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