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posted by martyb on Saturday December 27 2014, @10:21AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the didn't-see-that-coming dept.

Phys.org reports that in a new paper accepted by the journal Astroparticle Physics, Robert Ehrlich, a recently retired physicist from George Mason University, claims that the electron neutrino is very likely a tachyon or faster-than-light particle. Ehrlich's new claim of faster-than-light neutrinos is based on a much more sensitive method than measuring their speed, namely by finding their mass. The result relies on tachyons having an imaginary mass, or a negative mass squared. Imaginary mass particles have the weird property that they speed up as they lose energy – the value of their imaginary mass being defined by the rate at which this occurs. According to Ehrlich, the magnitude of the neutrino's imaginary mass is 0.33 electronvolts, or 2/3 of a millionth that of an electron. He deduces this value by showing that six different observations from cosmic rays, cosmology, and particle physics all yield this same value (PDF) within their margin of error. One check on Ehrlich's claim could come from the experiment known as KATRIN, which should start taking data in 2015. In this experiment the mass of the neutrino could be revealed by looking at the shape of the spectrum in the beta decay of tritium, the heaviest isotope of hydrogen.p

But be careful. There have been many such claims, the last being in 2011 when the "OPERA" experiment measured the speed of neutrinos and claimed they travelled a tiny amount faster than light. When their speed was measured again the original result was found to be in error – the result of a loose cable no less. "Before you try designing a "tachyon telephone" to send messages back in time to your earlier self it might be prudent to see if Ehrlich's claim is corroborated by others."

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @11:02AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @11:02AM (#129439)

    the so-called "scientists" who believe that nothing can possibly travel faster than light are religious zealots

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by jimshatt on Saturday December 27 2014, @11:24AM

      by jimshatt (978) on Saturday December 27 2014, @11:24AM (#129442) Journal
      Bound by paradigm, maybe. Religious zealots, no. The statement that the speed of light is the absolute fastest speed wasn't just pulled out of a magic hat (/written on golden plates), you know.
      But you were probably just trolling anyway.
      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @12:14PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @12:14PM (#129449)

        You're both wrong. The speed of light isn't the fastest “speed.” The only thing relativity shows is that one cannot accelerate to the speed of light. Both time-like and space-like paths are possible for particles with mass, but light-like paths aren't.

        Hence the need for some kind of warp factor [wikipedia.org]. As I understand it, the only problem is that one would only need the equivalent mass of Jupiter to cold start that warp core.

        Now if only we could figure out how a Heisenberg compensator [memory-alpha.org] works other than just fine.

        I think it's exciting that the idea of a tachyon isn't entirely rubbish. I doubt it would lead to time travel, however.

        • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @01:22PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @01:22PM (#129455)

          That have been recalculated a while ago. No need for Jupiter mass, only something like 500-700kg would be needed.

  • (Score: 2) by Justin Case on Saturday December 27 2014, @02:16PM

    by Justin Case (4239) on Saturday December 27 2014, @02:16PM (#129462) Journal

    OK, I admit my limitations. I've tried, really I have, to read Einstein. And it seems he took, as an axiom, that nothing could move faster than light. To me that is not self-evident.

    I'm not saying I as an armchair science reader, know better. I'm ASKING. Can someone explain?

    Science is supposed to be about repeatable experiments. So never mind all the math, which is after all just an attempt to model reality. Is there an experiment I can perform to test the hypothesis that nothing can move faster than light?

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @02:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @02:50PM (#129468)

      yes, there are plenty of experiments to check the validity of the theory of relativity.
      the first one that comes to mind is to take a piece of radioactive material, and cut it in half. keep half of it in your lab. send the other half on a very fast trip somewhere and back. when you get the two halves back together, measure the isotope ratio for each; they will be different. this tells you that Einstein's prediction about time dilation is true.
      similarly, experiments have been made to verify all the claims of the theory of relativity, and they all turned out as predicted. in fact, there is never a shortage of doubters that would test relativity yet again, just because it doesn't seem right.
      specifically for the "nothing can go faster than light claim", all you need to do is to look at particle accelerators (LHC and friends). in those places, they accelerate electrons, protons and some other stuff with electric fields. if you look at the way their velocity changes with energy, you reproduce the graph that comes out of special relativity. that is, no matter how much energy you put in the particles, they never go over the speed of light, they just get closer and closer, requiring an infinite amount of energy to actually reach light speed (at least, that's what it looks like so far).

      anyway, as for your question about light. it is not light itself that is special, but information. when constructing relativity, Einstein says it is information that can only travel at a finite speed. due to the nature of electromagnetic fields, their fluctuations must travel with the same speed.

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by hendrikboom on Saturday December 27 2014, @05:48PM

        by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 27 2014, @05:48PM (#129501) Homepage Journal

        What's special about light is that its speed in vacuo is always the same no matter what Galileian frame of motion you're on. It does not appear to submit to the usual Newtonian rules for addition of velocities.

        And as for testing relativity, every GPS device has to contain software to compensate for the gravitational time-dilation predicted by general relativity; otherwise the reported coordinates will be wrong. Things happen faster up there.

        -- hendrik

        • (Score: 2) by Bot on Sunday December 28 2014, @03:30AM

          by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 28 2014, @03:30AM (#129626) Journal

          > What's special about light is that its speed in vacuo is always the same no matter what Galileian frame of motion you're on.

          Well then consider light as travelling at infinite speed and its less than istantaneous speed the result of lag in computing its effect :)

          Nothing against FTL neutrinos anyway. I find it easier to believe that some particles travel faster than light, than that a team of researchers botched a measurement because of a bad cable, especially when the result to be confirmed was so outlandish.

          Even if fellow Italians were involved, that's pretty strange.

          --
          Account abandoned.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @07:46PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @07:46PM (#129520)

        See the Lorentz transformation equations that predicts the speed of one object relative to another when accounting for relativity.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorentz_transformation [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:12PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:12PM (#129528) Journal

        And yet, here we have an article from someone with actual credentials (Ehrlich) claiming that maybe some particles do indeed travel faster than light.
        So again, we are torn: AC or Ehrlich....

        (By the way, your first example hasn't been verified, yet you pronounce somehow a proof. )

        To me, (with no pertainant credentials) it seems that the sentence:

        Imaginary mass particles have the weird property that they speed up as they lose energy – the value of their imaginary mass being defined by the rate at which this occurs.

        smacks of the same equation balancing fudge factor we discussed a few days ago when we were talking about dark matter.
        Too many fudge factors. Too short a life span to learn about them all.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:45PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:45PM (#129537)

          actually the first example has been verified, although I'm not sure it was done for nucleus half-lives.
          there are unstable sub-atomic particles generated in certain nuclear reactions, that have measurable half-lives. the same reactions take place in the upper atmosphere as a result of cosmic rays colliding with molecules/atoms/ions in the atmosphere. the resulting particles are moving faster for those reactions, and the measured half-lives are different than when measured in for the lab results.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:52PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @08:52PM (#129539)

          oh, and I forgot your first thing about particles traveling faster than light. I never said that's impossible.
          what is impossible is to take a particle that is traveling slower than light, and accelerate it over the speed of light.
          if some particle exists that is faster than light, it was never slower, and it never will be, and it will never be traveling at the speed of light either.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by mcgrew on Sunday December 28 2014, @01:36AM

          by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Sunday December 28 2014, @01:36AM (#129613) Homepage Journal

          When I read the article I sighed; this again. Quite a while ago they thought they had proven that neutrinos traveled faster than light from measurements of gamma ray bursts. The neutrinos always arrived ahead of electromagnetic radiation (light, x-rays, radio waves, etc) by several hours, depending on how far away the galaxy with the GRB was.

          It turned out that neutrinos didn't go faster than light after all; that the exploding stars were too dense for the light to escape at first but neutrinos go right through anything, so left the star as soon as the event took place.

          TFA is math and conjecture; or at least what it looks like, the actual research paper may be interesting.

          --
          Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
        • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @03:05PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28 2014, @03:05PM (#129707)

          You seem to have this thing for appeal to authority in your snide remarks because I have seen it before. One thing you should consider is that some of us AC's have actual credentials as well (myself, a Ph.D. with my dissertation on cosmic rays). This is no knock on Ehrlich, looking at his career he seems to have cut his teeth in particle physics, but has spent the last 40 or so years specializing in physics education and contributing to foreign policy decisions related to nuclear weapons. Two of the six pieces of evidence he cites are comparisons to high energy cosmic ray spectrum, and I am interested in looking at his Phys. Rev. papers to see whether he is stretching the evidence, but I'll have to wait until tomorrow when I get to work and have access to those papers.

          As an aside, he has some nice general science material [gmu.edu] that is worth checking out.

          For such a small site, it is a shame that there is a strong sense of hubris towards, and disdain levied against AC comments from the regulars here. I never understood the reasoning, and this goes back 15 years on Slashdot too, that for a site that is based upon creation of unique but anonymous accounts, that somehow an anonymous account that is tagged with a "handle" is somehow superior to the AC account. Unless the account owner fills in their email address, URL, etc. there is no substantial difference between the two, and even this is largely meaningless if one fills in an otherwise anonymous email address (gmail, hotmail, etc). However, there is this sense of entitlement or feeling of elitism some feel by their having an account name, especially if they have a low UID. You see it on php boards that post total post numbers; somehow someone who has +10k posts has opinions that carry much more weight than those with 10. People do have a strong desire for forming cliques and exclusion to make themselves feel more important, and this is no different from high school to anywhere else. Tagging an account does let me infer some things, like I can say Mr. Frojack seems to frequently appeal to authority, at least when challenged by an AC on a topic, but not much else.

          If it didn't come by default with the slashcode, I can see this place dropping AC accounts which would be a shame. You already have topic and though bias with some moderators, as evidenced by their admission that they never browse below a certain level, and at least one has admitted that he never up-mods and AC comment, no matter how worthy it seems, but without the AC account, this place will just devolve quicker into the intellectual circle jerk of group think and sacred cows. It should be mandatory to have to browse at -1 if you want to moderate. It won't change the elitist mindset, but at least they'll have to actually see comments at zero or below and have to explicitly see that they are hurting this site by suppressing good and valid points.

          For what it is worth, I am a different AC from all the others on this page.

          • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday December 28 2014, @08:01PM

            by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 28 2014, @08:01PM (#129771) Journal

            I never understood the reasoning, and this goes back 15 years on Slashdot too, that for a site that is based upon creation of unique but anonymous accounts, that somehow an anonymous account that is tagged with a "handle" is somehow superior to the AC account.

            Well here's the clue for you:

            You feel perfectly justified by saying things about me like:

            You seem to have this thing for appeal to authority in your snide remarks because I have seen it before.

            while at the same time hiding behind an AC, so that your past pontifications and can never be attributed to your posting account.
            You seem perfectly fine with drive by insults, while never establishing a persona to "wear" your contributions of your detractions. It is intellectual cowardice on a grand scale.

            An anonymous email account and a posting name is at least a step in the direction of establishing responsibility for your remarks, allowing others to assess whether you are an asset or just an ass. Instead you choose to hurl rotten eggs out of the crowd while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, then insisting that you are "a different AC from all the others on this page". Really? Just like THIS [soylentnews.org] guy. You are judged by the company you keep.

            Nobody is asking you to reveal you True Name, place of work, or putting at risk your employment while you hurl your insults. But running away from your body of work on this site is cowardice squared. You insist on judging, while refusing to be judged. Further you wrap yourself in some pseudo self aggrandizement as somehow taking the high road by remaining behind the Teflon curtain.

            Then, when challenged, you trot out your alleged "Ph.D. with my dissertation on cosmic rays". Not only do you insult others for appealing to authority, you yourself appeal to authority, AND you appear two want to prop yourself up as an authority, all in one post, while hiding behind the curtain.

            gewg_ refuses to sign up for an account, but at least he signs his work. I disagree with his views much of the time, but I respect his wearing them in his own way.

            Anonymous Coward is a pejorative, for good reason. It has become an internet meme, universally recognized as the sign of a cowardly bully, like the sheet wearing KKK member or the swastika painting gravestone defacer. We would all be better off without AC accounts being allows.

            --
            No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2, Informative) by moondrake on Saturday December 27 2014, @09:38PM

      by moondrake (2658) on Saturday December 27 2014, @09:38PM (#129561)

      Its been too many years since I had this on university. But I am guessing you are not looking for a detailed math explanation anyway (wiki pages probably address most of that).

      I also find it difficult to point to only 1 key factor for assuming light speed is constant. Einstein was actually not the first to do so. But he did it so rigorously, and worked out all the consequences for mechanics, than things just fell in place for many people.

      In Einstein's time, some things in physics did not really match up. Several of these had to do with light. The electrodynamics pioneered by Maxwell and modified by Lorentz was best able to describe many experimental findings (I also tend to believe that it mattered that the theory was aesthetically appealing, believe it or not). But believing it meant that light moved with equal velocity, in all directions, independent of the source velocity. The problem may not seem very obvious, as this theory considers light not to be actual particles, but as as soon as you think about light as particles, you have to wonder why the velocity of a light source does not add to the velocity of the light itself.

      If light is a wave, and not a particle, you may feel that you need something to carry this wave (like air carries sound waves). A so-called "luminiferous ether" was proposed to do this. Apart from having ridiculous properties (a solid mass-less material that is surrounding everything and everywhere, without interacting with us) to be able to explain several experimentally verified properties of light , it also means that you should imagine some universal reference framework in which the light moves (i.e. the velocity of this ether). People looked hard for this ether, but no one could experimentally show it was there...

      Is it, to you, more self evident to have a defined light speed (related to the energy it needs to increase velocity) or an ultimate framework in which you can define speed=0? Absolute space and time seemed a silly concept to several scientist around Einstein's time, especially in the absence of some object (ether) to define such absolute. But an amount of energy necessary to accelerate to infinite speed (i.e. light speed) can be easily defined [if you would define speed in units corresponding to the amount of energy necessary for acceleration light speed is infinite. The fact that it is some silly number in other scales is just an effect of the unity used to described it].

      Einstein postulated this and derived a logical framework that could describe many problematic experimental data of that time (relativistic doppler effects for example). Without requiring the ever-growing and more ridiculously list of properties of the light ether. So it became the accepted view (until the day that something better comes along)

      Note that nothing is special about light. "light-speed" is just a way of speaking. It would be better to say that particles with no rest mass have a constant speed in vacuum. This happens to be true for light, or any other particles with no rest mass. If there is something such as negative or complex mass, it will be interesting as according to _current_ theory, it could travel faster than light (as well have a lot of other weird properties). But I do not think the people working with this kind of physics have really considered non-positive mass to a great extend... (since the real question is whether such thing can exist at all).

  • (Score: 2) by LoRdTAW on Saturday December 27 2014, @05:30PM

    by LoRdTAW (3755) on Saturday December 27 2014, @05:30PM (#129496) Journal

    "Before you try designing a "tachyon telephone" to send messages back in time to your earlier self it might be prudent to see if Ehrlich's claim is corroborated by others."

    No worries. In 500 years every kid will have one: http://southpark.cc.com/clips/mc7r2m/crank-prank-time-phone [cc.com] (fuck you Hulu for using flash)

  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @05:30PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 27 2014, @05:30PM (#129497)

    vell it makes sense!

    ze electron and photons are coupled tightly.
    a universe with just electrons and photons is... vell .. self exploding so we needs the protons alzo.

    but some say that bigger atoms cannot just be protons and thus we need neutrons too.
    but ze neutron doesn't interact much with ze photons and if ze neutron should suddenly
    become able to interact with ze electrons and ze photons, that is, it decays into a proton and
    electron then there should be a "particle" that goes and informs the rest of the universe that they will
    be zeeing some new particles ( ze new proton and electron from ze decayed neutron) that want to emit and absorbe ze light now.

    so my best comparison is that in a cluster of computers, that would be all the normal nucleus and electrons making
    ze atoms, that exchange data vith each other via photons (and gravity) then the neutrino is the management network
    thru which each computer can be managed ... so a true faster then light meta particle.

    zeen again, maybe it doesn't exist at all and the universe doesn't add up to ZER0 as our sense of beauty would like : )