Faster Than Light Neutrino's Caused By Loose Wires

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It looks like the experiment that rocked the physics community was just a case of bad wiring. Last fall, scientists at CERN announced they had detected neutrinos moving faster than light — which is against the laws of physics. But KTRK reports scientists are saying — oops.

"An earth-shattering discovery was actually a mistake according to scientists in Geneva. ... A faulty connection between a GPS receiver and a computer created the false reading."

The original experiment fired neutrinos from Switzerland to Italy, and found they arrived 60 nanoseconds faster than light would have. ZDNet explains, the scientists knew it was more likely they'd screwed up than that Einstein was wrong.

"When they first reported their surprising findings, the OPERA team were clear that they were not definitely saying neutrinos could travel faster than light, but were simply revealing what they had observed."

Still, the physics world had a fun few months picking apart the data. They suggested everything from relativity itself throwing off the measurements to simple math errors. But ScienceInsider spoke to a source saying the loose wire seems to account for the finding.

"After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed."

A writer for Popular Science says, after the prospect of physics being wrong, relativity overturned, maybe even time travel being possible... this is just such a bummer.

"Frankly, this is so boring as to sound almost suspicious.These people with their 5 sigmas and their M-branes and their beta particles just forgot to push the plug in all the way!"

But a writer for Scientific American says: give 'em a break. When you're working at the edge of physics, measuring data more precisely than ever before, it's easy to get thrown off by the little things.

"Such is the nature of complex and extremely tricky physics experiments, a dodgy bit of wiring, or a piece of electronics slightly outside its design tolerance can make all the difference."

The scientists say they aren't sure the cable was loose when they took their measurements. What's more, they found another technical issue that could have affected the results, complicating things even more. Ars Technica explains.

"The two issues would skew the results in opposite directions, which is why they will need new measurements to better understand whether both influence the results and, if so, what the net impact is."

The researchers plan to run the test again in May — with the cables plugged in this time.

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