Feb 222012

So maybe neutrinos don’t travel faster than light after all.

Instead, if rumors are to be believed, it was a simple instrumentation problem. There is no official confirmation yet, but according to a statement that also appears on Nature’s news blog, the OPERA team is indeed investigating two problems related to a timer oscillator and an optical fiber connection.

A while back, I wrote that I could identify four possible broad categories for conventional explanations of the OPERA result:

  1. Incorrectly synchronized clocks;
  2. Incorrectly measured distance;
  3. Unaccounted-for delays in the apparatus;
  4. Statistical uncertainties.

Of these, #4 was already out, as the OPERA team verified their result using short duration proton bunches that avoided the use of potentially controversial statistical methods. I never considered #2 a serious possibility, as highly accurate geographic localization is a well established art. Having read and re-read the OPERA team’s description of how they synchronized clocks, I was prepared to discount #1 as well, but then again, incorrect synchronization can arise as a result of equipment failure, so would that fall under #1 or #3?

In any case, it looks like #3, with a dash of #1 perhaps. Once again, conventional physics prevails.

That is, if we can believe these latest rumors.

 Posted by at 8:08 pm