The likely end of the faster-than-light neutrinos story

A different research group called ICARUS has repeated the earlier experiment done by the OPERA group and found that neutrino speeds do not exceed the speed of light after all. You can read the paper here.

The ICARUS group had been working with the same neutron beam source at CERN and also had their detectors at Garn Sasso in Italy, just like OPERA, but had been doing different experiments. They modified it to measure neutrino speeds and got this new result. They were also able to create very tight bunches of neutrinos with widths of just 3 ns, the bunches being separated by a huge 524 ns, enabling them to measure the time of flight more unambiguously.

Coupled with the earlier discovery of a possible technical malfunction in the OPERA experiment, this likely ends this story.

It is sad in a way. Scientists in general love a revolutionary new discovery because it usually opens up a whole world of exciting new questions to explore, while telling us something deep about our universe.

But with science there will always be new frontiers to explore and challenges to conquer.


  1. slc1 says

    This has been pointed out on several blogs but it is a textbook example of how science operates. The issue is repeatability. Any experimental scientific finding is tentative until others have repeated the experiment/observation and reached the same result. It also demonstrates the self-correcting nature of science.

    Creationists like to point out Piltdown man as an example of scientific fraud, which supposedly shows the unreliability of science. However, the fraud was exposed by other scientists, not creationists, yet another example of the self-correcting nature of science.

  2. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    When I heard about the OPERA findings I suspected it would turn out to be experimental error of some kind.

    I grew up reading science fiction. I want FTL travel. I also know enough physics to doubt it’ll happen, particularly in my lifetime.

  3. Crudely Wrott says

    I was suspicious of the earlier results, as well. I know from personal experience how easy it is to louse up much simpler things.

    That such experiments even can be run — and with such precision — has always amazed me. Not that I can’t understand them, but that I do; even if only after the fashion of an interested observer with just a smattering of knowledge.

    To all of those whose books about science and science fiction took over my attention as a boy, thanks again. I won’t forget you.

    To those who are doing it today for a newer generation, thanks for carrying on the good work. You will make a difference.

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