Of Particular Significance

Life Goes On at Normal Speed

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 09/27/2011

[If you are a layperson interested in the faster-than-light neutrino claim, and you haven’t yet looked at yesterday’s “open-space’’ post and the list of excellent questions laypeople have asked in the comments, you definitely should.  And ask your own if you want. That post also gives an organized list of links to all my posts on the neutrino experiment so far.]

Now, here’s a problem: How should a particle physicist budget his or her time, when faced with the OPERA experiment, which has, say, a 1% chance of representing the most important discovery in decades, and a 99% chance of being wrong?  After all, life goes on at normal speed — and in particular, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is continuing to gather important data at an accelerating rate.  About 100 times more data has been collected in 2011 than in 2010, and before the collider switches off its proton-proton collision run for the year, that multiplier may reach 150 or more.  Given the important, and certain, implications of the LHC experiments’ searches for the Higgs particle and other new physics, how much of my time does OPERA’s long-shot neutrino experiment, and its theoretical implications, deserve?

Some, but clearly limited.  I obviously shouldn’t neglect my responsibilities with regard to the LHC.  And in fact right now, thanks to neutrinos, I am somewhat behind on my preparations for a short workshop later this week.  This meeting will bring together a small number of theorists and experimentalists to London, England.  We will sit down in a small room, make brief presentations to each other, and discuss all day long how searches for supersymmetry [and, from my point of view, other related theories, though the workshop doesn’t bill itself that way] can be extended, supplemented and improved.  The goal is to ensure that LHC data is explored more fully for any new phenomena that might be hiding in it.

And no, unfortunately there’s no obvious and direct way to use the LHC to gain insight into possibly-faster-than-light neutrinos.  Indirectly, however… maybe.

But back to work.  Right now I could use a bit of that time-travel technology which the world’s most … umm … creative minds are claiming will follow soon from those speeding neutrinos.

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3 Responses

  1. Three days ago at TEDx Flanders conference, Tommaso Dorigo made a “joke” about the secret that Higgs was already found. The following is the quote of his speech.

    “…Can I say whether it’s there ?
    I hesitate… You all look trustworthy and I’m willing to buy that each of you would keep the secret within these walls, but Peter here is such a loudmouth with his blog!
    The problem is that when in my blog I write something I should keep secret, I get my colleagues all angry at me. See, I could live with the standard punishments, such as a ban from presenting results at conferences (I did get that once)….

    More exciting is that unlike previous experiments, at CERN we now have the sensitivity to find the darn thing, and maybe we are finally seeing it and measuring its mass.
    So before you learn it from the press, I can tell you that the Higgs mass is…….. 119 whatchamacallits, give or take a few whatchamacallits. You can tell your grandma if you like, but please don’t tell Peter!”

    Is this a joke? or a genuine hint? Do you have any inside info on this?

  2. Re OPERA: (I’m sorry if this comment is in the wrong place, but it might not be the sort of question you wanted in the previous post)

    Given that electron neutrinos can oscillate into muon neutrinos, and vice versa, and that the SN1987A neutrino wavepackets were localized enough to appear within a 14 second interval, shouldn’t the SN1987A neutrinos all have oscillated many times, at random times, during the journey from SN1987A to Earth? The consequence of this being that if the OPERA velocity measurement is correct, the SN1987A neutrino arrival times should have been uniformly smeared out over the preceding 3 years, and no spike should have been seen at all?

    (I should acknowledge that this point was suggested to me by the abstract of 1109.5368, but Fargion’s suggestion seems to be different.)

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