No News

I’ve been hearing no interesting news from the LHC recently, about all I’ve learned is that CMS/ATLAS haven’t even decided whether it’s worth combining their latest public data (probably not, what is much more interesting is the large amount of data they are now analyzing separately). So my plan for next week is to travel to Antwerp, where I’ll try and get Tommaso Dorigo drunk and see what I can find out. We’ll both be at TEDx, he’s got more of the story here.

Adrian Cho has a wonderful long piece in Science (and podcast here) about the sociology of the two big experiments at the LHC. It gives some insight into the process by which a Higgs result is likely to emerge, including the steps being taken to make sure that some group doesn’t “parachute in” at the last moment to try and capture glory. I’m still trying to figure out who gets a Nobel prize if the Higgs is found.

For some other reading material, there’s John Ellis’s 65th birthday colloquium, an interview with Bianca Dittrich, and yet more evidence that MathOverflow rules.

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71 Responses to No News

  1. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Well, it’s already in the NY Times now, so if this is spurious (and pretty much everyone thinks it is, apparently), it does seem to have the potential to be a rather ignominious claim.

  2. abubakar says:

    hey … some new cern data is saying (but not totally confirmed) that speed of light maybe exceeded by neutrinos .. plz comment. Thnkx

  3. chris says:

    what has the world come to? a rumor hits the NYT before any result has been announced.

  4. Bernhard says:

    As usual, if it were true, it would be confirmation of string theory:

    “Zichichi speculates that the “superluminal” neutrinos detected by OPERA could be slipping through extra dimensions in space, as predicted by theories such as string theory.”

  5. Paolo Valtancoli says:

    I think that Zichichi should be fired immediately from all universities.

  6. martibal says:

    Well… I cannot believe nobody has posted comments yet, on the CERN presentation of Opera experiment. So Michael, these people obviously have done a really serious job, they seem to have taken into account many of the effects one can think of (e.g. gravitational effect). Still, there is a discrepancy in the speed of the neutrino of order 10^-5 of the speed of light. They do not how to explain this as a statistical bias. Many people will try to find other explanations than faster-than-light neutrinos. Before theoretician start to propose hundreds of models with tachyonic neutrinos, maybe it would be worth letting the experimentalist confirm – or not – these result.

  7. Bitboy says:

    The cynic in me thinks “hmmm, no Higgs yet. No SUSY. What a great way to hold over CERN’s political and financial handlers.”

    I understand that such extraordinary claims as superluminal neutrinos require peer review and independent verification but I wonder whether under other circumstances these wouldn’t be conducted without such fanfare.

  8. martibal says:

    @bitboy: I did not find the CERN presentation was done with fanfare. And in their preprint, the Opera collaboration is very prudent, insisting that they do not drive any phenomenological or theoretical conclusions from their result.
    Now, it is true that there has been a lot of fanfare in the media. I am not sure this was a desire from CERN or opera.

  9. Vince says:

    Neutrinos from the 1987 supernova were clocked in at precisely the speed of light. How? The supernova was around 150,000 light years away, so even if neutrinos travel faster than light by even a tiny amount, they would have arrived months before the light from the supernova was detected. Instead, due to the dynamics of supernovas, the neutrinos were detected up to 3 hours before the light was first observed. (Neutrinos are generated from the collapse of the core, with the emission of light happening a little afterwards, when the star is blown apart.) Also, more robust experiments show that neutrinos have a very tiny mass, which means they should travel a teeny weeny bit slower than light.

    For more, look at Matt Strassler’s posting on this:

  10. How ironical that the title of this entry is “No news” 😉

    It almost makes me believe that there is something real there.

    Vince : thanks for that link. Maybe
    this one
    could be helpful too.

    Now my two cents (sorry I can’t resist) : the definition of time of flight for a quantum particle is quite tricky. Claims of FTL transmission of information through tunnel effect have been made in the past. Apart from a general relativity effect not taken properly into account, this would be my second best bet for where the error comes from… if there is one !

  11. Peter Woit says:


    I’m afraid I think the “No News” heading is quite appropriate for the neutrino story. Even if I weren’t traveling I’d probably not write a posting about it here. It seems nearly certain that there is some subtle problem with the experiment, so the only story here is what that problem might be, and virtually no one submitting comments here appears to have the kind of expertise necessary to make a good guess about that (I certainly don’t). So, please, if you want to discuss this, find a blog where the owner is interested in the topic and willing to moderate a discussion. Matt Strassler and Tommaso Dorigo are good bets along those lines, and surely there are others.

  12. martibal says:

    Just a last word (if Peter allows): maybe the topic could move to “this week hype” instead. Just heard from the news on France Culture (a well informed radio, with good scientific programs in addition) a brief interview of a well established particle physicist, claiming that the explanation could be that neutrino have shorter distance to travel, because they travel in extra-dimension.

  13. Kent Traverson says:

    Peter, it might be wise for you to make some kind of answer about the FTL neutrinos, otherwise the media and the masses will keep pestering you about it. This is human nature.

  14. Peter Woit says:


    One thing this story does show is that string theory, since it predicts nothing, can be invoked as an explanation of anything.

    To make this absolutely clear: I’m convinced this has to be due to some sort of error in the experimental analysis, and I’m pretty sure this is the majority opinion of knowledgeable people in this subject. To find the error though requires a real expert, and I’m certainly not that.

  15. Stephen says:

    No News = Headlines on all major media outlets announcing “Einstein was wrong” , how ironic.

  16. Chris W. says:

    The Washington Post’s coverage of this story (FTL [?] neutrinos) is pretty good, making clear that a definitive evaluation of the experiment and its results will take quite a while to complete.

  17. MathPhys says:

    This is not the first time that I hear that the speed of light was violated at CERN.

    Peter W, When was the first time that you heard that the speed of light was violated at CERN?

  18. M. Wang says:

    I find it ironic that string theorists are trying to jump on this FTL neutrino bandwagon, because isn’t string the only quantum gravity theory that insists on preserving Lorentz invariance down to Planck scale? In other theories (including LQG?) Lorentz symmetry is emergent, and small violations can manifest themselves at low energy scale as tiny corrections to various particles’ propagators. Effectively, each elementary particle sees a slightly different c. (I am simply quoting Coleman & Glashow 1999.)

    I am not saying that the latest result is likely true, just possibly so. After all, 10^-5 is quite large. Not to mention the 1987a supernova experiment, which seems to have already set an upper bound of 10^-8…

  19. Mike says:

    Just heard a great joke:

    Neutrino. Who’s there? Knock knock.


  20. Mike says:

    Someone just pointed out to me that we already knew that neutrinos pass through air faster than sound, so I guess even if true, FTL neutrinos won’t add anything to our humor knowledge base. Ah well . . . . 🙁

  21. Marc says:

    @Charles (from Sept 6)

    You are correct in your comment…”Folks are working together to make this happen at CERN and ultimately in Stockholm.

    At best, John Ellis is the main front-man for CERN and the effort to make this case for a Euro-centric Nobel. At worst, he thinks he should get part of a Higgs Nobel.

    His most recent comments in Telegraph in UK make me think more and more it is the later. Pretty remarkable as he has no role in this other than being a prop.

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