Unconfirmed rumor: FTL neutrinos may be due to a faulty GPS connection

By Phil Plait | February 22, 2012 12:51 pm

Let me start this off by first noting this is an unconfirmed report. We don’t have anything solid yet. Keep that in mind, please!

Via my pal Kiki Sanford comes news that the results of an experiment showing neutrinos moving faster than light (FTL) may have been due to equipment malfunction. Science Insider is reporting, citing unconfirmed sources, that a GPS had a bad connection to a computer, and this caused the timing for the experiment to be thrown off:

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed. Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.

Here’s some background. A few months ago, scientists in Europe made a startling announcement: they had measured the velocity of neutrinos, a type of subatomic particle, and found they were moving faster than light. They created a packet of neutrinos in one spot, detected them in another, and then very carefully timed how long the flight took. By dividing the distance by the time, they found that the neutrinos got from Point A to Point B 60 nanoseconds faster than light would!

Obviously, this caused quite the uproar. The scientists involved were careful to state they were’t actually claiming FTL travel, just that they got this result. They also asked for help in figuring it out. Lots of ideas were aired out, and new experiments tried, but in the end timing was always the critical factor. The distance the particles traveled was known to very high accuracy, but the timing was far more difficult to ascertain.

The timing was done using a GPS system, which in theory is accurate enough to do the trick. There are lots of ways you have to be very careful when using GPS, and a lot of folks focused on that. Most of these were pretty high level issues (accounting for relativity, for example), but I never heard anything like "Hey, better try reconnecting that there cable."

To be clear: this is unconfirmed, and still in the rumor stage. If this turns out to be the case, though, then we’re essentially done here. I’ll be very curious to see how this plays out over the next few hours and days. Stay tuned!

Related posts:

Faster-than-light travel discovered? Slow down, folks
New experiment neither proves nor refutes FTL neutrinos
Followup: FTL neutrinos explained? Not so fast, folks.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Science

Comments (79)

  1. Gus Snarp

    If this is the answer, I will not be able to stop laughing.

  2. Another Eric

    I don’t even trust my GPS unit to get me home! – LOL

  3. Well, perhaps justice will soon be done and the Neutrinos can be let out of prison for violating the laws of physics.

  4. dg

    It’s like I always say: In Science, daring to push the envelope is necessary and laudable. Unless you get caught by a faulty piece of equipment. Then we’re going to laugh in your face like you’re idiots.

  5. Jess Tauber

    So… the takeaway here is that if we want to go faster than the speed of light, all we have to do is futz a bit with a GPS connection? That’s great news!

  6. Trebuchet

    Cue the AGW denialists, anti-vaxxers, and ID’ers any minute now: “Science was wrong about something, therefore…”

    And of course, their getting it exactly backward. When science gets an unexpected result, they start trying to understand it. Sometimes they find a loose plug. Sometimes, they find a new understanding of the universe.

  7. Tara Li

    Umm… Curious. I kinda thought GPS was digital, and so error connectors would result in no data, or easily verified as incorrect data. Ah, well.

  8. Andres Minas

    Unconfirmed neutrino speed + Unconfirmed report = Simply Unscience.

  9. Colin Peart

    At the speed of light, pulses on a fiber optic cable should travel in the neighborhood of 18 meters in 60 ns. Even adjusting for the refractive index of the cable and reflected travel paths, that still seems a few orders of magnitude out of what a loose cable should cause. I suppose the delay may have to do with the receiver handling the noise or something like that. Even so, it’s a bit of a surprise that it took this long to test that.

  10. andy

    Well the safe money was that this apparent FTL result to go away with more careful analysis of the experiment. The original paper was essentially published to get more people involved in the analysis to figure out just what was going on, no-one claimed to be the next Galileo.

    Note that you can put FTL into special relativity but you end up with imaginary numbers (in the sense of the square root of minus one) coming out of the equations for things like mass and time dilation factors and you throw away causality. Amusingly one of the earlier determinations of the square of the neutrino mass (which turns out to be rather easier to determine than the mass itself) gave a formal best-estimate with a negative value, which is what special relativity gives for an FTL particle. Tricky things those neutrinos!

  11. Dr.Sid

    Tara: even if it was digital, it still takes time for the signal to travel from GPS to computer. And if that time was longer then expected, neutrinos seemed to come ahead of schedule.
    Loose connectors are common problem .. but most of the time it simply does not work. Just delaying the signal is pretty nasty. Anyway they were supposed to recheck things like that. Even change all components easy to change ..

  12. bigdaddyhen

    I am confused by this part of the statement

    “After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed.”

    Maybe I am reading or understanding this wrong, but how can a lose connection cause something to travel faster than expected (unless is shorted some distance).

    Or is the assumed part ment to imply they were expecting the data to take X amount of time, but was actually taking Y, which is 60 nsec less than X. And the lose connection was a factor in time X. So they factored in an extra 60 nSec for the “Data” to travel, but when that extra 60 was not there in reality, it seemed like things went faster?

  13. Zilty

    Hold on, Andres. I thought the old saying went ” two unconfirmeds make an objective truth”. At least that’s what I learned in bible study.

  14. Sounds like they found the problem. It’s always something simple, isn’t it?
    Except when it’s complicated, of course…

  15. Chris

    So the janitor was cleaning up at night, tripped on a cable, and stuck it back in. Oops.

  16. Keith Hearn

    bigdaddyhen: I think they meant the data on the neutrino arrival was assumed to be arriving 60nsec earlier than it really did, because the time signal was being slowed by 60-nsec due to the bad connection. It does seem to be poorly worded.

    I’m assuming the bad connection was causing a retry, which took the extra 60nsec. Presumably the retry is done at a higher power level, which got through the bad connection. At least that’s one possibility. Just guesswork, though.

  17. I think every scientist reading this is thinking to themselves: ” *sigh* been there, done that. I’m just glad my quirky results caused by a loose cable didn’t become as high profile as this!”

  18. Dr.Sid

    Keith: that sounds reasonable .. I can’t imagine how else bad connection could cause such a delay in signal.

  19. MadScientist

    “The timing was done using a GPS system, which in theory is accurate enough to do the trick. ”

    Why would that be enough to do the trick? A GPS transmitter is only required to have “<1ppm absolute accuracy" and when you're coordinating an event between two distant locations and require synchronization better than 60ppb it's pretty obvious that you don't just plug in a GPS receiver and everything's OK.

    @Keith#13: There is no need to adjust the power. A bad connection can cause a reflection which interferes with subsequent transmissions and you end up with the occasional corrupted data which has to be retransmitted.

  20. Andres Minas

    System(atic) error! Click retry -LOL

  21. Bill Nettles

    Cue “The Onion.”

  22. Stathis Dimopoulos

    Not so fast people… Timing was achieved using land based atomic clocks and NOT GPS signalling. Therefore it’s still a rumor. Also , because the OPERA team made such a bold claim they left no stone unturned . Timing setup was reviewed by two independent metrology organizations. So, hold your horses for now.

  23. burjui

    Hard to call it rumor – it was confirmed by the CERN spokesmen for the AP, tommorow there will be a press conference.

  24. Gary Ansorge

    Oh crap,,,there went my multi-dimensional transport system. Now I’m going to have to do it the hard way,,,with a wormhole(Unfortunately, it will be hard to find a worm with a large enough hole,,,).


    Gary 7

  25. Tony

    A lot of people are having difficulty in understanding how digital information in fibre optics can be “slowed down” rather than simply fail at a bad connection point. What everyone needs to understand is that light travelling through a fibre optic cable behaves a lot like teenagers going down a water slide. What happened in Italy is that at the bad connection point, one teenager “prankster” decides to put his/her arms and legs out and grip on to the side of the slide and come to a stop. The next teenager slams into the first and eventually you get a blockage of teenagers. But at some stage the build up of teenagers and water is too much for the original prankster to hold back and they all come gushing through at once.

    Disclaimer: I don’t understand light, or physics in general. What’s an Einstein? Isn’t that something germans drink beer out of?

  26. flibbertigibbet

    I hope this isn’t true, that it is just a rumour. However, I am happy to know the scientific method of testing strange results works.

  27. Electro

    Someone please save me much googling.
    Years ago I remember that the various underground neutrino detectors in Japan, Canada and other places were not detecting solar neutrinos in anywhere near the numbers predicted.
    I have not kept up with developments in this field. Did they find a design flaw in the detectors?
    Was the math wrong? ( Though methinks I would have heard about that )

    I am basically asking here, What are they using to detect LHC neutrinos that is different from what the Solar Neutrino experiments were / are using?

  28. aleksandar

    I really hope this isn’t true. Standard model + GTR universe is extremely boring and depressing.

  29. ctj

    as the complexity of a system increases linearly, the number of ways things can go wrong increases exponentially.

  30. Jason

    Electro: They were not detecting the predicted number of neutrinos because the detectors were only sensitive to one type of neutrino, and it turns out that neutrinos can oscillate between the three types. This suggests that neutrinos have a small, but non-zero mass.


  31. Electro (#22): that’s how neutrino oscillation ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutrino_oscillation ) was discovered. It’s still not completely wrapped up (although it’s been directly observed to occur), but the simple answer is: if neutrinos have a tiny mass, which they seem to, then they’ll change between the 3 different flavors of neutrinos as they go along. Fusion in the sun produces one flavor of neutrino, that the early detectors were built to look for. They couldn’t see the other two flavors, though, so only saw 1/3 of the total neutrinos – the Sun is far enough away that the solar neutrinos are pretty much randomly distributed between all three flavors once they arrive at Earth. The Solar Neutrino Deficit is no longer an unresolved issue.

  32. Eric Shumard

    @Stathis#19: OPERA uses atomic clocks, which drift > 1 ns/day, and corrects for this drift and other systematic effects by using common view GPS.

    The official statement from OPERA is contained here:

    I am having trouble understanding how a loose connection would result in a 60 ns delay. I seriously doubt that the retry explanation is correct since it involves reliably detecting a weak signal, sending a signal back to the originating device, followed by the originating device resending the signal. All this happening in 60 nsec and happening reproducibly seems improbable. If the setup is this sophisticated, it should also be logging errors that someone would notice.

  33. Ah, did anyone allow for the fact that electrons move slower in cables but anywhere from 60-80%?
    If the connection if fiber, like still move slower than in a vacuum or even air.

    And yes I’ve been bit by that. To the tune of about 1nS/foot.

    Now if true, how fast is fast compared to c.


  34. Electro

    Thanks jason and others, I don’t know how I forgot about reading that. Must be that its very late here.

    Thanks again

  35. Seems like a reasonable explanation, and certainly makes more sense than everything we think we know about physics being wrong. I think a lot of otherwise very smart folks will argue against this explanation because they want FTL to be true. A laudably geeky, if decidedly unsciencey position to argue from.

  36. Wzrd1

    I’ve never had intermittent data from a partially installed or dust contaminated fiber optic cable. Ever. I either get data or I don’t get data. Even in the middle east, when I had to frequently unseat the fiber optic cables from the GIBC and blow dust out to restore a connection.
    The report had plainly stated that their GPS data was accurate and consistent.
    So, I’ll consider this valid AFTER I see a FULL report on it. ESPECIALLY as the observation time is suspiciously short after reporting a LONG series of observations in the initial report.

  37. andyd

    So after they first noted the anomalous result, they never thought to strip their equipment down and rebuild it before doing the test again? Seriously??? And they are scientists? Sounds like they needed a good engineer on the project.

  38. beer case

    What about propagation delay in the digital circuits? The signal doesn’t travel through the equipment instantaneously. Not to mention the optocouplers (the components translating the electronic signal to light, travelling down the fiber). Even the fastest of those have propagation delay of several ns!

    Different components have different propagation delay. It also varies with temperature, supply voltage and load. Even copper traces have propagation delay, because electrons travel at approximately 2/3 the speed of light in copper.

    All of this must of course be accounted for!

  39. flip

    Anybody working with electronics for a living probably would have thought of ‘check the cables are plugged in properly’ first. It’s certainly one of the things I learned and it was always one of the first things on the checklist when troubleshooting problems. I’m surprised it wasn’t more obvious to the scientists – in fact, I kind of assumed it was one of the things they checked before asking for help from others. … I’m very curious now as to whether or not the rumour is correct. Surely any thorough analysis (and they said they did one) before opening it up to others for help would have included a ‘check the plugs’ moment.

  40. Tara Li

    Interesting – the official CERN statement says that there were *TWO* possible sources of error – but that one would result in slower than accurate measurements, while the other would result in faster than accurate measurements. It would be funny if after all is said and done that the fault that results in too fast a measurement is not there, while the one that results in too slow a measure is valid – and so the neutrinos traveled even *FASTER* than the initial results suggested.

  41. Kaleberg

    I’m not surprised they’re finding the problem was with one of the cables. GPS receivers need to be on the surface so they can pick up the satellite signals. Neutrino detectors have to be deep in a hole so the rock can screen out extraneous particles. The cable connecting the Gran Sasso GPS receiver to the underground monitoring apparatus was 45,295 ns long. That’s about 13.45 kilometers which is a lot of fiber optic cable. An 18 ns error is pretty small beer with that long a cable. Such a long cable could have all sorts of effects that would amplify very minor delays, particularly those at the sending end.

    (That length is from the diagram in Where Does the Time Go?, Adrian Cho, Science 2 December 2011: 1200-1201. [DOI:10.1126/science.334.6060.1200] .)

  42. OneofNone

    40. beer case said:
    Even copper traces have propagation delay, because electrons travel at approximately 2/3 the speed of light in copper.

    You are correct with delays, but one small correction: the electrons are not whizzing around at high speed, they are moving far below that. It is the electric field which moves fast, so basically the displacement of electrons from their resting positions in the copper.

    As I remember the electrons in your power cable only move some centimeters (inches) before changing direction because of the AC current frequency.

  43. Venture Free

    I love how this whole episode has really put the lie to all the cranks who claim they’re not taken seriously because scientists simply REFUSE to even consider any data or ideas that could possibly threaten the supremacy of the almighty “Relativity.” Clearly this was taken very seriously, and that was primarily because the scientists who spearheaded it really worked their a**es off to prove themselves WRONG, only passing it along when they were unable to do so. Cranks tend to work in the opposite direction and try their damnedest to prove themselves RIGHT.

    You see, many people have the mistaken idea that experiments are designed to verify hypotheses when the reality is exactly the opposite. Experiments are (ideally) designed to test specific ways in which a hypothesis could FAIL, which is what the scientists are looking for. When it doesn’t fail, the hypothesis being tested is considered supported to the extent that it didn’t fail under these circumstances. That’s also why no amount of experimentation can or will ever PROVE a hypothesis. All we can ever do is demonstrate situations in which the hypothesis could, but doesn’t fail. Since there are an infinite number of ways that a hypothesis could fail, all we can so is get asymptotically closer, but never quite to actual “proof.”

    Cranks don’t get this, and they tend to ignore a whole lot of ways in which their hypotheses could fail in favor of all the ways that could succeed. But for people trained to first think “Why could this idea be wrong?” such ideas rarely survive even the first pass.

  44. Neutrinos are tricky little buggers. I’m pretty sure they got there at FTL speed, then used the extra time they had to screw around with the cables, just to mess with the scientists’ heads :)

  45. mathguy

    The media is (of course) gleefully reporting this as “scientists who forgot to check a loose cable”, but most theorists treated the FTL neutrino finding as an experimental error waiting to be explained rather than a scientific revolution. (Cohen-Glashow etc.) Maybe the Collaboration could have been more circumspect before going public?

  46. @37: I think a lot of otherwise very smart folks will argue against this explanation because they want FTL to be true. A laudably geeky, if decidedly unsciencey position to argue from.

    Arg! I think you hit the nail on the head. I have to admit, I was really disappointed when I saw this. Even though my many frustrating technical misadventures have taught me that it’s usually something stupid like a loose wire, and I was sort of expecting something like this. Phoeey. No warp drives for meh.

  47. Robin

    Just as there was no need to rush to conclusions after the initial experiments appeared to show FTL neutrinos, there is no need to rush to conclusions about this story of the possible error, especially since there’s been no refereed publication of the former and since the experimenters have not officially confirmed the latter. Everyone else can get excited, but I’m going to wait for official word on the latter or for a refereed paper on the former.

  48. I really wish these comments had a “Like” button.

  49. DennyMo

    Bad connectors, and it took them this long to figure it out? Must not have had any mechanical engineers working on this, that would have been the first thing we checked. And maybe the only valid contribution to the whole investigation. :)

  50. Tony Mach

    That must have been some 18m that they “tightened” up that fiber optic cable… Ok, “rise time” of the transmitter, the signal threshold at the receiver and an attenuated signal is the most likely issue here. Next time, they should sample both flanks of the signal…

    (And no way to do a “retry” or some such in 60 ns)

    And you should put that in front of other of your posts:
    Let me start this off by first noting this is an unconfirmed report. We don’t have anything solid yet. Keep that in mind, please!

    Those posts with the flaming globe come to my mind. (And didn’t I ask you to add more flames?)

  51. noen

    It ain’t over yet.

    CERN Press release

    UPDATE 23 February 2012

    The OPERA collaboration has informed its funding agencies and host laboratories that it has identified two possible effects that could have an influence on its neutrino timing measurement. These both require further tests with a short pulsed beam. If confirmed, one would increase the size of the measured effect, the other would diminish it. The first possible effect concerns an oscillator used to provide the time stamps for GPS synchronizations. It could have led to an overestimate of the neutrino’s time of flight. The second concerns the optical fibre connector that brings the external GPS signal to the OPERA master clock, which may not have been functioning correctly when the measurements were taken. If this is the case, it could have led to an underestimate of the time of flight of the neutrinos. The potential extent of these two effects is being studied by the OPERA collaboration. New measurements with short pulsed beams are scheduled for May.

    So there are two factors in question. One of which could mean that neutrinos travel even *faster* than thought before. The fat lady has yet to sing.

  52. Derek

    @51, Tony –

    Why would he put that disclaimer in a post talking about experimentally verified science, agreed upon by 98% of experts in the field and supported by thousands of published papers?

  53. Sloppy connections happen. Correction and notification are ethical and laudable. Theorists abundantly “proved” the absurd, on arXiv. Theory needs pruning.

    Relativity is not sacred. Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama gravitation ignores the Equivalence Principle. EP = true is relativity. EP = false has testable EP violations. One ECKS emergent observable is newly interactive: physical chirality. Relativity has no defense – violation without contradiction.

    Crystallography illuminates. Chemically and macroscopically identical single crystals in enantiomorphic space groups are EP-violations: gamma-Glycine [space groups P3(1) versus P3(2)] or alpha-quartz [space groups P3(1)21 versus P3(2)21]. Good observation prunes theory. Somebody should look.

  54. Robin

    @ Derek (#56): Surely you don’t mean that the OPERA results re: neutrinos and FTL velocities are agreed upon by 98% of the experts in the field and supported by thousands of papers…..

  55. @51 Robin: The media is (of course) gleefully reporting this as “scientists who forgot to check a loose cable”, but most theorists treated the FTL neutrino finding as an experimental error waiting to be explained rather than a scientific revolution. (Cohen-Glashow etc.) Maybe the Collaboration could have been more circumspect before going public?

    That bugs me too. Even though this is an example of the scientific method working properly (something really exciting pops up, but scientists work together to try and explain it instead of flying off the handle and selling FTL Neutrino bracelets), many in the public will still interpret it was “Hurr, those goofy, geeky scientists! They aren’t so smart!

    Oh look, a quantum energy balancing bracelet. And just forty bucks each. I’ll take ten!”

    @58 Robin: Surely you don’t mean that the OPERA results re: neutrinos and FTL velocities are agreed upon by 98% of the experts in the field and supported by thousands of papers…..

    No, he’s responding to Tony Mach, one of the resident climate contrarians, who just played the “Scientists were wrong here, why not there?” ‘skepticism’ card.

  56. Sloppy connection on the transmitter site along with some complex refraction-like issue would explain it just fine. I dont know of the sensitivity those systems but I guess they are designed to overcome minor errors (hence the link wasnt broken because of the minor error).

    I dont think the use only the data (i.e. time value) trasmitted, but they do calculate the Time Of Flight of the data (gps sat to atomic clock), to provide a most accurate sync between the atomic clocks. This also help a kind of this error as I guess they would have to sync the clocks only once. Real ToF is longer cause of the issue, so the neutrinos appear to arrive earlier.

    I guess in the enormous complexity of a system like that, a hundred places would exist where an error like this would happen.

    There would be quite interesting times if it didnt. :(

  57. beer case

    #46 OneofNone: You are of course correct. The electrons themselves more pretty slowly. As you point out : AC current never “replenish” you with electrons. You’re stuch with the “dusty old ones”, washing back and forth! 😉

    And no, I don’t think “AC” electrons get very far before the polarity changes. Only a fraction of a mm, I guess.

  58. Cesar

    @57. Uncle Al: Wikipedia says Einstein–Cartan–Sciama–Kibble theory actually exists, but boy your comment did sound a lot like a http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WordSaladPhilosophy

  59. Collin

    @62. TVTropes? What kind of argument is that?

  60. Adolf Erdmann

    The Cern FTL experiment reminds me of a photo finish in a horse race. The neutrinos apparently won by a nose, but now it seems that there was something wrong with the camera.

    If the scientists at Cern wanted to prove Einstein wrong, they should have picked a faster horse than a neutrino. My brother and I conducted some experiments which showed that magnetic fields and electrostatic fields propagate infinitely faster than the speed of light.
    Our experiments are outlined here: http://www.wbabin.net/physics/erdmann.pdf
    and http://www.wbabin.net/physics/erdmann2.pdf

    Please don’t anybody dismiss these experiments before you try them out for yourself. The beauty is that any electronics experimenter can successfully repeat our experiments with less than a thousand dollars worth of equipment. It will be hard for the great minds to dispute these findings. Although, there may be some that will give it a try.

  61. I’d just like an explanation I can understand, to relate to my high school history students, about how GPS require advanced physics to work. This is all very interesting, but it doesn’t help my understanding.

    Though, if confirmed, an unplugged cable will demonstrate once again the very high value of having humans in these processes, to figure out what went wrong when and if things go wrong, and especially humans who use checklists to make sure everything goes right.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    Eck (35) said:

    . . . about 1nS/foot.

    1 nanoSiemens per foot? A conductivity? I thought you had been talking about time.

    Perhaps you meant 1 ns/foot?

  63. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (59) said:

    . . . scientists work together to try and explain it instead of flying off the handle and selling FTL Neutrino bracelets

    Wait, what?

    You mean I shouldn’t have been selling those bracelets yet?


  64. Nigel Depledge

    Adolf Erdmann (65) said:

    My brother and I conducted some experiments which showed that magnetic fields and electrostatic fields propagate infinitely faster than the speed of light.

    Infinitely faster? What does that even mean?

  65. Adolf Erdmann

    It means that the named fields spread out almost instantaneously. I would like to say instantaneously (instantaneous action at a distance, as Einstein put it) but I can’t guarantee that our equipment is that accurate. However, unlike the Cern experiment, our experiments showed a clear difference in speeds.

    I wish people would actually try our experiments before claiming that we must be wrong, because our experiment contradict Einstein. But then, Einstein said: “If the facts contradict the theory, you simply change the facts”. So, I guess that is what people are doing.

    I have asked a number of scientists to tell me, where and when, and by whom the speeds of magnetic fields and electrostatic fields have been measured. Sofar, I have not got an answer. Maybe, someone who is reading this can give me an answer.

  66. Nigel Depledge

    Adolf Erdmann (70) said:

    I wish people would actually try our experiments before claiming that we must be wrong, because our experiment contradict Einstein.

    Too little detail supplied. I followed your first linky from #65 and, while it makes interesting reading, you really need to get into more detail.

    First, it appears that you are ignorant of one James Clerk Maxwell, whose wave equations have been shown to successfully describe the behaviour of electromagnetic wave propagation for about 150 years.

    Second, the description seems so set on proving that you have a genuine FTL phenomenon that it provides no meat for theorists to get to grips with. Have you looked at frequency-dependence? Have you tried to make your idea fail (it does not look like it from that first PDF)? Have you found sets of conditions in which your FTL thing “works” and conditions in which it does not? How thorough have you been in working out what is going on?

    Data of this sort is what will be needed for others to (a) take your proposal seriously, (b) test it for themselves, and (c) come up with a theoretical framework that can connect it to some known physics. Better still, you should come up with this framework yourselves.

    You cannot simply claim from one limited set of experiments that Einstein was wrong, because there is so much evidence that supports his theories. You must also address that evidence, and conceive an explanation that encompasses both your new result and existing non-FTL experimental data. Sorry, but “we think it’s because the E and H fields propagate at right-angles” (my paraphrase) is not an explanation.

    Seriously, have you spoken about your phenomenon to any physicists who work in relevant fields? As a radio ham, I know a little of such things, but nowhere near enough to write a credible grant application on the basis of your preliminary findings.

  67. Adolf Erdmann

    First of all, my brother is a ham radio operator too.
    Secondly, Maxwell explained electromagnetic waves not E and H fields alone. If you check Maxwell’s equations, you find that it is the permittivity of free space that determines the the speed of an electromagnetic wave and light.

    In My opinion, for as little as it counts, the problem with Theoretical Physicists is that a lot of the don’t understand the difference between electromagnetic waves and pure E and H fields. They call it the “Electromagnetic field”, when they actually talk about electromagnetic waves.

    Have you ever ever read Einstein’s book youeself; you should. Some Einstein defenders, don’t have a clue what the man actually said. I once added a paragraph from his book onto a Wikipedia article; it was immediately removed by people who claimed that it was confusing and contradicted Einstein.

  68. Adolf Erdmann

    According to Maxwell’s equations, the speed of light C = 1 divided by the square root of the product of the permittivity and the permeability of free space.

    The permeability of vacuum (free space) is: 1.2566371×10−6 henries per meter
    The permittivity of vacuum (free space) is 8.854… × 10−12 Farads per meter

    If we put these figures into the equation, we get: C = 299792.458 km/s

    Let’s take the above calculation a step further. If we were to send a pure electrostatic signal without any magnetic component whatsoever (a highly electrically charged body can be sensed from a distance), then the signal would travel infinitely fast according to Maxwell’s equation: C = 1 divided by the square root of the product of the permittivity time the permeability of free space.
    That is because the product of 8.854… × 10−12 and 0 (zero) = 0 (zero).
    Therefore, the square root of zero is also zero.
    And finally: 1 divided by 0 = infinity.
    If we were to remove the electrostatic component from the signal, we would get the same result.
    For example, if we replaced the antenna of a radio transmitter with a coil, only an alternating magnetic field would be produced, but not a radio wave.

    So there you have it, by using Maxwell’s equations, we can prove that purely electrostatic fields and purely magnetic fields propagate infinitely fast, and therefore definitely faster than the speed of light.

    As Nigel said: “James Clerk Maxwell, wave equations have been shown to successfully describe the behaviour of electromagnetic wave propagation for about 150 years”.

    I for one won’t argue with Maxwell, he was one of the most brilliant men in the history of science.

  69. Nigel Depledge

    @ Adolf Erdmann (73) –
    As I said, you really need to talk to a professional physicist about this stuff. If there is a real phenomenon there, it should be investigated.

    What I don’t get is why, when you consider only an electrostatic or only a magnetic field, you set the permeability or permittivity to 0 in calculating c, and that c then dictates the speed of that electrostatic or magnetic field. On the one hand, you seem to be saying that Maxwell’s equations (in which c is the speed of an electromagnetic wave) should apply here, and on the other (earlier) you seemed to be saying that there is no reason why an electrostatic field should travel at the same speed as an electromagnetic wave. IOW, it appears that you are trying to have your cake and eat it.

    I agree that the sqrt of 0 is 0, and that 1/0 = infinity (this is one of the reasons that Einsteins GR cannot handle what goes on inside a black hole), although you use the word “therefore” in a way that does not make sense to me.

    One other thought occurs to me – how does an electrostatic field propagate without generating any magnetic fields along the way? Surely all it would take is for that E field to move some charges around to generate at least a tiny H field? As I said, I know a little, but certainly not enough to make an adequate assessment of what you are proposing.

  70. Adolf Erdmann

    The proof really is in the pudding, you have to eat it to find out; and that is what nobody wants to do. Nigel, explain to me how an empty space (according to Einstein) can have a measurable permittivity and a permeability.

    How did Maxwell come up with the speed of an electromagnetic wave when he was not able to transmit one? What really determines the speed is the time delay which occurs when the energy shifts back and forth between the E an the H field, and that is what Maxwell was able to measure, and that is how he came up with the equation. When there is no shifting of energy between fields, there is no time delay.

    The equation using zero for the individual components was just a joke. Anyway, I thought it was funny. Here is another one: The definition of a Theoretical Physicist is “All talk no action”.

  71. Mister Chelsea's Dad

    @Adolf Erdmann

    You are doing an excellent job of demonstrating why no professional will take you seriously.

    Since you claim your brother is a Ham, you should probably borrow his copy of the ARRL handbook, as from your example of running a radio signal through a coil, its obvious you don’t know the first thing about how antennas work, or how EM signals are emitted from conductors. You can’t have a changing electric or magnetic field, without producing EM radiation.

  72. Adolf Erdmann

    @ Mr. Chelsea”s Dad

    Try this mind experiment (“Gedankenexperiment” as Einstein called it).

    Take a permanent bar magnet and spin it around so that the North and South poles alternately face a pickup coil a distance away. The pickup coil will generate a weak AC current.

    Now replace the bar magnet with an electromagnet powered by a battery. The pickup coil will again generate a weak AC current.

    Now, remove the battery from the metal bar and connect an AC power supply to the coil terminal, but don’t rotate the bar. The pickup coil will again generate and AC current; that is the process of induction. How is that really different from what happened before. So we have power transmission by induction in every case mentioned above. There are no radio waves involved in the process.

    If you should get a hold of an early Bluetooth, you will find that it used loopsticks (which actually are coils wound on a ferrite stick) for signal transmission, at an AC frequency of 10 Megahertz. There were also no radio waves involved, even if the AC was in the radio frequency spectrum.

    So go argue with Harry Bunzel, I believe that is his name. He can probably explain it better than I can.

  73. Mister Chelsea's Dad

    @Adolf Erdmann

    The name Bunzel isn’t familiar, and a quick check on google doesn’t show anything relevant, so you attempt at appeal to authority fails to impress me.

    The examples in your Gedankenexperiment are not too impressive either. Just what do you believe is carrying the energy, and what distinguishes it from “radio waves” other than your assertion? Oddly enough, the ferrite loopstick is considered an antenna, and is often used in portable AM broadcast receivers.

  74. Adolf Erdmann

    @ Mister Chelsea’s Dad

    It is true that ferrite loopsticks are used as antennas for AM broadcast receivers, but they are totally useless as radio transmitting antennas. You will find the answer in the websites listed below.



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