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Skeptical mathematician Peter Woit on the faster-than-light neutrinos …

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Since everyone wants to hear about the faster-than-light neutrinos, here’s some additional information about why I don’t believe it. Jon Butterworth explains here the problem with timing the neutrinos at the CERN end. In a postscript, a senior member of OPERA points out that he and four other senior members of the collaboration kept their names off the paper. Their reasoning seems to have been that this is a very preliminary, likely wrong, result, being sold as more robust than it is. Tommaso Dorigo had a similar analysis to Butterworth’s up on his blog early on, but was induced to take it down because the release to the press and the associated hullabaloo had not yet taken place.


Whatever would we do without real skeptics (who generally don’t set much store by belonging to “Skeptical Societies”)

13 Replies to “Skeptical mathematician Peter Woit on the faster-than-light neutrinos …

  1. 1
    Jehu says:

    How is skepticism like this going to get us closer to a warp drive space ship? Hmm? Think about that why don’t you.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Jehu, as to:

    How is skepticism like this going to get us closer to a warp drive space ship? Hmm? Think about that why don’t you.

    Actually there are many people who have thought, and experimented, long and hard about physical matter trying to approach the speed of light, and the results consistently point out that it is impossible for physical matter to attain the speed of light. In fact the current line of thought, from special relativity and all previous particle accelerator experiments, holds that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate even one atom to the speed of light. Thus the skepticism on neutrinos is soberly born out of decades experimentation and thought, rather than from any desires to crush teenage Star-Trek pipe dreams.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Some of us are primarily interested in the fact that the apparent faster-than-light neutrinos are not just explained away inadequately, and we wish more science were like that. Heck, those guys probably still even have jobs.

  4. 4
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    ba77 (paraphrasing): “Oh, it’s too hard to figure out how to go faster than the speed of light!”

    Well, while you continue to make these arguments from incredulity concerning matter traveling faster than the speed of light, science will keep marching towards figuring out how to make warp drive possible. This “things simply cannot go faster than light” argument is a science stopper, and I wish you guys would can it.

  5. 5
    Andrew says:

    You don’t need to travel faster than the speed of light to enable space travel.

    Surely scientists are looking at how we can bend space time as much as looking at how we can go faster than the speed of light. I would have thought that this line of thought far more likely, since we know is at least possible to bend space time whereas we believe it is theoretically impossible to go faster than the speed of light.

    Is stubbornly following a dead end good science?

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Andrew, well said!!!

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    M. Holcumbrink, though I look soberly at the speed of light barrier and am rightly skeptical of the claims that it has been violated, I should point out that my skeptical complete block to ‘space travel’, or even to UFO’s, was severely checked by this passage of scripture:

    Ezekiel 1 4-28
    4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, 5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and the wings of one touched the wings of another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.

    10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a human being, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. They each had two wings spreading out upward, each wing touching that of the creature on either side; and each had two other wings covering its body. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.

    15 As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. 16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like topaz, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. 17 As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not change direction as the creatures went. 18 Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

    19 When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose. 20 Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. 21 When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

    22 Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome. 23 Under the vault their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. 24 When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty,[b] like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings.

    25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him.

    This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

    The Bible UFO Connection – Ezekiel – Text Version
    Excerpt: Ezekiel 1:4
    4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.
    A rushing windy great thundercloud like flying craft flew out of the north. The vehicle had the appearance of brilliant glowing fire all around it and the center of the illumination the vehicle was polished metal.

    Spooky huh?

  8. 8
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    Stubbornly following a dead end? Need I remind you that there are countless peer reviewed journals that are highly speculative that detail how we might be able to achieve warp drive capability. Besides that, the vast majority of scientists accept warp drive without scruple. Are you saying that all the time that has been spent towards solving this problem is all for not? Granted, we don’t have all the details worked out, but just giving up and saying it’s not possible and looking along other venues does nothing to advance science.

    Disbelieving in warp drive is like disbelieving in gravity, for Pete’s sake. Your “bending spacetime” fanaticism is not science. It’s just not.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    M. Holcumbrink, technology does not advance by ignoring recognized constraints, but by appropriately taking those constraints into account, and finding ingenuous methods to either overcome those constraints or to use those constraints to our advantage for our design objective. If, despite all the previous science and experimentation, the speed of light is shown, straight up, to be violated by neutrinos, then so be it, and we will have learned something valuable. But it simply is not prudent to take this one experiment, which hasn’t even been corroborated by another lab yet, and wasn’t even signed off on by 5 senior members of the team who did the experiments, at face value.

  10. 10
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    Well, you just keep on believing whatever it is you are going to believe, but in the meantime, we will have to make laws to prevent your anti-warp drive ideas from being taught in the public schools, preventing this dangerous idea from being spread at the point of a gun.

    I suppose next you’ll start telling us that blind, naturalistic forces are not sufficient to generate the highly sophisticated molecular machinery, Boolean logic, machine code, cybernetic programming, or the exquisite display of engineering design principles we find in the cell.

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    M. Holcumbrink LOL, you state:

    I suppose next you’ll start telling us that blind, naturalistic forces are not sufficient to generate the highly sophisticated molecular machinery, Boolean logic, machine code, cybernetic programming, or the exquisite display of engineering design principles we find in the cell.

    And what ever gave you that idea??? But by chance, in case someone does come along and decide to question the almighty power of neo-Darwinian evolution, do have any such example of highly sophisticated molecular machinery, Boolean logic, machine code, cybernetic programming, or the exquisite display of engineering design principles we find in the cell that you can point to that arose by blind, naturalistic forces??? Perhaps just one sophisticated molecular machine that arose by such a blind natural method???


    Astonishingly, actual motors, which far surpass man-made motors in ‘engineering parameters’, are now being found inside ‘simple cells’.

    Articles and Videos on Molecular Motors;hl=en

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video

    And in spite of the fact of finding molecular motors permeating the simplest of bacterial life, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of even one such motor or system.

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

    The following expert doesn’t even hide his very unscientific preconceived philosophical bias against intelligent design,,,

    ‘We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity,,,

    Yet at the same time the same expert readily admits that neo-Darwinism has ZERO evidence for the chance and necessity of material processes producing any cellular system whatsoever,,,

    ,,,we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.’
    Franklin M. Harold,* 2001. The way of the cell: molecules, organisms and the order of life, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 205.
    *Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Colorado State University, USA

    Michael Behe – No Scientific Literature For Evolution of Any Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines

    “The response I have received from repeating Behe’s claim about the evolutionary literature, which simply brings out the point being made implicitly by many others, such as Chris Dutton and so on, is that I obviously have not read the right books. There are, I am sure, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred.” And he continues, “When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not, in fact, contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter anyone who knows where they exist.”
    David Ray Griffin – retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology

    What I find very persuasive, to the suggestion that the universe was designed with life in mind, is that physicists find many processes in a cell operate at the ‘near optimal’ capacities allowed in any physical system:

    William Bialek – Professor Of Physics – Princeton University:
    Excerpt: “A central theme in my research is an appreciation for how well things “work” in biological systems. It is, after all, some notion of functional behavior that distinguishes life from inanimate matter, and it is a challenge to quantify this functionality in a language that parallels our characterization of other physical systems. Strikingly, when we do this (and there are not so many cases where it has been done!), the performance of biological systems often approaches some limits set by basic physical principles. While it is popular to view biological mechanisms as an historical record of evolutionary and developmental compromises, these observations on functional performance point toward a very different view of life as having selected a set of near optimal mechanisms for its most crucial tasks.,,,The idea of performance near the physical limits crosses many levels of biological organization, from single molecules to cells to perception and learning in the brain,,,,”

    Astonishing Molecular Machines – Drew Berry

    Primary Cilium As Cellular ‘GPS System’ Crucial To Wound Repair
    Excerpt: The primary cilium, the solitary, antenna-like structure that studs the outer surfaces of virtually all human cells, orient cells to move in the right direction and at the speed needed to heal wounds, much like a Global Positioning System helps ships navigate to their destinations.
    “What we are dealing with is a physiological analogy to the GPS system with a coupled autopilot that coordinates air traffic or tankers on open sea,”

    Cellular Communication through Light
    Excerpt: As there were significant differences when separating the populations with glass or quartz, it is suggested that the cell populations use two (or more) frequencies for cellular information transfer, which influences at least energy uptake, cell division rate and growth correlation. Altogether the study strongly supports a cellular communication system, which is different from a molecule-receptor-based system and hints that photon-triggering is a fine tuning principle in cell chemistry.

    Molecular Biology Animations – Demo Reel

    Map Of Major Metabolic Pathways In A Cell – Diagram

  12. 12
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    First, you try to crush my boyhood dream of traveling at warp speed, then you try to dash all hopes of me keeping God out of my thoughts. What is a materialistic Star Trek fan to do?

    …On a serious note, all I can say is that I’m glad I don’t actually have to debate you on this stuff, ba77.

  13. 13
    M. Holcumbrink says:

    The “primary cilium” article got my attention, and at the end of it there’s this jewel:

    Protruding through the cell membrane, primary cilia occur on almost every non-dividing cell in the body. Once written off as a vestigial organelle discarded in the evolutionary dust, primary cilia in the last decade have risen to prominence as a vital cellular sensor at the root of a wide range of health disorders, from polycystic kidney disease to cancer to left-right anatomical abnormalities.

    I wonder how long the ToE lead investigators down the wrong path on this one? Finally, someone probably thought to themselves “hummm… I wonder if these primary cilia actually do something really really really important…”

    I love this blog.

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