

There's nothing special about making a particle appear to travel faster than the speed of light. It happens all the time. The speed of light is only the cosmic speed limit for signal transit, so unless you can prove that those neutrinos carry information, it's meaningless. I'd like to know the temporal width of their neutrinos, simply because that would help determine if what they're seeing is interesting. If they're seeing 60 ns of advancement on a 100+ nanosecond particle, then the results aren't ground-breaking, even if they are surprising (is rock really that dispersive?).

The confusing part, to me, is why the very first thing they thought of wasn't dispersive propagation effects. Maybe particle physicists don't see that very often?
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Holyblaze » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:08 pm

I don’t know Theckhd, while your counter points are compelling to me, I find it fascinating all the same. While I do not feign that I have any depth of study in science, let alone physics, I love it all. My son and I were just talking about this over breakfast. Haha amazing and wondrous we both found it all. I let him know that there verifying it all now and then others would try and duplicate it for further verification.
What would it mean if we could send information faster than light? How would that affect the different studies by other brilliant minds now trying to tie all of physics together into one theory. Would it affect our limited ideas of what happens to light as it speeds up as it goes into a super massive black hole? Can that be changing into something else if you will. If so, can that still be holding information?
As you can see, I do not have a lot of focused thoughts about it all due to the fact that I just don’t know how to wrap my mind around it. Love I do though. Hehe BAM!
Hrm…would this effect String Theory now that I am thinking about it. gah! ELNDLESS DAMNED QUESTIONS!
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Treck » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:56 pm

theckhd wrote:The neutrinos saw a fractional advancement of ~60 nanoseconds in a total traversal time of 2.4 milliseconds. Without more information, it's impossible to tell whether 60 ns is relevant.

Are you questioning their accuracy in measuring?
They see the same deviation reliably, so i doubt its not accurate.
But it doesnt mean its "right", they are trying to find every possible reason why this could be "wrong", but they havnt found one now, and are maybe considering the possibility that it might be correct.

theckhd wrote:There's nothing special about making a particle appear to travel faster than the speed of light. It happens all the time. The speed of light is only the cosmic speed limit for signal transit, so unless you can prove that those neutrinos carry information, it's meaningless.
If you can send a beam of neutrinos from one place to another, and reliably read them on the other place, how is that not sending information?
Also they do have different states (the reason they ran the experiement in the first place) if they discover what causes their different states, and maybe can control it, then thats another way of sending information aswell.

theckhd wrote:The confusing part, to me, is why the very first thing they thought of wasn't dispersive propagation effects. Maybe particle physicists don't see that very often?

Honestly, i have no clue what that is, but do you really think they havnt considered it?
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby theckhd » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:20 pm

Holyblaze wrote:I don’t know Theckhd, while your counter points are compelling to me, I find it fascinating all the same.


There's no reason not to find it fascinating. It's neat stuff. But there's a very good reason that the scientist quoted in the article refused to try and provide a physical explanation for the effect. In fact, after skimming the arXiv paper, they went as far as to put a disclaimer at the end to say that they're just reporting the results and the sanity checks they've performed to rule out possible error sources, and are expressly not trying to provide an explanation at this time.

That's scientist speak for "we're pretty sure there's something going on we've missed here, but we haven't the faintest clue what." That doesn't mean there isn't new physics here either, but it probably doesn't mean we'll be seeing time machines any time soon.

This isn't the first time someone's reported observing things traveling faster than c, and it won't be the last. Hell, I have a Science publication where I reported observing light propagating backwards. But in none of those cases is Einstein causality ever violated. Generally it's the fault of reporters - certainly the NY Times write-up of my publication was pretty loose and fast with the facts, and made the results appear to be much more generous than they really were. So did the slashdot article. In this case, I think it's just a matter of interpretation by the scientists themselves - they're definitely observing what they did, but they haven't figured out what causal physical mechanism is causing the effect they're seeing.

If I had to guess (and I do, I'm not familiar enough with neutrino physics to be too certain of much, and I haven't had time to do more than skim their paper) it's what we would refer to as a pulse reshaping effect for photons. Usually it's caused by heavy dispersion, but it can also be caused by other effects, including quantum tunneling. If there's a 60-nanosecond long stretch of the propagation path that's classically "not allowed," then that would easily account for the discrepancy.

The interesting thing to me is that my limited understanding of neutrinos was that they don't interact with much. So what sort of material would provide an interaction barrier for a particle that doesn't interact with anything? Crazy stuff.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Cogglamp » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:29 pm

Let's put this all aside and focus on the real discovery/mystery here.

Holyblaze put an entire paragraph together (although lacking structure) without using any Emeril-isms.

Now THAT is mind blowing stuff...

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Edit: Oh hell, I just saw a BAM in his post. Nevermind...
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby theckhd » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:35 pm

Treck wrote:
theckhd wrote:The neutrinos saw a fractional advancement of ~60 nanoseconds in a total traversal time of 2.4 milliseconds. Without more information, it's impossible to tell whether 60 ns is relevant.

Are you questioning their accuracy in measuring?
They see the same deviation reliably, so i doubt its not accurate.
But it doesnt mean its "right", they are trying to find every possible reason why this could be "wrong", but they havnt found one now, and are maybe considering the possibility that it might be correct.
theckhd wrote:There's nothing special about making a particle appear to travel faster than the speed of light. It happens all the time. The speed of light is only the cosmic speed limit for signal transit, so unless you can prove that those neutrinos carry information, it's meaningless.
If you can send a beam of neutrinos from one place to another, and reliably read them on the other place, how is that not sending information?


No, based on a quick skimming of their paper, I don't doubt their measuring accuracy. 60 nanoseconds is huge anyhow - I'm measuring things in my laboratory to accuracies of < 1 fs, or 10^-15 seconds, 6 orders of magnitude shorter. You could measure a 60-nanosecond delay quite easily with an off-the-shelf LED and an oscilloscope.

But let's put that in perspective. Let's say I have a particle that's 500 nanoseconds "long," with a peak right at the center of that 500-nanosecond window. If I advance the peak by 60 nanoseconds, I could make exactly the same observations they did in their experiment. That's easy to do in the laboratory. But it doesn't break causality, because the peak of a particle's wavefunction carries no information.

The information is carried by discontinuities. In other words, at some point I had to decide to "turn on" my particle. That's where all the information is, provided I do nothing else (i.e. no alternate encoding or modulation of the particle to signify higher bit density). If my particle is my information, then the moment I "turn on" the wavefunction, that information has been sent. It doesn't matter what the rest of the particle looks like - maybe the turn-on is very weak, the particle is 500 ns long, and the peak occurs right in the middle. The information is still in that very first part, where the decision was made.

So I may be able to advance the peak by 60 nanoseconds by some technique, but to "break" causality I'd have to force energy to reach the target before that discontinuous decision point does. And that has never, ever been demonstrated in an experiment, presumably because it can't happen (that would break causality).

In fact, I can link you to a very nice Science paper where they did such an experiment - they took a gaussian pulse profile and put a discontinuity on the peak, so that it either went up or down in intensity at that point. Then they sent the pulse through slow- and fast-light materials, and tried to discriminate the earliest time at which they could distinguish which pulse was sent. Unsurprisingly, even when the pulse as a whole was delayed or advanced heavily, the decision point - the information - always propagated at c.

The key conceit here is that we assume that the peak of the wavefunction is a causal object that carries information, just because it represents the maximum likelyhood of interaction/detection. But that's not the case, it's just a misconception based on a naive interpretation of particles as having a single point of existence.

Treck wrote:Also they do have different states (the reason they ran the experiement in the first place) if they discover what causes their different states, and maybe can control it, then thats another way of sending information aswell.


I think you're talking about neutrino "flavor" changing, which is a different thing altogether, and unrelated to the issue of advancement as far as we know. It's possible that the flavor changing process is related, maybe even it causes the observed advancement, but I'm just not familiar enough with the area to say anything definitive.


Treck wrote:
theckhd wrote:The confusing part, to me, is why the very first thing they thought of wasn't dispersive propagation effects. Maybe particle physicists don't see that very often?

Honestly, i have no clue what that is, but do you really think they havnt considered it?


After looking at the paper, they did mention that they energy-binned their neutrinos and didn't see an appreciable time delay difference for any subset. So they did, in a sense, look at dispersive propagation effects. I'd have to read the paper more carefully to see if they overlooked something, because the terminology they use is a lot different from what we use in Optics.

That said, it's also possible they screwed that analysis up; it doesn't take a significant amount of dispersion to cause weird group delay effects, and the amounts would be small enough that with too fine energy-binning, they wouldn't be detectable. I'll give them the benefit of a doubt though and assume they did it correctly. In which case, my next guess is that we're looking at a tunneling-like phenomenon that's well-understood already; we just don't know exactly what the particles were tunneling through. But 60 nanoseconds is about 60 feet of material, which isn't a lot given the multi-kilometer travel distance of the particles.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Shoju » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:44 pm

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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Mukat » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:00 pm

What I want to know is what is the cosmic meaning or use of a faster-than-light particle. Also does that mean the particle has negative mass, since to move at the speed of light, doesn't the mass of an object increase to infinity under normal circumstances?
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby theckhd » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:19 pm

Mukat wrote:What I want to know is what is the cosmic meaning or use of a faster-than-light particle. Also does that mean the particle has negative mass, since to move at the speed of light, doesn't the mass of an object increase to infinity under normal circumstances?


Well, that's just the thing, we don't know. It would require an infinite amount of energy (not mass) to accelerate any massive particle to the speed of light.

I don't think we're ready to give up the idea of causality yet though, so provided a faster-than-light particle was discovered, the first thought would be that c isn't the ultimate speed limit that causality is based on. That said, it would still break a lot of well-established physics.

On the other hand, neutrinos are very weakly-interacting. A completely non-interacting particle could conceivably travel at any speed without breaking physics, because it couldn't interact with things and thus couldn't be used to send signals or break causality. Neutrinos are near that limit, but not quite - obviously, since we can detect them.

More to the point, the paper's authors mention that many other neutrino studies report measuring time delays consistent with c, including neutrino bursts from Supernovae. The fact that most neutrinos seem to travel at c, except in this one experiment, suggests that the result is erroneous in some way - either a mistake, or something specific to the experimental conditions (free space compared to miles of rock, water, or whatever).
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Mukat » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:03 pm

When I said negative mass, I was referring to the principle that as an object approaches light speed, its mass increases exponentially, meaning the energy required to accelerate it more increases exponentially. Could a measurable particle attain a negative mass, or even a zero mass, to accelerate past light speed? Or could having a negative mass simply mean that it can't move slower than light speed? This is assuming all our physics get thrown out the window and a particle having negative mass and existing is possible.

Here's what I'm referring to.
These concepts seem deceptively simple, but they have some mind-bending implications. One of the biggest is represented by Einstein's famous equation, E = mc², where E is energy, m is mass and c is the speed of light. According to this equation, mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be changed into each other. Because of this equivalence, the energy an object has due to its motion will increase its mass. In other words, the faster an object moves, the greater its mass. This only becomes noticeable when an object moves really quickly. If it moves at 10 percent the speed of light, for example, its mass will only be 0.5 percent more than normal. But if it moves at 90 percent the speed of light, its mass will double.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Treck » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:04 pm

theckhd wrote:The fact that most neutrinos seem to travel at c, except in this one experiment, suggests that the result is erroneous in some way - either a mistake, or something specific to the experimental conditions (free space compared to miles of rock, water, or whatever).

Its obviously not proven to be correct, yet.
But they also wouldnt publish it if there was some "simple" explanation for the error.

No offence to you Theck, but i dont think theres anything you could come up with that they havnt tried for explaining what happened.
None is obviously taking this as facts just yet, and while it could be a possibility, its far far from rewriting our physic books.

It might very well just be some programming error with the software, some faulty equipment or whatever that could give weird results aswell, altho they do keep it all in very very good shape to get as accurate information as possible.

The implications of what this could mean is hard to speculate as we have no idea why it would to appear if its the case.
I find it interesting that a lot of people start asking if this will make us able to travel between stars cuz of this discovery, when FTL travel (faster than light) IS theoreticly possible without breaking the laws of relatively. So while this could bring us one step closer, FTL travel within the laws of relatively is still very interesting.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Sabindeus » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:31 pm

Treck wrote:No offence to you Theck, but i dont think theres anything you could come up with that they havnt tried for explaining what happened.


No offense to you Treck, but I'm curious why you think that?
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Jeremoot » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:38 pm

While I agree that it's very unlikely to be a miscalculation or oversight on their side, it's also equally as unrealistic that a subatomic particle really did exceed the speed of light. We shouldn't dismiss any possible error they could have made.

Part of me wants it to be true though. I really hope it traveled faster than the speed of light and is a repeatable observable phenomenon. That opens up so many mysterious doors into the unknown.
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby Treck » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:58 pm

Sabindeus wrote:No offense to you Treck, but I'm curious why you think that?

They would not publish this if they knew what went wrong.
And while i dont know exactly what Thecks physic's education entails, i still think (and hope) the scientists working with this on Cern would have a better idea on what they are suppose to be doing.

Jeremoot wrote:While I agree that it's very unlikely to be a miscalculation or oversight on their side, it's also equally as unrealistic that a subatomic particle really did exceed the speed of light. We shouldn't dismiss any possible error they could have made.

Both parts seem very unlikely, but can both be wrong?
I Honestly do NOT beleave their data is correct.
And im saying that for 2 reasons, the first is that ive grown up with this find beeing a complete impossibility so reshaping that idea is hard to just accept like that.
Secondly i really would love for it to be true, as that would mean we are one step closer to understanding how everything works, so if i beleave its not correct data, atleast i cant get disapointed.

Jeremoot wrote:I really hope it traveled faster than the speed of light and is a repeatable observable phenomenon. That opens up so many mysterious doors into the unknown.

Warp theory has been a physical possibility the last 30years or smth, a particle moving faster than light has not, why would this suddenly get everyone attention to travel between stars?
Not to mention a) your not build of neutrinos so even if they move faster it might not mean you can, and b) the neutrinos they observed moved like what? 0.00025% faster than the speed of light? so you would be at the closest star about 5sec earlier than by traveling at c
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Re: Scientists make startling discovery

Postby theckhd » Fri Sep 23, 2011 4:01 pm

Treck wrote:Its obviously not proven to be correct, yet.
But they also wouldnt publish it if there was some "simple" explanation for the error.


1) It's not published yet, it's on the arXiv, which is not peer-reviewed.
2) It's true, if they had found a "simple" explanation for the error, then they wouldn't have put this issue out there. However, tunneling delay times are hardly a simple issue, which is why they're still not well-understood today. And you can definitely observe apparently faster-than-light transmission in those structures. Trust me on that one, I wrote a whole thesis on it.

Treck wrote:No offence to you Theck, but i dont think theres anything you could come up with that they havnt tried for explaining what happened.


....

Right, because I'm just a math guy on a forum somewhere.

Pay no attention to the fact that I'm defending a Ph.D. thesis next week centered on measuring and explaining faster-than-light quantum particle tunneling. That's obviously not relevant to the topic at hand. Or something.

The implications of what this could mean is hard to speculate as we have no idea why it would to appear if its the case.
I find it interesting that a lot of people start asking if this will make us able to travel between stars cuz of this discovery, when FTL travel (faster than light) IS theoreticly possible without breaking the laws of relatively. So while this could bring us one step closer, FTL travel within the laws of relatively is still very interesting.


I'll tell you what, speculate all you want, I'll give you $1000 USD if this ends up leading to a true causality violation, and isn't just a simple particle wavefunction reshaping effect. Because I guarantee that nothing they observed is going to violate causality, and in all likelihood it's not even at odds with our current understanding of physics. Just like every other "ooh we've got faster-than-light propagation" news articles over the past 20 years that turned out to be something mundane. Plus, I can always mail myself from the future if I lose the bet!

Also, FTL travel isn't theoretically possible without breaking the laws of relativity, at least as far as we know. If you're basing that on what I said, you're again confusing "travel" with "particle detection," which are two very different things. Think of it this way - sending a massive object faster than the speed of light is the same as sending information, so if information can't travel faster than c, neither can a massive particle, at least in any sense that has meaning.
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