March 17, 2012

Faster-than-light neutrinos don’t replicate

This isn’t in the NZ media yet, but it will probably turn up soon.  A second CERN experiment, ICARUS,  has repeated the measurement of neutrino speed made by the famous OPERA experiment: the same neutrino source, the same distance, but different measurement equipment.   And the neutrinos arrived on-time, not 60ns early. Since the OPERA results violate relativity  and have other practical and theoretical problems , it’s not that hard to decide which set of numbers to believe.

As Prof. Matt Strassler says

This is the way it works in science all the time. A first experiment makes a claim that they see a striking and surprising effect. A second experiment tries to verify the effect and instead shows no sign of it. It’s commonplace. Research at the forefront of knowledge is much more difficult than people often realize, and mistakes and flukes happen on a regular basis. When something like this happens, physicists shrug and move on, unruffled and unsurprised.

 That’s why replication, reproducibility, and peer review are so important in science.  If your experiments are easy to run correctly and straightforward to interpret, you obviously aren’t working at the cutting edge.

Thomas Lumley (@tslumley) is Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Auckland. His research interests include semiparametric models, survey sampling, statistical computing, foundations of statistics, and whatever methodological problems his medical collaborators come up with. He also blogs at Biased and Inefficient See all posts by Thomas Lumley »


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    Whatever Ernest Rutherford may have said on the subject.

    6 years ago

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    Kudos to the OPERA team for the way they handled it though _ I thought it was quite good how they came out at teh beginning asking the rest of the community to try and find faults with their hugely significant (if they had been replicable) results rather than presenting them as certain.

    6 years ago