Particles Faster Than the Speed of Light? Not So Fast, Some Say

Dennis Overbye in The New York Times:

Anet“Does E still equal MC squared?”

So asks the Irish band the Corrigan Brothers in a new song, “Einstein and the Neutrinos,” that is the latest rollicking riff on news that shocked the scientific world last month.

A group of physicists from Italy claimed they had observed the subatomic particles called neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. That, of course, is the cosmic speed limit declared in Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity in 1905.

If they are right — and the jury is still out — Einstein might have some explaining to do. Among other things, a neutrino or anything else that went faster than the speed of light could go backward in time.

Physicists, who are quite sure that in fact E does still equal MC squared — whatever may come of this experiment — have expressed skepticism. But that has not stopped the ghostly neutrinos, which can sail through miles of solid lead with impunity, from achieving a sort of pop culture fame not seen since 1960, when John Updike published a poem about them in The New Yorker:

The Earth is just a silly ball

To them through which they pass

Like dustmaids down a drafty hall

Or photons through a sheet of glass.

Neutrino time-travel jokes have proliferated on the Internet. Example: “We don’t serve faster-than-light neutrinos here,” said the bartender. A neutrino walks into a bar.

More here.