Thursday 6 October 2011

Neutrinos caught speeding!

The big news in physics at the moment is that a beam of neutrinos from CERN has turned up at a particle detector 60ns sooner than should have been physically possible. Did they really travel faster than light? At first glance, most scientists would say that there's probably a flaw in the measurements somewhere, but the team who made the discovery had spent 2 years checking the results before they published them. However, if neutrinos really were travelling faster than light, we should have detected neutrinos from a supernova 5 years before the light from the explosion. (What if some did arrive that early and nobody noticed?) More exotic theories are going about. According to some versions of string theory, the universe we know is a four dimensional strcture called a brane (short for membrane) embedded in a higher dimensional bulk. If the brane is slightly curved, neutrinos could take a short cut across the bulk.

So, have we found an exception to relativity? Is this evidence of extra dimensions? Or will it all come down to experimental error? I know that the latter is most likely, but I want my spaceship!