Why the CERN Neutrino thing could be a *very* important thing.

Michio Kaku over at the WSJ has an article up on the subject.  For those who missed it, the basic story is this: researchers at  CERN had a “Huh.  That’s odd*” moment when they discovered neutrinos apparently moving at speeds that were faster than light.  This, of course, flatly contradicts our current understanding of physics, which is why the researchers in question are being very, very careful to ask their fellow-physicists to descend upon their observed data and beat it with analytical and procedural sticks.  The safe way to bet – as xkcd literally notes here – is that there’s something wrong with the observational method; in fact, Dr. Kaku himself thinks that this is probably the case.  Honestly, I expect that myself.

But if it is right… well, here’s the reported results that jumped out at me.

…after analyzing 15,000 neutrinos, they found that they traveled faster than the speed of light—one 60-billionth of a second faster, to be precise. In a billionth of a second, a beam of light travels about one foot. So a difference of 60 feet was quite astonishing.

If I am reading that right – and I may not be – that certainly sounds like… well, that time-to-Alpha-Centauri just can’t be right.  I’ve sent out the math to be checked by an actual physicist. I’ll let you know what she tells me.

[UPDATE: turns out that I was reading it wrong (but that the explanation wasn’t very good anyway): the aforementioned physicist tells me that the neutrinos are apparently moving at 100.002% the speed of light, instead of the 60x implied by the article.  So, three days off of the total.  On the bright side, if this data pans out then it’s a start.]

Via Instapundit.

Moe Lane

*That is, by the way, the single most exciting thing that one can say or hear in the sciences.

Let me explain the difference for you, Mr. Westrope.

So that you can explain it to the next reporter asking you why you didn’t gut biomedicine, but did gut physics, in the Obama-Reid-Pelosi debt bill:

Clay Westrope, Sen. Nelson’s spokesman, said the senator was not anti-science, but that he felt the stimulus bill was the wrong place to add financing for long-term research. “If they were in a spending bill, he would probably support them,” Mr. Westrope said.

Mr. Westrope said he could not explain why biomedical research was regarded as a stimulus, but physics research would not.

(Via Instapundit) You see, “biomedical” means “stem cell research” to the Democratic base, and they’ve been told that they’re in favor of that. However, “physics” means “nuclear energy” to those same base, and they’ve been told that they’re against that. It is politically safe, then, to cut physics research, but not safe to cut biomedical funding. At least from the Democrats’ point of view.

I’m glad that we cleared that up; aren’t you?

Moe Lane

PS: I’m also glad that we’ve established just how much pull Energy Secretary Chu has in this administration. Science advocates, take note: if you have a funding issue, you’re better off talking to Ben Nelson’s chief of staff. Or anybody else that Senator Nelson would actually listen to.

Crossposted at RedState.