Three x ten to the tenth cm/sec: It’s not just a good idea. It’s the Law.

The first FTL-neutrino joke.

The latest report from CERN is almost certainly wrong. (See headline.)

Still, imagine if it turned out to be right …

We don’t allow neutrinos in here, said the bartender.

A faster-than-light neutrino walks into a bar.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

17 thoughts on “Three x ten to the tenth cm/sec: It’s not just a good idea. It’s the Law.”

  1. I’m not sure what is wrong with the report, physicists found something they couldn’t explain with 6 months of work and then announced that they have results that even they themselves are skeptical of. Neutrinos are tricky b*stards, I’m excited for what new (non time travel) physics comes from this.

  2. The odds are still heavily in favor of experimental error. Though the pretty much uniform consensus is that they did everything known to control for such errors. As Finn said, neutrinos are slippery.

  3. Tony: yes, I do love that poem, and they do have mass. That was the result from the early 2000s, with the solar neutrino mystery. Flavor-changing neutrinos, from electron neutrinos to muon neutrinos, in transit, couldconly happen if they have mass. So thte mass is super small, like order eV, but not zero. I think.

    Blake: how cam we really assign odds to whether a new result will pan out? Past experience? The weight of evidence? I don’t propose total uncertainty about whether we know things, but this is a new result. It will be confirmed, or the result will not be reproduced. I think xkcd notwithstanding, odds are not so heavily stacked as that. We have theoretical reason to think c is it. And, we have never clocked neutrinos before. Yes, as Phil Plait pointed out, the supernova neutrinos arrived in the time predicted. Which was still before the light arrived, due to photons having to work their way out of the center of the collapse. Hm. Was that predicted, or do we just have a model that gives that, after the fact? Hm…. That’s interesting.

  4. For the life of me I can’t imagine how it is possible to observe a single
    subatomic particle (particularly one wihtout mass or charge) or measure a timeframe as minute as a nanosecond.
    But of course Einstein didn’t say it was impossible for matter to travel at the speed of light, just that it would require an infinite amout of energy to do it. He also said that the universe can’t be infinite because infinite mass would cause it to collapse into a point. So no infinite universe, no infinite energy, no matter travling at the speed of light. But maybe neutrinos got a better lawyer.

  5. Anomalous: I routinely measure times in the nanoseconds every day at work. Modern commercial oscilloscopes can resolve picoseconds.

  6. No, it’s about the notion that FTL travel means moving backward in time.

    Thanks Mark. I did understand that. It just seemed to me that the sequence of events could occur as follows (in non-neutrino time):

    Bartender speaks.
    Neutrino enters.
    Neutrino hears.

    (Yes. Few things are dumber than questioning the premises of a joke.)

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