Daily Archives: October 19, 2011

  • Questioning Carl

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

    Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Ep. 12

    We’ve seen this quote a lot in recent days, thanks to the “speeding neutrino” report. It is a favorite phrase whenever a spectacular new finding generates intense skepticism. Carl Sagan famously invoked it in his TV series Cosmos, when discussing the possibility that the Earth might have been visited by intelligent aliens. The phrase has a nice ring to it. But… Does it make sense?

    I hesitate to question the man who also popularized the phrase “pale blue

  • Do neutrinos deserve a speeding ticket?

    Neutrinos are the most unsocial of known subatomic particles. They hardly interact with matter, and most neutrinos can pass through the entire Earth without undergoing any collision! They have a very low mass, no charge and as textbooks say, they travel with the speed of light. But do they? The new experimental results from the OPERA collaboration were posted on Arxiv recently: http://arxiv.org/abs/1109.4897 where the neutrino speed was found to exceed the speed of light by ~0.0025 %.

    When you hear something like this, your immediate reaction is that there is something wrong with the calculations or the code has a