Explaining the Obvious

In response to physicists at CERN reporting that neutrinos may be able to travel faster than the speed of light, thus surpassing Einstein’s theoretical cosmic speed limit, which is the basis for modern physics:

Physicists, in the meantime, have been flooding arXiv.org, the physics Internet archive, with papers debunking the Opera experiment and defending Einstein. In one paper, two professors from Boston University, Andrew G. Cohen and the Nobelist Sheldon L. Glashow, showed that if the neutrinos had been going faster than light en route to Gran Sasso, they would have lost energy at a fearsome rate by emitting other particles, causing distortions in the beam that were not seen by Opera.

Another paper — by Gian Giudice of CERN, Sergei Sibiryakov of the Institute for Nuclear Research in Moscow and Alessandro Strumia of the University of Pisa in Italy and the National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics in Tallinn, Estonia — argued that according to the Standard Model, the reigning theory in particle physics, if neutrinos could violate relativity, electrons should violate it also, something that has also not been observed.

Last week, in what sounded like the coup de grâce in some circles, Ronald A. J. van Elburg, an artificial intelligence researcher at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, suggested that the Opera group had failed to make a relativistic correction for the motions of the GPS satellites used in timing the neutrino beams. The resulting error, he said, amounted to 64 nanoseconds, almost exactly the universe-shaking discrepancy the Opera researchers were hoping to explain.


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