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  • This fall, physicists in Italy published results suggesting that neutrinos travel faster than

  • light - significantly faster.

  • If true, this is really big news in physics, and of course most scientists are greeting

  • the results with skepticismwhy, you might ask?

  • Well, they fly in the face of the well-established and experimentally supported theories of special

  • and general relativity.

  • And extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

  • So let's go visit the OPERA experiment in Italy and try to catch some neutrinos!

  • The kind researchers looking for the Higgs Boson at the LHC in Switzerland are already

  • crashing protons into each other to create explosions of subatomic particlesand

  • luckily some of those particles are neutrinos which fly straight through the earth's crust

  • to us here in Italy.

  • There are just three things that we have to do:

  • 1) We have to catch the neutrinos, which, given that neutrinos will travel for roughly

  • 2 years through lead before stopping, is an ambitious task.

  • But we can do it.

  • 2) Once we have a neutrino, we have to figure out which proton collision it came from: imagine

  • blowing up a case of wine bottles, at night, and then having your neighbor call you up

  • and say "I caught a piece of glass!

  • Can you tell me which one it is?"

  • Well, we're that neighbor.

  • And 3) Once we figure out which collision a neutrino came from, we have to know exactly

  • what time the collision happened, AND exactly when we caught the corresponding neutrino.

  • And because the scientists in Switzerland are hundreds of kilometers away, we have to

  • use timing signals from GPS satellites in order to synchronize our clocks.

  • If we're off by even a microsecond, we'll get the speed wrong by a million km/hr.

  • So that's it!

  • Now that we've measured the neutrinos going faster than light, what next?

  • Well, because our results are so groundbreaking and our observations so hard to make, the

  • scientific community wants to be absolutely sure we didn't make any big mistake - so we

  • have to wait for other experiments around the world to confirm or refute our claim.

  • And this could take months or even years, so be patient

  • And in the meanwhile, why not learn more about neutrinos?

  • Or how GPS works?

  • (click below to make a choice)

This fall, physicists in Italy published results suggesting that neutrinos travel faster than

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