UPDATE (via Matthew Cobb): There’s a good take on this experiment, including what it would mean for physics if the speed of light were exceeded, over at Professor Jim al-Khalili’s site (he doesn’t buy the result and will eat his boxer shorts if it’s true).
According to the New York Times, the same group (“Opera”) that found neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light have repeated the experiment and found the same anomalous result. And they’ve eliminated one problem that might have made the first observation erroneous:
When these results were presented to a meeting at CERN in September, after a prairie fire of blog rumors, they were greeted by fierce skepticism. Among the problems with the original experiment, scientists said, was that the neutrinos were produced in bursts 10,000 billionths of a second long — much bigger than the discrepancy in arrival time.
Last month CERN retooled so that the neutrinos could be produced in shorter bursts, only 3 billionths of a second long, making it easier to match neutrinos at Gran Sasso with neutrinos at CERN, and the experiment was briefly repeated. The neutrinos still arrived early, about 62 billionths of a second early, in good agreement with the original result and negating the possibility, the Opera team said, that the duration of the neutrino pulse had anything to do with the results.
The details of both the first and second round of experiments are contained in a paper posted on the Internet at http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.4897 and submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics.
But problems remain, one being how the clocks were synchronized between Geneva and Italy—the 735 km. path taken by the neutrinos. I thought that had already been taken care of, but apparently not. Nevertheless, physicists, including those who did the study, are still skeptical:
But the group admitted that many questions remain. “This is not the end of the story,” said Antonio Ereditato of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the spokesman for the collaboration, explaining that physicists would not accept the result that neutrinos could go faster than light until other experiments had come up with the same conclusion. “We are convinced, but that is not enough in science,” he said. . . .
I find this a bit weird. The people who did the experiment should be at least as hard to convince as the physics community, for the possible problems are the same for all of them, and the researchers who publish the result have much more to lose. Further, as Feynman said, “the first principle is that you not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Alvaro de Rujula, a CERN theorist, said there were two interpretations of the experiment. “One is that they have stumbled upon a revolutionary discovery; the other, on which I would place my bet, is that they are still making and not finding the very same error.”
With this kind of skepticism properly infusing our community, it’s no surprise that scientists take deep exception to the far less evidenced claims of theology.