Neutrinos travel at superluminal speed
In continuation of the FRIDAY13 post about experiments by scientists from the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), showing that neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light - translation of an interview that CERN press officer James Gillies gave to Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe correspondent Ron Sinovits ( Ron Synovitz). See the original here . Image from the BBC website .
Radio Liberty (RS): You said that even CERN scientists who participated in the experiment can hardly believe the results of their observations. Why?
Jilly: Such things often happen in science. The experiment shows something unusual and the first thing you say: "I do not believe in it." Then you try to find an explanation in the imperfection of your equipment, your analysis, the methods used, etc. As a rule, in the end, you find a completely prosaic explanation that invalidates these results. But sometimes you cannot find such an explanation. That is exactly what happened now. Scientists made every effort to find an explanation related to the imperfection of the equipment, and could not do it. The next step that has just been taken is to present these results to the court of a community of physicists involved in elementary particles.
RS: If this discovery is confirmed, and other scientists independently verify that neutrinos actually travel at a speed exceeding the speed of light, what effect can this have on physics?
Jilly: The theory of relativity has stood the test of time for nearly a hundred years. And this does not mean that it was not checked. Scientists checked and double-checked, measured, conducted experiments and made observations for a long time, and so far nothing has indicated that this speed limit can be exceeded. So the current experiment is contrary to everything done before. This does not mean that it was held incorrectly. But in the scientific community there is a very strong feeling that there must be some other explanation.
RS: Can you explain in scientific terms that why the experiment carried out by CERN scientists means a revolution in physics?
Gilly: Modern physics is based on two theories that arose at the beginning of the 20th century - the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Relativity include the theory of gravity. There is no quantum theory of gravity.
An attempt to combine these two theories is one of the most important, perhaps the most important goal of modern physics. Finding facts like the present can help. But first of all, we must make sure that these results are true.
RS: Can you tell us more about how the experiments were carried out at CERN?
Gilly: Einstein's general theory of relativity claims that there is a limit to the speed of the universe, equal to the speed of light. Nothing can move faster. This experiment measured the time during which a neutrino beam covered a distance of 732 kilometers underground between CERN and an underground particle trap located in Gran Sasso in Italy. Light travels this distance in about 2.4 milliseconds. The measurement results show that neutrinos arrive earlier than this time. A little earlier - 20 millionths of this time, but nonetheless - earlier.
If this is true, then this is truly a stunning revolutionary result for physics. That is why we must be extremely cautious before vigorously rejoicing and claiming that Einstein was wrong. We try to understand this result and wait for the results of independent measurements before we can make any definite conclusions about the significance of the facts obtained.
RS: You mentioned underground detectors used in the experiment. Does a neutrino beam pass through any tunnels or other underground infrastructure, which allows it to behave like a ray of light?
Jilly: This is not a ray of light. These are elementary particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos are tiny particles that are very important in explaining the behavior of the universe, because they are omnipresent. They are present everywhere, overwhelming the universe. Neutrinos are very small and very difficult to detect, because they interact very weakly with other elementary particles. We are constantly washed by a stream of neutrinos from space, a significant number of which are generated by the Sun, and most of these neutrinos pass directly through the Earth without any interaction.
We are trying to understand the nature of these particles, and similar experiments are intended for this. Since neutrinos pass through the earth without any interaction, it is not difficult for laboratories like Fermilab and CERN to generate neutrino beams and send them to the earth. What we do. They pass through the earth and appear on the detector, in this case, located at a distance of 732 kilometers. There are no tunnels there. Neutrinos literally pass through the earth.
RS: In 2007, similar results with neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light were obtained by researchers at the Fermilab laboratory in Chicago. What is the difference between your research?
Jilly: Those results are also very interesting. Fermilab conducted a similar experiment. They sent a beam of neutrinos to the north in the direction of an underground trap located at about the same distance. They did the same thing - measured the time and found that neutrinos arrived a little earlier than expected. But the accuracy of their experiment was not as high as in the CERN experiment, so they could not make any confident statements. Now they are trying to upgrade their equipment so that it can make more accurate measurements. And we look forward to it.
RS: How long do you think it will take before independent research can confirm or deny that neutrinos travel at speeds greater than the speed of light?
Jilly: I think it will take months, and possibly even years. We send a huge amount of neutrinos through the earth, but since they interact weakly, you have to wait a long time. Only when you send them a lot will you be able to detect a certain number of interactions. In our experiments, we have been collecting data for three years. So before we see an independent refutation or confirmation of our result, a rather long time will pass.