With a hat tip to our occasional commenter Ron….
Remember those faster-than-light neutrinos? The ones that threatened to overturn relativity, and along with it everything we think we know about how the universe works?
Well, it turns out that maybe they weren’t faster than light after all — they might have only appeared to be faster than light because their arrival time was mismeasured. The mismeasurement was (it seems) caused by the researchers’ failure to account for the effects of ….. relativity!
I hear an echo of the great ongoing debate between Einstein and Bohr on the foundations of quantum mechanics. In an attempt to discredit the uncertainty relation, Einstein proposed an experiment involving a clock in a box on a scale. The clock opens a shutter at a precise moment, and while the shutter is open, a photon escapes from the box. The clock records exactly the time interval in which the shutter is open; the scale records exactly how much mass escapes from the box — and our simultaneous knowledge of the time and the escaped mass violates the uncertainty principle.
Bohr — after 24 hours of so of agony — triumphantly refuted Einstein’s argument by observing that a) the height of the clock above the ground is uncertain, b) therefore the gravitational force felt by the clock is uncertain, and c) therefore the measurement of time is uncertain — because relativity tells us that clocks run slower or faster depending on the force of gravity.
Einstein, in other words, had erred by failing to account for relativity. If this new explanation for the neutrino phenomenon proves correct, the neutrino researchers at OPERA will be in illustrious company.