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18 November 2011


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William R. Cumming

Time travel forwards and backwards. Watch out for modification of historic events.

And warp speed just got faster.


Not much.

The problem I have with the supernova detection is if the neutrinos there were FTL, they would have arrived before the Kamekona facilities were built.

Bill H.

Forget the speed of light thing. I can't even get my head around the idea that they can fire subatomic particles hundreds of miles and hit the target. And if I could comprehend that, I would boggle at the concept of them measuring the length of time that it took for them to get there. Today's science is, literally, awesome.


The implications are that there is a subtle error in General Relativity formulas.

The implications of that error is that the entire "Big Bang" Theoretical edifice crumbles. Please bear in mind that many physicists have invested their entire careers, and billions of taxpayer dollars, in the big bang, "Dark Matter" and "Dark Energy" so this will not be pretty.

My own guess is that these guys have just proved Alexander Franklin Mayers addition to General Relativity. The neutrinos aren't fast - the clock is slow - which is caused by Mayers "Transverse Gravitational Redshift".



the speed of light, c, is about 3x10^^8 m/s in vacuum (if there ever is such a thing). the correction is negligable & may be a quantum theory effect. Quantum Theory is not usually a problem for special relativity even tho it is not integrated w/ general relativity which governs gravity. In fact Dirac's formulation of the relativistic electron equation led to his prediction of the positron. A positron is equivalently an electron w/ positive charge or one traveling backwards in time.

special relativity was formulated following the failure of the Michelson-Morley experiment to detect a medium in empty space for light waves to vibrate in, the AETHER. But there is no such thing as a vacuum. It is a teeming froth of virtual particles which pop out & pop in.

"The uncertainty principle implies that individual photons may travel for short distances at speeds somewhat faster (or slower) than c, even in a vacuum; this possibility must be taken into account when enumerating Feynman diagrams for a particle interaction.[27] It has since been proven that not even a single photon may travel faster than "c".[28] In quantum mechanics, virtual particles may travel faster than light, and this phenomenon is related to the fact that static field effects (which are mediated by virtual particles in quantum terms) may travel faster than light (see section on static fields above). However, macroscopically these fluctuations average out, so that photons do travel in straight lines over long (i.e., non-quantum) distances, and they do travel at the speed of light on average. Therefore, this does not imply the possibility of superluminal information transmission."


Allen Thomson

At the moment, the big deal is that, like the Wikipedia article says, faster-than-light anything wipes out the distinction between future and past as it's understood under the space-time geometry of special relativity. And that can be used to effect backwards time travel or at least communication backwards in time. After that you get into problems with causality, grandfather paradoxes and other ugly stuff. It's not just Cap'n Kirk zooming off to Ceti Alpha V.

Special relativity has been very well wrung out over the past 105 years, so it's hard to see how these problems with FTL could be avoided. If the neutrino results can be duplicated and confirmed elsewhere, there's going to be a lot of head-scratching going on in the physics community. My own guess is that some sort of many-worlds picture of reality would emerge, but who knows?

Brien J Miller

Allow me to take a broad cut at this:

If borne out, these findings could overturn relativity which states that it takes an infinite amount of energy to make anything go faster than light. If neutrinos are moving faster than light then these rules would have to be reconsidered- and all other findings based on them as well, which is, for high energy physics, pretty much all findings in the 20th and 21st century.

Again, if neutrinos really are traveling faster than light, there is a possibility that they are transversing time: that is, particles could theoretically arrive somewhere before they departed. However, it could also herald early observational proof of String theory. Heretofore, String theory has not been subject to direct test; in short, there is no proof that any of the various string models are correct. But if the neutrino measurements prove out, it may offer insight into explaining them. One such approach might be that neutrinos do not travel along straight lines, instead hopping into one of the extra dimensions predicted by string theory, and thus taking a shortcut to their destination. This would then not violate Maxwell/Einstein’s laws as the particles in this case would potentially have traveled a shorter distance over the measured time and hence their actual speed may not have exceeded light.

This is better than the “time travel” notion because it dosen’t undermine the cause & effect conundrum where an "effect" could travel back to a point before its "cause"; this is perhaps the other “core” underpinning of modern physics and physicists will go to great lengths to find other explanations prior to embracing this possibility.

It is also possible that light is NOT the ultimate cosmic speed limit; that something other than “c” is that absolute limit. Perhaps we will see the speed of neutrinos declared ultimate speed limit instead. It doesn’t really push that limit up that much- although even by such a small amount, the implications for cosmic measurements and questions on dark matter and energy will rebalance the calculations: the ultimate fate of the universe (what will happen- expand forever, steady state, or collapse) could change (it’s currently set to “expand forever”).

Also, it could be that Neutrinos are exceptions in some "quantum" way. They are close to being massless particles which almost never interacts with ordinary matter. More confusing is that they come in several kinds (flavors) and appear to be able to change flavors at will. It may very well prove that any resulting faster-than-light abilities are unique flavor features and within the quantum framework, do not violate the otherwise apparently violated light speed limit (and you think “Political Science” is strange! Try quantum mechanics on for size.)

One last item: decades back physicists suggested that there were particles that could travel faster than light: enter the tachyon. Theory only, never seen. Have we potentially found them? Unknown.

Regardless of the answer; if the observation is borne out, the greatest implication will be for theories propounding the origin of the universe— of course, while it will greatly aid budding Gene Roddenberrys and George Lucas’ too, I’m not thinking we will be seeing starships or time machines anytime soon.

(Disclaimer: I'm an aerospace engineer and ameteur astronomer- not a physicist, but I've been following this development: this is compilation of reasonable information I've seen and have faith in at this point. But remember, anytime you sit down at the "quantum" table- you're sure to be sitting next to a little girl named Alice and a white rabbit. Plenty of strange discoveries to come methinks.)

John O'D

We'll find out last Tuesday!

Maureen Lang

I was going to quote Philip K. Dick's "Now Wait for Last Year" but you beat me to the punch, John O'D...

Personally (as science dabbler rather than boffin) I'm waiting for the Fermi Lab results in 2012 to confirm or not.


The bartender says: "We don't serve Neutrinos here!"

A Neutrino walks into a bar...


Babak Makkinejad

Agreed; should have been seen in supernova 1986J.

The data is still available and could be re-analyzed.


Obviously, these particles did not travel through a modern phone answering system, regardless of how vacuous they can be. But I am glad to see that some people already understand all this, even if it may take some time before I do. If I do.

Jim Laird

One additional point: the results were announced because the team doing the analysis kept coming up with faster than light flight times that were outside their theoretical sources of error in measurement - they thought the answer was weird and they were asking for help to find the source of the error. The flight times were calculated by clocks on either end which were synchronized by the GPS system (i.e. satelites overheads with very accurate clocks broadcast time signals which were used to synchronize the clocks on the ground on either end of the experiment). However, the original experimentors had not taken into account relativistic effects of the satellites being (1) high above the earth and (2) the satellites are orbiting the earth (i.e. not standing still). When those effects were taken into account, the recalculated flight time for the particles was back to the speed of light, plus or minus the margin of error (actually slightly less than the speed of light).

Keep in mind that relativistic effects of the satellites being in orbit well above the earth are both well understood and also significant enough in size that they demonstrably affect the accuracy of GPS results (i.e. if you don't take it into account, your GPS calculations will be off by quite a bit).

For a good article on the details:


For a nice discussion of how important relativistic effects are for GPS calculations:



More money for research and testing.

I'm not a believer in the "Big Bang" hypothesis which is, I think, a projection onto reality by humans because they have a beginning and end so everything must be like that.

No opinion about this specific experiment but the first thing to look at is errors in time synchronization etc. I'll be watching to see what goes on.


to build on the above. The extra dimensions of string theory become the new aether. the particles, as stated above, could be taking shortcuts on the curled up dimensions of string & brane theory.

but what amazes me is that this research lead is in Europe at CERN, although MINOS in the U.S. had a similar result b/ dismissed it as error.

Congress killed the super collider project over a trifling sum of tens of billions. We then went on to squander about three trillion dollars on a Mesopotamian NeoKon adventure. Now the same crowd wants to bomb the Persicos. Wrong, Misguided, national goals & priorities!



I'm getting the feeling, we are missing a piece of the puzzle. Perhaps, there is something we can not understand or comprehend given our limited knowledge and theories. If we could use this experiment to see inside an event horizon or even better the singularity at the core of a Black Hole, that would be really cool. Speculation on my part, maybe this can explain gravity...

BTW, Planck Time theory has always allowed for faster than light speeds at the moment of creation/Big Bang.


Much in scientific measurement is calibrated using the speed of light. Won't there need to be a massive re-calibration?

Charles I

This doesn't change anything with regard to time travel, particularly w/r/t travel to the past, which does not exist, except insofar as we imagine it does in merely a perceptual sense. We only now observe 13 billion year old events that have long ceased to exist. we do not, cannot, experience the past itself.

Not even if we apparently managed the trip.

We can perceive a distant past, and the speed of neutrinos may facilitate a more discrete perception a la electron microscopes w/r/t to physical world, but what we are perceiving does not any more exist in the original form that generated the spectra we perceive AND THERE IS NO ACTUAL GOING BACK TO WHAT DOES NOT EXIST.

It would take all the energy ever expended and generated by Creation to date to sustain the feat, constantly exponentially increased by the pic-osecond. String theory will not avail because Creation is all of a piece, most of which apparently we can't even perceive, and our future time traveler will be a piece of it all and
ALL of it, wherever, however many strings, it must have occurred and somehow be connected and consequential to the both the traveler's present and the past he goes back to. His present includes every bit of Creation, hence, must occur and be part of our traveler when he goes " back"

Of course, if it turns out all the dark matter is like oil, and sequestered "over there" in innumerable Creations we know nothing about, and we could consume it without destroying our little bit, maybe you could sustain it for a relatively brief time.

Still, if you inserted yourself somehow into that ancient past, it would not be the past, that past past perceived, but YOUR contemporaneity only, a wholly future past, fatally Heisenberg-ly altered by your manifestation.

Since the future is not per se perceivable coming at us like the past through a telescope, not having occurred yet, and we are, aside from our conceits about physics and the like wholly ignorant of its actual content and character, maybe we can invent a future in which time travel to a limited further future extent is possible in the actual physical context we seem to be assuming we'd travel in. Without the onerous need to actually constantly recreate the whole history of Creation past and present as in my actual physical backward travel model to sustain existence in the past, the energy requirement may be exponentially smaller though still relatively staggering and limiting, until we get "over there", if over there exists.

By which time hopefully we will have learned to pay attention to the pressing present.

It does turn out that you can hallucinate faster than the speed of light. I have traveled billions of light years to nebula previously observed, in a dead-past, merely photo-representative way, for a moment through my telescope). I have followed a single water molecule respired from a tree I reposed in over a period of hours as it made its way to a future billions of years and many astronomical units away.

And back, all in time for brekkie.

I'd like to see a neutrino do that.



I'm lost. You mean God plays with dice?


Even with the additional measurements it is too early to say that the OPERA experiment is correct in its results. It is a rather complex experimental set up and there could be unknown sources of systematic error. It could be in the GPS set-up specific to the experiment, but if there were such errors in GPS in general, general relativistic or other effects overlooked, planes would not be landing correctly at airports today.

The point of the OPERA announcement today is really that it is time for an independent experiment.

Secondly, suppose OPERA is correct in its result. The very expensive Large Hadron Collider at CERN wouldn't work if special relativity was all wrong. If OPERA is right, the changes to physical theory will be both revolutionary and subtle. Just as special relativity did not supersede Newtonian physics for everyday engineering, whatever the new theory is will not supersede relativity in its domain of applicability. What will happen is that our worldview will shift radically. There will have to be a tremendous amount of work as to why relativity is approximately correct.

dan of steele

first time here since new look. nice

I really doubt that we will be able to send messages back in time otherwise I would have already won the lottery. I would only need a few hours time difference for that.


Agreed. Given the short distances (and extremely tiny time spans) involved, something out of this earth (literally) would make for a more definitive result. Still, it'd seem worthwhile to see labs elsewhere, working over different distances, can replicate the findings.


The main result would be that science gets to take a powder until someone figures out how this can be possible. In other words, back to before Einstein gave us a lovely "out" for how Newtonian mechanics can still work in high velocity environments (like sailing through space at close to the speed of light.)

The main reason this is such a big deal is that to get relativity to "work" (the equations to balance), Einstein's one necessary constant was the speed of light, represented by "c".

E = mc^2

where "c" above is the speed of light. The idea of this famous equation is that both energy and mass are sliding (based on each other), with c remaining constant. If c isn't constant, it's like pulling the fulcrum out of the see-saw. Without a fixed point each side can count on, there is no see-saw at all.

We'll see what happens, I suspect eventually there will be some modifications to Einstein's theories that get us over this gap (much in the same way Einstein modified Newton's theories to make them work in relativity scenarios.) Maybe we'll have something like this:

E = mc^2*

Where the * denotes some sort of conditions for c to remain constant?

Who knows really? The more we discover, the more we realize we just don't know (even the things we thought we already had nailed.) Life is a grand thing, who ever said you were going to understand it?


"OK, science boffins, what are the implications if the CERN data proves correct? "

The short answer is nobody knows for sure, but they could be gigantic.

The slightly longer answer includes all the stuff about signaling the past people mentioned above, though in practice that might be darn difficult with neutrinos that go just slightly faster than c. I gather that there might be a way to allow some "small" violations of Lorentz invariance and people have been doing mostly ignored theoretical work on this. As a mere physics teacher I hadn't heard anything about that, because most physicists apparently didn't take it seriously.

Also, when there is a massive paradigm shift in science it doesn't always mean that everything we knew before gets tossed out. Newtonian physics still works at slow speeds and on scales larger than those of an atom. All the experimental results of the past 100 years that seem to confirm relativity are still there, but they might have to be re-interpreted under some new theory that some new Einstein has to develop.


Light is slowing up due to air pollution.

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