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Posted at 01:23 PM ET, 02/23/2012

Faster-than-light neutrinos aren’t?


Never mind! (AP Photo/CERN) (AP - AP)
You can return to your homes. There is nothing more to see.

It turns out those faster-than-light neutrinos at Europe’s CERN lab might not have been, well, faster-than-light. While the neutrinos appeared to arrive 60 nanoseconds faster than it would have taken to make the trip at light speed, Science magazine reported on Wednesday that a bad connection between the computer and a GPS unit could account for the results.

But, wait! The scientists at CERN also noted in their press release that in addition to the problem with the fiber optic cable, there was another potential source of error that “could have led to an overestimate of the neutrino’s time of flight.”

Perhaps there’s still hope for the speedy neutrinos.

But in general, as Elizabeth Flock notes, when you think you are right and Albert Einstein is wrong, you are wrong.

Now we’re waiting for more confirmation. Sure, it’s bit disappointing.

I was really counting on those subatomic particles. I invested heavily in hyperdrives. I bought a Groupon for spinning class on Kepler 22b. This is just another reason why I should never purchase Groupons, never mind those 581 cupcakes that are lurking uneaten in my refrigerator.

So much for improbability. So much for all those jokes about bartenders saying, “Hey, we don’t serve faster-than-light particles here” and then a neutrino walks into a bar. So much for space travel. After all this time claiming we violated the laws of nature, we may owe them some sort of apologetic card.

But, for the moment, that the world isn’t as crazy as we thought it was might actually be the biggest news there is.

“Are you kidding me?” everyone said, when the news first came in. “We’ve barely gotten around to understanding relativity. You can’t just yank it out from under us like that. It’s not a fad diet, for crying out loud. We can’t just substitute kale.”

Sure, the neutrinos were exciting. Maybe the follow-up tests will prove they’re still exceeding the speed limit.

But, for once, someone’s pronouncement that the World Has Been Turned Upside Down And Everything We Know Is Incorrect could actually be proven wrong. This so seldom happens. We might as well savor it.

By  |  01:23 PM ET, 02/23/2012

 
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