Opera experiment: Things DO travel faster than light, what’s the big deal?


A lot have been said for the OPERA experiment. It is now common understanding that a fault in the measuring equipment resulted in the neutrinos measured faster than light. The site http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/neutrinos/neutrinos-faster-than-light/opera-what-went-wrong/ is the main source of information concerning that problem.

However there are some unanswerd questions still hovering in the air…

This is an attempt not to refute the final conclusions of OPERA, but to present open questions for the readers to evaluate on their own. I have used the abovementioned site as a reference (in the “Article writes” sections I quote passages from that site) and I pose the questions as open items for consideration.

Nothing is implied, except a the very thing that everyone should know: being open minded should go both ways.

Question 1 – The other experiments question…

Article writes: “Obviously that implies that the fiber was unscrewed and then not screwed back properly sometime in the middle of 2008”

Question: Now there appears following question. Why we obtained the correct results, i.e. consistent with the generalized theory of neutrinos described within the Theory of Relativity, in the other OPERA experiments (see http://arxiv.org/abs/1006.1623) in spite of the cable failure?

Graph explaining how the Opera equipment error could affect the final result. However no one can say why the neutrinos reached Opera at the early segment (left) of the 0.6 sec chuncks…

Question 2 – The 0.6 sec chuncks…

Article writes: “The optical fiber cable not screwed in correctly was to blame. It did result in the neutrinos being timed as arriving earlier. Note that there was also another problem with the internal Master Clock of the experiment, that would make the neutrinos look like arriving later! However the latter could not compensate for the former effect, so a final drift to “earlier” was observed. In particular, it turns out the Master Clock itself was not properly calibrated. After it fired with the laser pulse, at the start of each 0.6 second data chunk, it then drifted slightly during the next 0.6 seconds, by a total of 74 nanoseconds. Then it would be re-synchronized 0.6 seconds later (albeit incorrectly, due to the improper fiber connection) by one of the laser pulses coming down the fiber. On average, its drift would have an effect of 37 nanoseconds, but it would be worse at some times and better at others during the 0.6 second chunk of data. This effect would make the neutrinos appear to arrive late, but turns out to be insufficient to cancel the effect of the fiber.”

Question: The devil hides in the details. Why did neutrinos in OPERA-1 and OPERA-2 were not evenly distributed across their 0.6 second chunks of data?

Question 3 – Why not repeat the “wrong” experiment?

Article writes: “They had to account for the fact that neutrinos in OPERA-1 and OPERA-2 were not evenly distributed across their 0.6 second chunks of data. For technical reasons having to do with how CERN delivers neutrinos in the direction of OPERA, these neutrinos tended to arrive on the early side of the chunk for OPERA-1, and on the very early side of the chunk for OPERA-2 . Based on this, they could now predict, given their model for the timing problems, what they should have measured for the arrival times of the neutrinos in OPERA-1 and OPERA-2; these predictions are shown as two red dots in Figure 6.”

READ ALSO:  Transubstantiation, atoms, scientism…

Question: If a bad connection caused the problem , then why not put the cable in the same way, “bad” and see if the same “bad” results come back?

Answer by Matt Strassler: And as for putting in the cable the “same” way, that’s not possible when you have an imperfect connection. However, they did show that the bad cable leads to the observed time delay. And they also proved that the cable was out of alignment by the right amount to explain their FTL neutrino result by combining their data with that from the LVD experiment. http://profmattstrassler.com/2012/03/30/operas-timing-issue-confirmed/

Comment: Making the cable as loose as it looks in the photos is not so difficult. And nothing is more scientific than repeating the same experiment to see you are haveing the same result. Making “backwards predictions” of what you could have as result in the past experiment you have already conducted is not fullproof. Not repeating the “wrong” experiment because they were being afraid of what they might come up with?

Photographs of the loose optical cable. Too many questions arise: If it was photographed, why wasn’t it fixed? Who photographed it? Why didn’t we repeat the experiment with a loose cable again to see if we get the same results?

Question 4 – The “photographs”…

Article: The article posts some photographs of the optical cable not screwed in properly. But this is the all too-convenient part of the story. Having actual photographs from the scene of the crime while the crime took place! Who could not wish for such… “luck”? (and I do not even mention the “gossip” part of the story: who distributed those photographs? What did he gain out of this?)

Question: How can you photograph the wire that causes the problems, but not fix it? If the problem was that the scientists at OPERA did not check the wiring, how did they PHOTOGRAPH it? As part of the “I walk around in the lab and randomly photograph wires” normal every-day activity? Who took these photos? When? (the site states the source of the photographs is unknown). Did anyone “profit” from distributing these photos?


Finding an error is a good thing. Believing that a result is an error before you even prove it is, is another. Global scientific community already “knew” that the Opera experiment was “wrong”, even after the second verification attempt which DID verify the initial results. If that was how scientists worked, then quantum mechanics experimental results would reqauire eons to be accepted. That kind of “knowledge” is frightening… And this is when you can start smelling dogmatism all over the place…

Having for granted that in many cases the speed of light CAN be surpassed [1] or having in mind theories which want the neutrinos be tachyons [2], it is rather weird to be over-enthusiastic for disproving an experiment showing just that

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  3. Guest

    Wonderfull article ! The analysis you do here is correct in my view. And the questions you raise on basis of this analysis is the correct ones. I bet that this questions will be very hard for the physics leaders to answer !

    Ahhh. Finally I found some intelligent people, like you, who dares to search for what might have happened behind the curtain within this experiment !

    Thanks a lot !

    1. skakos

      Thanks. I generally do not like easy solutions to such important problems. It is not that I know whether the Opera experiment was right or wrong. I just do not think refuting such an experiment on the basis of old dogmas and prejudices is correct.

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