Posted by jlwile on March 3, 2012
I am not sure how I missed this when it was first posted, but it seems that experimentalists have found a probable explanation for those neutrinos that were clocked traveling faster than light. According to Science‘s website, a bad connection in a fiber-optic cable that carries GPS signals to the system’s master clock most likely made the particles appear as if they were traveling faster than they really were. There also seems to be a problem with a specific oscillator in the system, but it is not clear how big the problem is. Also, it is thought that correcting the oscillator’s problem might actually end up shortening the time measured, which would mean that the particles actually traveled faster than the original measurement indicated. As the web article makes clear, however, the main focus is on the fiber-optic cable connection.
We’ll know better in May, when a new experiment will be run. Hopefully, the fiber-optic cable’s connection, the oscillator problem, and anything else that is discovered between now and then will be fixed. However, based on what I have read, I think the most likely conclusion is that the neutrinos did not travel faster than light. Of course, as I said before, that was the most likely conclusion to begin with. When it comes to physics, don’t bet against Einstein. You aren’t likely to win!