Faster than light neutrinos

OK so this is probably going to demonstrate how bad I am at physics, and I will probably be flamed for being an idiot, but here are some of my thoughts on the faster than light neutrinos.

  1. Time slows down as you approach the speed of light. Velocity is a derivation of time (speed = distance / time). This can make it difficult to measure, and the time dilation needs to be accounted for.
  2. When measuring things close to the speed of light, the equipment itself has the same limitations. It takes time for a signal to get from one part of the equipment to another.
  3. The Earth itself is moving in the solar system, the solar system is moving in the galaxy, and the galaxy is moving in the universe. The speed of light is an absolute limit, but the measurement of something moving between two points on Earth is a relative measurement. If something was fixed in an absolute position, it would be moving very quickly relative to the Earth.
  4. The speed of light limitation applies to objects with mass. The mass of neutrinos is believed to be non-zero, but is not yet completely known, and objects with energy essentially have more mass, so the mass of it changes as it accelerates. It’s hard to do maths when you don’t have all of the starting variables.

3 Responses to “Faster than light neutrinos”

  1. Matt says:

    Speed of light only applies to objects with mass? What about electromagnetic radiation like radio waves? I wouldn’t be suprised if neutrinos aren’t held to the same limit as light, after all, light can be blocked by opaque matter whereas neutrinos can (supposedly) pass unaffected through whole planets. I don’t know much about relativity, but if neutrinos aren’t affected by gravity like light is, perhaps that’s something to do with how a neutrino could travel faster than light. They are, after all, the most unreactive particle; so maybe neutrinos can get slightly closer to the absolute speed limit of the universe than light, they’re just both really close.

    All that said, the detector for neutrinos they used was actually a big horizontal stack of detecters several metres thick and each detector in the array had significant thickness. For the relatively small difference between the source and the detector, the difference in distance between the measurement they got and what would be expected for speed of light is a fraction of a milimetre, probably less than the thickness of a detector.

  2. George Helyar says:

    It only applies to objects with mass, but to my understanding anything with energy has mass, albeit a very low amount.

    They repeated the experiments with shorter repeated pulses and got the same speed every repeat, so if there is an inaccuracy it probably isn’t on how they are detecting it i.e. where it is detected inside the detector, but it could still be how the detector sends a signal to the timer, for example, which would give the same inaccuracy on every repetition.

    Photons, at least, encounter much more resistance than neutrinos so yes, they could be slower. It would just mean the speed limit is actually the speed of a neutrino, which is slightly faster than the speed of light. It takes an infinite amount of energy to reach the limit though, and I’m sure they don’t have a source of unlimited power at CERN.

    I don’t really know how they did it in detail, my physics isn’t great and most of what I said were points that I don’t fully understand how they handled rather than any kind of facts, but there just seem to be a lot of variables unaccounted for and I’m not going to be so quick to dismiss our current understanding of the universe over a single experiment.

  3. Matt says:

    I only know what Prof Brian Cox tells me ;)

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