Score another for Einstein
Last month, a blog posted on American Thinker reported the news that researchers at the CERN laboratory near Geneva claimed they had recorded neutrinos, a type of tiny particle, traveling faster than the speed of light (186,282 miles per second). Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity concludes that no particle can travel faster than the speed of light because of the infinite energy required to make that happen. If it could be shown that neutrinos possessed some special property, the entire physics of matter and energy would require rethinking.
But science, if it's not polluted by politics and vast sums of money -- as in the "science" of climate change -- encourages skepticism. And skeptics may have won the day by showing that, ironically, relativity itself provides the key.
To understand the problem, keep in mind that the CERN researchers formulated their results from precise measurements of time (employing synchronized clocks) and distance (to within 20 centimeters) using GPS satellites. CERN factored in numerous variables including the time that it takes for the clock signal to make it from the satellite in orbit to the ground. However, it is this earth-bound frame of reference that may have provided the fatal flaw.
The CERN travel time measurement began with a release of a neutrino from Switzerland and its capture in Italy approximately 450 miles away. From repeated measurements, the neutrinos appeared to consistently arrive some 60 nanoseconds sooner than if they traveled at the speed of light -- a seemingly impossible feat.
However, to understand the possible experimental flaw, skeptics show that one must move the frame of reference to the satellite itself. If we sit on the satellite, it appears stationary, but the earth moves underneath. Thus, in the very brief duration of the experiment as seen from the satellite reference, the destination actually appears to move toward the source and the travel time becomes shorter than the fixed-based ground measurement.
How much shorter? Researchers at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands compute that the correct compensation should be about 32 additional nanoseconds on each end. This more than corrects for the 60 nanosecond speed burst the neutrinos appeared to originally have.
Additional peer review will come in the weeks ahead. But, it appears for now that the Theory of Relativity (including the relative effect of choosing the proper frame of reference) has been confirmed once more. Einstein scores again?