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Are Neutrinos Tachyons or Born Of Tachyons?

While physicists often complain about lack of public recognition, once in a while they get too much of it over something which captures the public imagination (Pluto demoted as a minor planet, LHC creating singularities). The recent exhaustive measurements which hint that neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light (aka c) is one such event.

Now that the immediate excitement is over and the dust is starting to settle, a few things have become obvious.

1. The experiment was well planned, well executed and the data was indeed analysed from multiple angles to find an alternate explanation. Very few scientists with any career aspirations would ever challenge the current dogma unless they had extra-solid evidence. This is likely not some attempt to score a bigger grant application like most of bio-medical research today.

2. The quality of instrumentation used in the experiment was freakishly high. If your sensors can detect a displacement of 7 cm over 733 km due to a small earthquake in Italy and your clocks can consistently keep time to with 2 ns, it is probably safe to say that the distance lag of about 18 m (60 ns) was not an artifact especially after you see the event occurs more than 10,000 times.

3. As I have said before, the idea that neutrinos might be tachyonic is not exactly new and there is some previous experimental evidence to suggest that it is the case. Moreover, as many including a comment in my previous post on this subject have noted, Einstein’s theories do not forbid faster-than-light (FTL) particles if they are born that way. It simply says that you require infinite energy to accelerate slower than light particles to c.

4. The evidence from the Supernova 1987a is bit tricky to interpret as the neutrinos did arrive before photons, but as predicted by absorption-reradiation issues. However the process that produced them is not that well understood, because our only real guide to understanding what happens in a supernova is based on some observations and reconciling them with our theories and calculations.

In my opinion, it is therefore very likely that neutrinos do indeed cover the same distance faster than light.

The real question then is- How?

There are two schools of thought about this one. According to one, neutrinos are mildly tachyonic. That does however create an interesting problem- according to currently popular ideas a high energy neutrino should travel slower (closer to c) than a low energy neutrino. This has not yet been observed but, then again, neutrinos are hard to detect.

The second school says that there is an intermediate, but unstable tachyonic particle, which gives rise to neutrinos which then travel at the speed of light. The tight bunching by time-of-flight data of neutrinos produced at various energy levels tends to add some weight to this idea. But if that is the case, and there are indeed unstable tachyonic particles, wouldn’t whole classes of stable tachyonic particles also exist?

It is hard to say which explanation is better, because our understanding of neutrinos is incomplete to begin with. Nevertheless there results make us realize that our popular models of the quantum world are incomplete and we require a better model to account for both the old and new data.

Comments?

  1. MeMyselfI
    October 1, 2011 at 10:38 am

    How about: neutrinos have negative mass.

    That would explain it… and turn the physics world upside down.

    The calculated mass of FTL particles is ‘negative’ anyway.

  2. October 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    are neutrinos anti matter?

    No, but anti-neutrinos do exist.

  3. Nestorius
    October 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Are tachyons some sort of demons or angels? Can we use tachyons to prepare the elixir.
    As far as I know, tachyon do not exist because there is no evidence for their existence. Talking about tachyons and constructing theories about them is nonsense, just like the old recipes of the elixir in old type chemistry.

    Since all the world consists of sets and elements, it is very likely that photons, electrons, neutrinos and the other also consist of smaller elements. But we know nothing about them.

    Nevertheless there results make us realize that our popular models of the quantum world are incomplete and we require a better model to account for both the old and new data.

    Just throw those quantum theory books in the trash. It will do it.

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