Faster Than The Speed Of Light… OPERA Update


A few days ago, the physics world was turned upside down at the announcement of “faster than the speed of light”. The mighty neutrino has struck again by breaking the cosmic speed limit and traveling at a velocity 20 parts per million above light speed. To absolutely verify this occurrence, collaboration is needed from different sources and we’re here to give you the latest update.

“This result comes as a complete surprise,” said OPERA spokesperson, Antonio Ereditato of the University of Bern. “After many months of studies and cross checks we have not found any instrumental effect that could explain the result of the measurement. While OPERA researchers will continue their studies, we are also looking forward to independent measurements to fully assess the nature of this observation.”

Since the OPERA measurements go against everything we think we know, it’s more important than ever to verify its findings through independent research.

“When an experiment finds an apparently unbelievable result and can find no artifact of the measurement to account for it, it’s normal procedure to invite broader scrutiny, and this is exactly what the OPERA collaboration is doing, it’s good scientific practice,” said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci. “If this measurement is confirmed, it might change our view of physics, but we need to be sure that there are no other, more mundane, explanations. That will require independent measurements.”

To get the job done, the OPERA Collaboration joined forces with CERN metrology experts and other facilities to establish absolute calibrations. There cannot be any error margin in parameters between the source and detector distances – and the neutrino’s flight time. In this circumstance, the measurements of the initial source of the neutrino beam and OPERA has an uncertainty value of 20 cm over the 730 km. The neutrino flight time has an accuracy of less than 10 nanoseconds, and was confirmed through the use of highly regarded GPS equipment and an atomic clock. Every care was given to ensure precision.

“We have established synchronization between CERN and Gran Sasso that gives us nanosecond accuracy, and we’ve measured the distance between the two sites to 20 centimetres,” said Dario Autiero, the CNRS researcher who will give this afternoon’s seminar. “Although our measurements have low systematic uncertainty and high statistical accuracy, and we place great confidence in our results, we’re looking forward to comparing them with those from other experiments.”

“The potential impact on science is too large to draw immediate conclusions or attempt physics interpretations. My first reaction is that the neutrino is still surprising us with its mysteries.” said Ereditato. “Today’s seminar is intended to invite scrutiny from the broader particle physics community.”

Original Story Source: CERN Press Release. For Further Reading: Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam.

Read our previous article on this paper.

51 Replies to “Faster Than The Speed Of Light… OPERA Update”

  1. If this was true the Neutrinos from SN1987A should have arrived just over 4 years before the light. THey only arrived a few hours before the light. It is not probable that the SN was in progress for 4 years before the light escaped. ( They were anti-neutrinos so there is an outside possibility that the result does not apply to anti-neutrinos). The neutrinos in the experiment arrive only 60ns before the light. In this time light travels around 18m (60 ft). I think it is more likley they have an error in the surveying of the instrument baseline else an additional delay in the standard time distribution.

    Time to dig a straight tunnel along the baseline so we can put a vacuum pipe in there and send light pulses at the same time as the Neutrinos.

    1. 4 Years ago no one was looking for Neutrinos from SN1987A so how would any one detect them if they were there. The Neutrinos that arrived a few hours before the light may not be connected.

      1. 4 years prior to 1987 you mean (minor typo;)).

        I doubt that this result will hold up to rigorous testing at other facilities (I’m guessing that it’s some really weird systematic error that no one has seen before… which is cool enough in its own right). But if it does hold up, then the fact that the SN1987A neutrinos arrived right around when it was predicted that they should doesn’t necessarily negate the CERN/OPERA result.

        It’s possible that only certain flavours of neutrino travel FTL, and that the other flavours travel slightly slower.

    2. Further to my previous statement I wonder how they allowed for the fact that that vertical as defined by a plumb bob will be effected by local masses – the receiving end is 10km inside a mountain which will have affected the local vertical and thus presumably the local horizontal for the surveying equipment.

      Also they need to allow very carefully for the non-spherical shape of the earth to determine where the emitter & detector are in 3 dimensional space.

      Time distribution is also a challenge as it take the time pulse 1ns to travel .3m ( 1 foot), it’s also slower than this in optic fibre and even slower in wire. As a result while they will know the time at the aerial accurately ( having allowed for propagation delays from the GPS satellite) they need to know the exact length of each cable the signal is transferred along very accurately. Also bends in the wire will delay the signal slightly as well as the characteristic impedance increases.

      There is a lot that is not explained in sufficient detail in the paper which is why it needs at least 2 more independent experiments.
      In terms of the 1987A I have looked for other Supernovae in 3, 4 & 5 years after 1987A but there are no very bright ones so it is improbable that the Neutrinos came from another SN 4 years in the future and just happened to arrive a few hours before the light from SN1987A.
      The limited directional information on the 1987A neutrinos indicates that they came from the general direction of SN1987A which reduces the probability even further.

      John Murrell

    3. If the neutrinos are actually tachyons, then this would make perfect sense. The more energy tachyons have, the slower they go, approaching the speed of light, this means very high energy neutrinos from a supernova would be very close to the speed of light, and so it is entirely possible for them to arrive 3 hours beforehand, whereas the neutrinos produced by cern were comparatively low energy, and so had a higher velocity.

      1. Well, I think the thing is that SN1987A neutrinos were in MeV range (and also electron antineutrino flavor) – btw. altogether around 24 of them were detected from this event… 🙂

        As for CERN – those were muon neutrinos in GeV range (and ~15-16k detections).

        Moreover I think CERN fellows admitted that they didn’t find a correlation between neutrinos energy and velocity. So maybe it might have something to do with their flavor (which can change (oscillate)…).

        Anyway I think there is a lot more that can happen to a particle when it travels a distance of 168k Ly then 730km so it’s really hard to say what’s going on 🙂

        Still I couldn’t find any explanation if someone was looking for cosmic neutrinos (with sufficient sensitivity) years before SN1987A event.

      2. Hmm that’s strange, I would have expected supernova neutrinos to be of very high energy, well I guess that completely contradicts my theory :L If they were tachyons, travelling with that low energy probably would have meant they’d have come decades or even centuries earlier :L I think I can now safely say I understand nothing about neutrinos 🙂

  2. maybe the Neutrino was going to a other dimension for a very short time. In that dimension the speed of light is a little bit faster,because of that it created a ilusion that the Neutrino travelt faster than light. than general reletivity is not violeted, but it is just speculation

      1. It would be way more awesome than slightly FTL neutrinos:). If neutrinos are FTL then the most likely explanation involves photons having a tiny little bit of mass – which would be neat, but personally I’d find that a much more “meh” result than extra dimensions.

    1. If general relativity is proved to have been violated by the new findings what kind of playing field are we on in the current world of thought in physics?

      1. there would be a violation of causality, and a strong violation of Lorentz invariance, if these findings are confirmed. Outer space has been considered a vacuum metamaterial that is not empty but filled with briefly existing charged particles and antimatter that interact and could briefly slow electromagnetic radiation speed (light), but nearly chargeless massless neutrinos would not interact and hence travel faster then light in this not perfect vacuum. Light speed slows by refraction, so we observe cases where c is not a constant. I theorize a perfect vacuum would be a black hole at absolute zero temp, both of which are not quite possible. The larger the black hole, the nearer to absolute zero. Such a perfect vacuum would not have spacial dimensions, and would transmit the information contained in the light instantaneously, not being dependent upon distances and speeds.

    1. What exactly is your hypothesis and how exactly does your hypothesis fit in this neutrino’s being faster than light?
      I fail to see any detailed hypothesis in your page, only fuzzy claims that happen to coincide with a paper that might not be correct at all.

    2. Have read your ‘Jetsrock’ post Rick.
      Would agree that Time is relative, in as much as Time is only the rate at which Physical processes occur / run. The ‘nearness’ of Mass determining the Inertial Frame.
      Interstellar Space, no adjacent Mass, Time quite lively.
      On edge of black hole, great adjacent Mass, Time almost stopped.
      Not a very Technically phrased description admittedly.
      However, unable to follow how the size or volume relates?
      Regards, SERAPH.

    1. Or, maybe, neutrinos are less affected by gravity than light. So, light could be more curved when passing next gravity sources than neutrinos.

      1. The geodesics or paths of very light particles are less deformed by curved spacetime or gravity. Light is only slightly curved around the sun, while massive planets can enter into orbits.


      2. That ‘matter waves’ have a very much higher frequency than that which we normally consider as ‘light’, and that ‘Mass’, in the form of planets etc. have a much longer transit time than light should explain to an extent.
        Of course, since my contention is that Gravity is nothing more than the Refraction of the Matter Wave, as per Einstein’s Spacetime bending, then I am somewhat biased.

      3. But there was no measurement of speed of light, only of neutrino, which was compared to vacuum speed of light assuming straight line propagation. If one says, ok this is maybe a gravity effect, it would impact the neutrino and would have the opposite effect. (if the neutrino has a curved, hence longer trajectory)

  3. The OPERA paper gives a (v-c)/c = 2.48 ± 0.28 (stat.) ± 0.30 (sys.)) ×10^{-5}. They cite this as within the bounds of the MINOS experiment (v-c)/c = 5.1 ± 2.9×10^{-5}, and that these experiments with neutrino beams are far less accurate than the |v-c|/c < 2×10^{-9} set by neutrino observations emitted by the SN1987A supernova.

    If we were to take the OPERA data we have a ?v = 7.5km/sec faster than light. Let us assume the distance to SN1987A d = 1.68e^5ly x 9.5×10^{12}km/ly = 1.59×10^{18}km. Now take d = ct and compute t to get t = 5.292×10^{9}sec. Now compute

    d’ = (c + ?v)t’, t' = 5.267×10^{12}sec

    and the time difference is 2.55×10^{10}sec. This is about 810 years. This is the time the Magna Carta was signed. The SN1987A data is 8.06×10^{-5} smaller in the other direction, slower not faster, and the neutrinos came in 2.05×10^5 sec after the photons or within a few weeks.


    1. I get ~4 years (assuming distance is d = 168 000 Ly = 1,59*10^21 [m]).
      Time difference I get is ~1,3*10^8 [s].

      _l for light, _n for neutrinos.

      v_l: 299 792 458 [m/s]
      v_n: 299 799 893 [m/s] (v difference is: dv=v_l*(2,48*10^(-5)) = 7 435 [m/s])

      Times (d/v):
      t_l: 5,30156E+12 [s]
      t_n: 5,30143E+12 [s]

      so t_l – t_n = 1,31E+08 [s]

      Which is: 4,17 years.

      PS. Ha! 😛

      1. Yeah. Using lcrowell’s figures here’s what you should get:

        SN1987A d = 1.68e^5ly x 9.5×10^{12}km/ly = 1.59×10^{18}km *1000m/s = 1.59×10^{21}m
        1.59×10^{21}m * ((1 / 299792458m/s) – (1 / 299799893m/s)) = 132026674s

        132026674s / 60 (s/min) / 60 (min/hour) / 24 (hours/day) / ~365.25 (days/year) = ~4.18 years (I didn’t bother with significant figures)

        I didn’t look too closely at lcrowell’s math (it looks unnecessarily complicated for the simple nature of the problem), but I suspect that half the other people doing this made the following mistake:

        This is what they expected to get:
        1.59×10^{18}km * (1 / 7.5km/s) = 132026674s
        (that equation isn’t true)
        This is because they assumed the problem could be reduced down like this:
        (X/Y) – (X/Z) = X*(1/Y-Z)
        (X = distance, and Y and Z = the two varying observed speeds of light and neutrinos)
        But it that isn’t how that should reduce. It should look like this:
        (X/Y) – (X/Z) = X(1/Y)-(1/Z)

        A common error, even among people that know what they’re doing. The funny thing is, this same error doesn’t get made (often) when it’s a multiplication problem rather than a division one. Nearly everyone seems to have problems with division.

    2. In layman’s terms what are the implications for the standard model as it now is if the speed of the neutrino tests as reported are validated as correct? Obviously the lives of ordinary people will not be impacted but for physicists it appears its a whole new ball game.

  4. Don’t you think this has something to do with the quantum mechanics paradox Schrödinger’s cat?

    1. It is too early to think of new physics. The repeat by the necessary independent experiment, such as it is (SN 1987A), points to preserved relativity. And extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence.

      What “we” think, so far, is that there is a systematic error somewhere, as the parsimonious explanation. The energy independent discrepancy points to a simple error such as an error in measuring distance or timing.

      My GPS notion from the other day, a forgotten transformation between geodesic and cartesian coordinates which would give precisely the discrepancy, doesn’t seem to pan out. If it was that simple we would have heard about it by now, and rereading the distance measurement paper there is an implicit extraction of cartesian coordinates.

      Another similar but perhaps better explanation is that the used GPS Earth geode has been changed during the years, and the change is again of the order that it explains some or all of the deficit. But the GPS fixed points should have been updated with the change in systems. Again, a point for those concerned to check.

      Running the checks and repeating the experiments would take a few years. If a repeat seems necessary, i.e. no one finds an error with the current experiment, that would be the time to start ponder any new physics.

      That field would be wide open, because relativity is so basic to current physics. But it would have to predict qualitatively different results (no discrepancy vs discrepancy, no energy dependence of the discrepancy (OPERA) vs energy dependence (SN 1987A and OPERA combined)). Off hand, it doesn’t look like a realistic physics situation at all.

  5. Is it currently possible to derive a source vector from neutrino detectors?
    (in the manner of swinging the telescopes around to look for optical afterglow after GRB’s)

  6. The paper shows the sum of the various timing corrections. Many of the timing corrections are much bigger than the 60 ns we are looking for. While I doubt I can spot anything that the hundred plus authors missed, there is at lease scope that the difference may still be found.

    Here’s a sobering thought. Suppose the error had gone the other way, and we had found the speed was a couple of parts per million under the speed of light. The rest mass of the neutrino is believed to be tiny, so this would have suggested neutrinos take a more massive state when generated by the more energetic CERN apparatus. This would be strange but plausible, and people would be excitedly searching for a theory to cover this, instead of looking for the source of error.

    There is a cautionary tale in “A Random Walk in Science”. Michelson had estimated the speed of light to one part in a million. He had spent a lot of his life measuring the speed of light, and his figure had a lot or respect. There were lots of corrections to the timing figures and the distance figures. Other labs measuring the speed of light would look for corrections until they had converged on the Michelson figure. Later, when radar made very long baseline triangulation measurements, and Norway was not quite in the right place, it turned out the Michelson figure was not as accurate as they thought.

    1. I fully agree with your first point (and your second btw), the list of large time corrections is a bit frightening, and maybe another one was missed.
      Many people focus on the baseline measurement, but I really do not believe it is an issue at all. Geodesy, with or without GPS is pretty standard old technology. Otherwise bridges would not meet their pillars, tunnels drilled from both end would not meet. googling “gps millimeter precision” one finds load of papers from the past century. Also the measurement was not done by Joe Physicist but by companies for which this is routine job.
      Also possible subtle general relativity (that is if neutrino behaves like photons) can be rule out by decades of precision work with satellites, sending beams to/from/between satellites. It is hard to imagine that a big effect like that ( 60 ns / 20m is *huge*) below earth would not have been seen above earth, even if attenatuated.

  7. I’m curious, can somebody do the math on this? Let’s take the diameter of the Milky Way at 10,000 light years and calculate how long it would take a neutrino to make the passage? Extend the distance out 1 million light years, same question? As a layman here, I would like to see the significance of this new finding in more than just the 1/60 of a nanosecond over 500 miles. Thanks for your help.

  8. I’m sorry, not 1/60 of nanosecond but 60 nanoseconds or 60 billionths of a second. Please put this in a neutrino speed context that is clearer in terms of exactly how significant this new finding is. How much faster than the speed of light are neutrinos getting here from the edge of the visible universe? Translate that into neutrino years versus light years. thanks

  9. I wonder if they’d still get this strange result if they measured the baseline from the same reference frame as the satellite used to synchronise the timing. Maybe at the altitude of the satellite the baseline down below is a little length-contracted so that the velocity of the neutrinos isn’t so fast after all. I guess they’ll have already taken that into account even if I’ve got things the right way round here.

  10. arr-hah eureka! E = m?²
    Energy equals mass multiplied by the speed of a neutrino (?) squared! – see you learn something new every day~! lol… ;)~

  11. You know if maybe possible to mop up all the “dark matter” equations with E = m?² solving the dilemma of why we can not directly observe 90% of the universe.. :)~

  12. Regarding the Neutrinos from SN1987A, has the expansion velocity of the universe been taken into account…? Sorry for the question;-)

  13. Well I just think every little smart arsed kid who argued (or didn’t argue) with their science teacher has been pumping air for days. I remember thinking (so so many years ago) if light has a speed something is going to be faster.

  14. I worked in the casino industry for many years and I’ve learned that not all that glitters is gold. There was a woman who hit two 35 million to 1 jackpots in the span of two months. There is no way that this should have ever happened – but since it’s in the realm of the possible sometimes it just does. I’m not saying that I understand all the math or science behind these results, but I’m pretty sure that it’s more likely that something else happened – not that the speed of light was broken forever.

  15. No Plaid yet- first we must surpass ‘ludicrous’ speed…
    Another year ought to do it.

    Everyone can calm down. The reason this happened was….well, the
    thing is, is I did it. I was messing with some aliens and things got out of hand. Sorry.

  16. Only sterile neutrinos could travel through extra warped dimensions. The accuracy is within 20 cm with 2 meters distance. The earth’s rotation or spin around its axis is about 50% of the distance, or about 1 meter of motion for the travel time. An earthquake would give about 7 cm variation. Light speed is dependent on its measurement with respect to an inertial reference frame, of which there is none in general relativity. Could perhaps the solar systems spin around the sun, and suns motion around the galaxy, account for the remaining 50%? The geodesic effect is the analog of the magnetic frame-dragging component that twists and warps space when the earth spins on its axis, but is more significant for larger scaled structures. Shouldn’t a test be done along earth’s rotation axis where the earths spin on its axis is cancelled, to see if the neutrinos arrive in about half the time sooner?

  17. Why are you picking on Einstein ??? His energy to mass conversion factoring was acknowledged as being a rough working tool with a variance quotient from the start.
    His special theory of relativity had little to do with the speed of light, … it was about distances between two ‘ semi-fixed objects ‘, …
    Why not give accreditation where it is really due, … that was known ‘ stuff ‘ to me more than forty years ago.
    Since then there has been thousands of ‘ theories ‘ , … using a so-called magnetic rail gun our species has through human equation factoring accelerated a particle faster than the known speed of light.
    Two thumbs up to the team who accomplished that.
    Just an opinion from a so-called ‘ Canuckster ‘, … who doesn’t like hockey or football, … EH ???

  18. I hope they can confirm that. I believe that the current speed of light was not set in stone at the beginning and that would explain a lot of things. I have always felt that the “inflation” concept was a big bang band aid for something they couldn’t explain and was wrong. Why should we assume that light has never exceeded 186K MPS. That would not mean Einstein’s Theory is wrong. It would simply open up the world of Physics like never before.
    THAT is cool!

  19. Hiya’ , … somebody mentioned ‘ arguing with their science teacher ‘ , … ergo, …
    The theory of the speed-of-light impassible barrier was shattered by my grade 6 general studies teacher when ‘ I ‘ was all of eleven years old, … he simply told a hard physical science ‘ joke ‘ not just to me, … but to the entire classroom.
    Simple enough, … forget such factors like getting up to 5 mph less than light speed.
    Kick somebody hard enough in the ‘ *** ‘ to impart 10 mph acceleration, … they are then going 5 mph faster than the speed-of-light.
    To me, … that was just hypothetically substantiable hard physical science.
    It gave me a laugh, … plus decades of re-considerations to consider.
    No ‘ biggee ‘ , … as ‘ I ‘ said, … two thumbs up to the team who appear to have hard physical science accomplished it, … at least at the sub-atomic level.

  20. Based on H particle-paths hypothesis, “Site H-particles paths .com”, “Looks like Einstein may have been wrong — An international team of scientists at CERN has recorded neutrino particles traveling faster than the speed of light”. “measurements over three years showed the neutrinos moving 60 nanoseconds quicker than light over a distance of 730 km between Geneva and Gran Sasso, Italy”. “If confirmed, the discovery would overturn a key part of Albert Einstein’s 1905 theory of special relativity, which says that nothing in the universe can travel faster than light”…/scientific-breakthrough-physicists-at-cern-have-recorded. According to HPPH, a particle, e.g. photon, moving in spatial medium, Sec. 7(4)3, part A, has irreversible path-length, Sec. 2(4)4, of expanding characteristic of SNr configuration and time’s arrow; while, a particle moving in mass medium, Sec. 7(4)3, part D, (of the site), has irreversible path-length of contracting mode of SPl configuration at opposite sign to the former and time arrow reversal. Therefore, neutrino contrary to photon that reflects by the mirror surface can penetrate in mass medium. Thus, its total time travel just during the measurement is reduced respect to that of photon in this regards; please refer also to Sec. 5(16)11, and Sec. 5(15)2b. Factually, just at the moment of neutrino detection (or striking) by detector, according to Note 5(16)7, g2, contractons (as signal) is emitted spontaneously in backward path of neutrino emission towards the source, Fig. 5(10), i.e. completeness of measurement. In other words, the neutrino path is composed of two paths in vacuum and mass media as stated above with two different characteristics path-lengths of opposite sign. As a result, the neutrino like other particles moves equal or than less than light speed in free vacuum. “The findings may need many runs and checks to be confirmed. Once confirmed, it raises many questions, including why such an effect wasn’t noticed before. The big question would be this: What happens to Special Relativity, which is an extremely reliable theory?” › Science ; please refer also to Sec. 2(6)2a.

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