Saturday, December 31, 2011

Physics Throws New Doubt on CERN's Superluminal Neutrinos

From today's Science News Online, a few top-notch physicists, in two independent studies, have raised doubt (if not actually yelling "NO, YOU'RE WRONG"!!) about the CERN OPERA results that reported faster than light speed neutrinos. In the December 06 issues of Physical Review Letters, Xiaojun Bi, a particle astrophysicist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing, cries foul. Not only would superluminal particles slap Einstein in the face, they would also break the sacred Laws of Conservation of Energy and Momentum. Direct link to APS article. Membership required. Direct link to Cornell Archives PDF - FREE.

See, the CERN neutrinos had parents. Like most of us, these were unstable parents. However, unlike my dysfunctional Mother, the neutrinos from CERN were born from unstable pions. Turns out, these pions had an energy of about 3.5 times that of the resulting daughter neutrinos they decayed into. The energy and momentum laws dictate the resulting particles had to have subluminal (slower than light) speeds. This was reported by physicist Ramanath Cowsik of Washington University in St. Louis and colleagues in the Dec. 16 Physical Review Letters. Direct link to Cornell Archive PDF - FREE.

So, what does this all mean? "Achieving the mind-boggling velocities measured by OPERA would have required pions with energies 20 times greater than their offspring, Cowsik’s team calculates. At such energies, though, the lifetimes of pions would be six times longer, which has been ruled out by measurements from OPERA and other experiments."

For Cowsik and other researchers, these problems and contradictions suggest that the laws of physics as currently understood are correct. But physicists will still be watching other neutrino experiments that can check OPERA’s result, which may be clouded by some unknown source of error. “No one is saying that the OPERA result is impossible, even though it would require extreme revisions to what we know about physics,” says Sheldon Glashow, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist at Boston University. “But if it turns out to be true, I would say to Nature, ‘You win.’ Then I’d give up, and I’d retire.”

Stay tuned. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Channel.

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