Intelligent Design

Einstein, Neutrinos, and Time Travel

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CERN neutrinos
The bartender says, “We don’t serve neutrinos here”

A neutrino walks into a bar.

The blogosphere is all abuzz about the CERN neutrino experiment that reported “faster than light” travel for the neutrinos. We all heard the news first from the blogs, and now the arXive pre-print server has the details. This immediate publication is already truly amazing, given the months before the paper copy appears in the library journal. The comments and consequences are flying so thick and fast, one hardly has time to absorb the impact. Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity some 107 years ago, and this has been the first, contradictory laboratory evidence for “superluminal” transport.

But already, one day later, the first theorist has chimed in with an explanation. Not to miss any opportunities, the same theorist has a second explanation, with a different cast of secondary authors. Since both papers are written exclusively by Italians, it would appear that they had their theories ready to go as soon as the experimentalists were confident enough to publish. Other theorists weren’t so fortunate to get advance notice, but they are quick with their theories too. Frank Close, an Oxford physicist who just published a book on the Neutrino, doesn’t think his life’s work was wasted quite yet.

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2 Replies to “Einstein, Neutrinos, and Time Travel

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    What if neutrinos, instead of traveling thru space faster than light, actually skipped over parts of it, i.e, changed location in a non-local way, similar to how a spin reductions can communicate instantly over vast distances? Has any physicist of note mention that idea?

  2. 2

    Mmm. Yes, my solar physicist colleague immediately suggested this idea, perhaps because he is also an avid SciFi reader. Out in sringtheory land, this is called “travelling on another brane”, which is to suggest that there are more than 4 dimensions of spacetime, and perhaps neutrinos can travel in a higher dimension that saves time.
    And of course, there is the rather old-fashioned tachyon idea, that Einstein merely said that if you started out slower than lightspeed, you could never exceed it, but particles starting faster than lightspeed are still permissible. Other suggested that this means tachyons are travelling backward in time. You might read the Italian theorist who likes tachyons for support.

    I find all these theories to be (a) far too speculative because (b) they would change everything else in physics as well.

    For example, let’s take the idea that neutrinos are tachyons and move backward in time. Then the interaction of Italian neutrinos caused the CERN proton collider to interact. We wouldn’t notice because only 1 in 10^16 protons is affected this way. But the Sun is making enormous numbers of neutrinos in its core, and it would be disconcerting to think that studying the Sun’s neutrinos in the Homestake mine was causing it to have fewer sunspots. Reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Venus in the Half Shell”! And that makes Anthropogenic Global Warming child’s play compared to the ban on enforcing neutrino-neutral footprints! “No weak interactions allowed. Only the strong force allowed on these premises.”

    Like I said, I find most of these theories to be not even half-baked, but still runny batter.

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