OPERA Confirms Faster Than Light Neutrinos And Indicates Ultra Superluminal Small Initial Jumps
    By Sascha Vongehr | November 18th 2011 03:51 AM | 26 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    Fresh results from the OPERA collaboration once more confirm the faster than light neutrinos indicated by MINOS. The new findings, available here, also further strengthen a particular scenario: The neutrinos do not travel with superluminal velocity all the way. They only ‘jump’ a small initial distance shorter than 20 meters, after which they settle back and travel as usual with speeds below that of the speed of light. This initial jump would occur at speeds that are more than ten times the speed of light, perhaps even millions of times the speed of light.

    The new results make it worthwhile to explain the Ultra Superluminal Small Initial Jump (USSIJ) clearly again, firstly taking into account the new 25 nanosecond “jitter” that affects the new data, but also in order to remove widespread misconceptions. One of the most misleading misconceptions is that the “jump” is a “shortcut” through higher dimensions, perhaps involving SciFi wormholes. Nothing of this sort: It is very much the opposite of a shortcut, in fact, it is a detour (!) in case extra dimensions are involved.

    In the following, let us shortly dispel the two worst misconceptions, then introduce the new data, and then argue clearly how they point toward the USSIJ “jump” scenario.

    No Extra Dimensions Necessary, No Wormholes!

    It happens to be the case that the most intuitive model involves higher dimensional spaces, however:

    1) The jump scenario is not dependent on being necessarily a detour through higher dimensions.

    2) Even if it is visualized via models with more than three space dimensions, it is not to be confused with nonsense about traveling through wormholes!

    Let us first dispose of the second misconception, since the first was discussed at length in previous posts: The so often mentioned “well some say faster then light neutrinos are due to shortcuts through higher dimensions” is very misleading. A shortcut implies some sort of wormhole. Wormholes are odd solutions of the mathematics of general relativity. They are neither supposed to be occurring in our stretched-flat universe, nor are they even expected to be physical in any universe. Classical and quantum considerations both disfavor them. Apart from this shaky basis, they are a completely nonsensical idea if we try to explain the OPERA neutrinos: 

    Why would there be a wormhole leading somewhere from CERN to Gran Sasso? The neutrinos create those wormholes? And then they travel through them? That would take so long that they come late, not early. There would have to be preexisting shortcuts, but why right here at CERN? So, they would have to be everywhere and all the time. But wormholes connect almost arbitrarily different space-time events and have arbitrary velocities, too. Why would they stay around earth traveling along with it? Why would neutrinos enter exactly those worm holes that happen to not only go toward Gran Sasso, but also at a very specific time in Gran Sasso? Once and for all: Higher dimensional models in connection with the faster than light neutrinos have nothing whatsoever to do with wormholes!

    New OPERA Results Update previous OPERA Results:

    The following graph shows the arrival times of the 20 neutrinos that OPERA detected recently over a few weeks; they are plotted relative to the arrival time expected from light, so what we actually see is the time that the neutrinos arrived earlier than light would have:


    20 neutrinos is very little, but it anyway is just to confirm the previous OPERA results, which are based on 15233 neutrino interactions collected over three years. The arrival times are on average 60 nanoseconds (ns) earlier than that of light. However, there is a "jitter": The individual neutrinos seem to arrive up to 25 ns earlier or later around the average 60 ns of early arrival.

    The point of taking the new data is that previously it was unclear whether the early arrival was an artifact brought on by the long duration of CERN’s proton bunches and their perhaps varying focus. The proton bunches have now been made much briefer:

    "The modified beam consisted of a single extraction including four bunches about 3 ns long (FWHM) separated by524 ns." Source: Conclusions of recent OPERA preprint.

    You see that the proton bunch peaks are only three nanoseconds long, which means that OPERA can now measure the early arrival time of each detected neutrino separately rather than infer an average time from the combined measurement.

    If you take the spread of the protons into account, the result for the statistical error on the 60 ns early arrival can be inferred. The article goes on:

    "With an integrated beam intensity of 4×1016 protons on target a total of 20 events were retained, leading to a value of δt measured from the average of the distribution of (62.1 ± 3.7)ns, in agreement with the value of (57.8 ± 7.8) ns obtained with the main analysis."

    In other words: the statistical error on the 60 ns is smaller than 10 ns. However, there is clearly the "jitter"of 25 ns in the first graph, and it is larger than 10 ns. So, this must be discussed, too.

    What do all the Neutrino Data Indicate?

    We know already why the neutrinos could go faster and what new experiments this suggests, why it does not imply time travel or violates causality, and why it is somewhat expected for neutrinos. With all this out of the way, let us once more look at the neutrino data and what they actually indicate.


    A few years back in Chicago in 2007, MINOS observed evidence for neutrinos moving faster than light (FTL). Under the assumption that the neutrinos travel at a constant velocity [Constant Velocity Assumption (CVA)], the velocity indicated would be just a little faster than the speed of light c, namely at 1.000051 (+/- 0.000029) c. The data from Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud 168 thousand light-years away also allows an interpretation with FTL neutrinos. Under the CVA, they indicate at most a tiny increase over the speed of light. 23 neutrinos were seen over 13 seconds, and they arrived 3 hours earlier than the light. This time delay is mostly due to the fact that during a typeII supernova, neutrinos carry most of the nova’s energy through the outer layers of the star while the visible light comes only out after the shock wave from the stellar core collapse reaches the surface of the star. The recent experiments at OPERA report a velocity of only one part in 100000 above the speed of light, however, again under the CVA!

    Looking at all these experiments, the increase over the speed of light is going down along with the increase in total distance D over which the neutrinos have traveled. This is the first indication of that the CVA is wrong. The average velocity is the total travel time t divided by the large total distance D. The CVA assumes that the average velocity equals the superluminal velocity V. Of course, under this assumption, the velocity will become smaller with the increase of the distance D.

    So lets take the data seriously and allow for that the superluminal part of the journey is a small “jump” distance x: The particles just travel a short distance x superluminally, after which they travel further with a speed just under the speed of light. The longer they travel afterward, the less the initial short distance x of superluminal propagation at the start is noticeable as an increase of the average velocity.

    This assumption will now be further strengthened by considering that the data not only reveal an early average arrival time of about 60 ns, but also a small variation around this average result. I will with some very simple mathematics explain why this small variation also indicates the high velocities V that are much larger than the speed of light c. These very high velocities are expected from all natural scenarios that allow superluminal particles in the first place! The latter was explained in the first article on “millions of times the speed of light”, so I will not bother yet again.

    Let me just quip that the many “refutations” of the OPERA results lately, for example that by Cohen and Glashow (, not only consider merely the average velocity, but they also assume the CVA. Their argument is basically: Assume the CVA that is actually not indicated by the data and then add that the FTL neutrinos behave completely normal except for that they are obviously FLT and thus not normal at all. Then “derive” from these two faulty assumptions something that is not normal, which is obviously easy to do, and conclude that neutrinos are not FTL because, hey, something not normal showed up. This is obviously not how one can argue.

    So now to the meat: The OPERA data are the most reliable. The total distance traveled is D, which happens to be about 730 kilometers. The average velocity is close to the speed of light c = 299792458 m/s. Therefore, the total travel time is t ~ D/c = 2.43 ms. (The “~” will henceforth mean “is roughly equal to”).

    The duration of the jump is (x/V) with x the jump distance and V the superluminal speed V > c.

    The total travel time t is the sum of the time of the jump plus the time it took to travel the rest of the total distance, namely (Dx)/c (we use c here, because neutrinos are so light that they travel usually with almost c). Hence, t = (x/V) + (Dx)/c.

    T = 60 ns is the early arrival time T = (D/c) – t. Put in t from above and get:

    T = x [ (1/c) – (1/V) ].

    Del T ~ 10 ns is the variation around the average T. (I use bold font Del T here because the greek letters don't go through the editor today). This variation may be due to variations in x and variations in V. The simplest formula for these “errors” is:

    Del T ~   Del x   [ (1/c) – (1/V) ] + Del V  (x/V2)

    This is almost all we need to consider.

    Usual CVA Assumption:

    The usual assumption is that the superluminal “jump” x is constant over the whole journey, that means x = D, which in turn implies Del x = 0 and V ~ c. What does that mean for Del T though? Well, obviously only the second term survives:

    Del T = Del V (x/V2) = (Del V /V) (D/V) = (Del V /c) t

    This implies Del V ~ c Del T / t  ~  3*108m/s  10*10-9s  / 3*10-3m/s  ~  1000 m/s.

    The total variation on V cannot be bigger than a kilometer per second, which is extremely small compared to the velocity of light. This is unreasonable. If you are close to the speed of light already and bound by the speed of light, then a large increase in energy may in fact only add a single kilometer per second. However, we are already assuming FTL speeds, and all natural scenarios that would allow such make an extremely small variation of only parts in a million hard to imagine: Why should the neutrinos from the very fast mesons decaying bump into exactly such a superluminal velocity? Not impossible, there are always ad hoc assumptions, but lets get back to assuming natural scenarios.

    Ultra Superluminal Small Initial Jumps (USSIJ)

    The data already hinted at x < D. We should assume such novel physics to be rather contained to the vicinity of the violent origin of the neutrinos*, that is x << D, which implies V >> c. What does that mean for Del T ~ Del x [ (1/c) – (1/V) ] + Del V (x/V2) ?

    Because Del V (x/V2) = (Del V /V) (x/V), the variation Del V can all of a sudden be as large as V itself (as would be natural for a “splashing of ether” toy model for example).

    If Del V ~ V, the (Del V /V) (x/V) becomes ~ 1 (x/V), and this contribution vanishes below the observed 10 ns error if V is just ten times c. Look: V ~ 10 c implies x ~ 20 m, hence

    (x/V) = 20 m / 10 c = 20 m / 30*108m/s ~ 10 ns

    Any even higher V than this, the only variation left in Del T is Del x [ (1/c) – (1/V) ] ~ Del x /c. Now comes the 25 ns “jitter”, which is larger than the statistical variation in the results and blamed on the "tagging of the external GPS signal by the OPERA master clock". Even if this were due to variation around x, we would get

    Del x ~ c Del T = 3*108 m/s  25*10-9s = 7.5 m

    Now this result, given that at high V >> c the average x is about 18 m, is very reasonable and for example natural in the emergent relativity models discussed previously.


    Energy dependence is what should be looked at more carefully next. OPERA's previous results show T to be 54 ns and 68 ns for 14 GeV and 41 GeV neutrinos, respectively, however, those measurements cannot relate to individual neutrinos, so it might be due to more or less neutrinos jumping at all. If the energy just has to get to a certain threshold above which jumps occur, then energy increasing the velocity from 10 c to 10000 c would not change the arrival time. The energy would have to directly change the short initial "jump" distance x in order to show up as energy dependence in the arrival time. If x does not depend much on energy [say it is related to the size of a compactified dimension or the distance between two parallel membranes in a string theoretical higher dimensional bulk space (see universe on a membrane proposals)], less energy may get less neutrinos "jumping", but it would not give energy dependence to the arrival time for those that do "jump".


    *A short initial FTL jump allows the possibility that not the neutrinos but the mesons (pions, kaons) that derive from the protons contribute the FTL effects. The muon neutrinos come from the decay of the mesons, but the time of flight is including the whole stretch, including a kilometer of meson shenanigans:


    More from Sascha Vongehr Topic by Topic


    Bobby Knight
    Sascha, I won't pretend to follow your math, but it is interesting that the neutrino speed is not constant. Does this relate to a switch among the 3 flavors (e.g. from Vanilla to Chocolate)?
    Now everyone is waiting for the MINOS data from FERMI. Let's go. What's taking them so long?
    One should perhaps also point out that a short initial FTL jump may be not made by the neutrinos at all but due to the mesons (pions, kaons) that derive from the protons. The muon neutrinos come from the decay of the mesons, but the time of flight is including the whole stretch, including a whole kilometer of meson shenanigans:

    I applaud you for coming up with a model that does not require higher dimensions or other of the favorites of string theory.  (It seems some insert extra dimensions into everything.)  Someone has to be ready to explain this when/if it is really confirmed by an independent team at an independent lab.    
    That said I stick by my earlier statements on this issue.  CERN has shown only that they did not make sloppy random errors, that does not rule out systematic errors which all the serious criticisms of their work have pointed out ad nauseum.  They have shown that the have been competent in this case (competent and even "great" scientist are wrong every day
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Have you heard of the tunneling experiments by Günter Nimtz, Astrid Haibel, Ulrich Walter from their book "Zero Time Space"? They document experiments that show quantum tunneling takes constant time, regardless of distance. They propose that the time is equal to that required for one wavelength of the particle to enter the tunneling region then the actual tunnel event takes 0 time. This would look like superluminal jumps with speeds that seem to vary by distance. Perhaps the neutrinos are tunneling and their behavior is consistent with the tunneling observations done on photons, electrons, and protons.

    I have looked into the G. Nimtz stuff quite a bit actually a long while back. I find that work unconvincing for several reasons. However, yes, there are possibly connections in case tunneling and this FTL neutrino physics do both relate for example to the CMB background being a special frame as discussed in several articles (e.g. here). But these are highly speculative and I hold them suspect.
    With x ~ 10m shouldn't it be possible to time the things locally? You'd have a vast signal and the 60ns would be a much bigger proportion of the time of flight.

    You could also settle whether the neutrinos "disappear into other dimesions" close to the apparatus, maybe without even needing timing.

    neutrinos are really really hard to detect. trying to spot them in that first km would be impossible against the chaos of the other particles that come out of the collision.

    As Kevin already pointed out, one could perhaps try to see whether some jump happens with the mesons that decay into the neutrinos, but not with the neutrinos. OPERA detected only a mere 20 out of 10 to the 16th power!
    I'm not a scientist or a student of the sciences but it interests me. I'm laughing at the media right now....they ask rhetorically, " Could Einstien have been wrong?". Only a fool would make such a statement. His predictions have been tested and proven many times over. So what if neutrinos travel faster than light? What practical consequences can that possibly have? It is irresponsible to bash a visionary and genius like that. What will they do next? Discount the field equations...the equivalence principle or the cosmological principal for that matter, trash Friedman, Lemaitre, Schwartzchild, Maxwell, Hubble?

    I am sure Einstein would be happy if someone trashed this theories, something that I also find very difficult and improbable by the way.

    I wonder why you are not happy by that. This is how scisnce progresses. Descartes' theories about vortexes were trashed. Leibniz's theories about conservation of vis viva were tarshed. Both of these giants remained known for other significant contributions. If SR/GR are tarshed, Einstein will remmain forever known for the photoelectric effects for which he actually received the Nobel prize.

    You should not worry. It may also be that scientific theories are just related to current social tendencies rather than to some ultimate reality. Nobody knows at this point what reality is. Maybe the concious social mass confirms accepted theories on demand or falsifies them on demand.

    How is what you are saying any different than what those people who blindly believe in a religion say?! To you, Einstein is God, to them some other entity is God, that's the only difference.

    The media is only reporting what the scientists are finding, nothing more nothing less.

    FYI, Einstein has been proved wrong by QM long back. Einstein never understood the micro scale fully well. And to posit so much theory on Gravity without finding a fundamental particle ("graviton") is stretching the theoretical science too far, however much theoretical it is allowed to be in the first place.

    Keep an open mind. Too many discoveries are being made now-a-days that invalidate most of what we know (think we know). It's very exciting!

    I am not physicist, but a humble land surveyor, and this has puzzled me for some time. Could this be a simple case that neutrinos aren't affected in the same way we are as observers by space-time curvature? IE we have a measured distance of travel, the neutrinos supposedly follow this path. but the path we measured is bent more than the neutrino path ergo they get there earlier than expected.

    Italian scientist disputes CERN superluminal neutrino measurments. They will find that after spending billions of dollars and years upon years of research that nothing can travel faster than light. Neutrino's have a mass and therefore require an infinite amount of energy to accomplish that. There are also plausible explanations as to why the fine structure constant seems to vary depending on where in space we look.

    Interesting, but though the Ultra Superluminal Small Initial Jump somewhat reconciles the OPERA results with the SN1987A neutrinos, it still violates the special relativity. That it violates SR on a very short distance is no less a problem that if it does so over long distances. Also, you describe a posteriori the results (who doesn't) so the question is, did you create the model to explain the results or do the results confirm the prediction of the model (if it was created prior to the results). Also, you provide the mathematical description, but not the mechanism by which USSIJ would be possible.

    Daniel L. Burnstein

    See here
    Dear Sascha,
    I read the blog you link to as well as your paper title “Supporting Abstract Relational Space-Time as Fundamental without Doctrinism Against Emergence.”
    I didn’t see any clear description of the mechanism of USSIJ, neither did I see any predictions as such in the paper, but rather an enumeration of possible avenues of research. To me, a prediction implies rigorously deriving from the axiom set of a theory a very specific prediction. If the reasoning is rigorous, one should have been able to specifically predict that neutrinos, specifically neutrinos, would achieve superluminal speed and the order of magnitude of the difference between their speed and c.
    That said, there are some very interesting ideas in the paper, particularly those pertaining to “fixed” background and the possibility of a preferred frame of reference. I think this idea above all other holds the simplest and most promising explanation the OPERA results.
    I believe that what the OPERA group has unexpectedly achieved is a measurement of the speed of the Earth relative to quantum-geometrical space (the background). I predicted that specifically over a year ago. I also specifically predicted that neutrinos share characteristics with photons which suggests that they can only move at the speed of light and like photons, their speed be independent of their energy. This is why I am convinced that the OPERA neutrinos travel at the speed of light relative to the quantum-geometrical background, and attribute the excess speed to the speed of the Earth relative to the same background, but along its axis of motion; all conclusions that at first glance appear to agree with some aspects of your paper.
    Also, from a formal point of view, you are probably aware that in a number of areas you are trying to derive axioms which contradict the axioms of the theories you are deriving from. It kind of like trying to reduce a theorem to an axiom that is contradictory the axiom set the theorem was derived from. Is that what you refer to by “necessary confusion.”
    There is no doubt in my mind that the OPERA results will be replicated.
    Daniel L. Burnstein

    I didn’t see any clear description of the mechanism of USSIJ
    I never claimed to have one.
    what the OPERA group has unexpectedly achieved is a measurement of the speed of the Earth relative to quantum-geometrical space (the background).
    The OPERA experiments are done over a long time while the earth rotates, therefore any kind of "etherdrift" cannot explain the results.
    you are trying to derive axioms
    I have not tried to derive axioms. Once a theory is established, I sometimes worry about axioms, but at the cutting edge, I find that overkill and leave it to people who are more interested in pure math. I like measurements and interpretations that suggest more specific measurements.
    "The OPERA experiments are done over a long time while the earth rotates, therefore any kind of "etherdrift" cannot explain the results."

    You are right to a point. I agree that any ether drift hypothesis that assumes that space be smooth and continuous cannot explain the results. But you're not considering the possibility that space may be discrete or the consequences of space being discrete.

    I find quite perplexing that though it is rarely ever mentioned that most of physics implies that space be smooth and continuous. Special relativity, for instance, requires that space be continuous. In fact, time dilation is the unavoidable consequence of the unstated axiom of space continuity. But should space be discrete, then the constancy of the speed of light becomes a direct consequence of the structure of space (which I refer to as quantum-geometrical to distinguish it from continuous space or geometrical space) and time dilation becomes unnecessary.

    The OPERA results are completely consistent with the idea of quantum-geometrical space.

    It is also interesting to note that if the axiom of discreteness of space holds, then a one way measurement of the speed of light would yield similar results.

    I agree that any ether drift hypothesis that assumes that space be smooth and continuous cannot explain the results. But you're not considering the possibility that space may be discrete or the consequences of space being discrete.
    I considered that possibility; most people interested in quantum gravity probably do at some point or another. I do not see how etherdrift (continuous or not) can be getting a constant 60ns early arrival forward, backward, and 90 degrees to the movement of earth.
    "I do not see how etherdrift (continuous or not) can be getting a constant 60ns early arrival forward, backward, and 90 degrees to the movement of earth."

    You arrive at the figure as follow.

    Using the speed of the Sun relative to the CMB as best approximation of its absolute speed (its speed relative to the quantum-geometrical background), you arrive at a relative speed along the average axis of motion of the Earth that is approximately equal to 1.0012c (or c + (3.7 * 10^5)).

    Since the experiment took 3 years and the rotation of the solar system around the galaxy is estimated at 225 million years, that means the solar system travelled an arc of only 4.8 * 10^-6 degrees around the galaxy; which means that the variation of the orientation of the axis of motion for such a short period is so small as to be negligible (or at least smaller than the margins of error of the experiment).

    Now, taking the speed of the OPERA neutrinos measured at 1.000051c, you can determine that the angle between the CERN-Gran Sasso axis and the axis of motion of the Sun (taken as an approximation as the absolute axis of motion of the Earth relative to the qgb) is 87.255 degrees. Not quite the 90 degrees you mention but close enough. If it were exactly 90 degrees, the measured speed of the OPERA neutrinos would have been exactly c.

    Note that the orbital and rotation speeds of the Earth being so small by comparison to the speed relative to the quantum-geometrical background, taking them in consideration introduces variations that are orders of magnitude smaller than the margins of error of the experiment.

    The above is of course a simplification meant for a blog. The actual problem of determining the speed of any object relative to quantum-geometrical space is much more difficult.

    Daniel L. Burnstein

    The earth rotates! CERN etc are on the northern hemisphere.
    "The earth rotates! CERN etc are on the northern hemisphere."

    ... which would create fluctuations in the speed of neutrinos that are consistent with the fluctuations measured by the OPERA experiment (see ).

    It is also important to remember that global coordinates, or the motion of the Earth other objects differ from direction and speed relative to the quantum-geometric space background.

    Similar experiments and further analysis will reveal a dependency on time of day (though in view of the relative magnitude, the effect will be small) and orientation of the source-target axis.

    Large Neutrinos
    This "jitter" of 50 ns (full width) from an approximate 60 ns early arrival average might merely suggest a large neutrino. Consider the case where a neutrino generated at CERN is ~60 n light-seconds (i.e., ~18 m) radius sphere. In this case, if the detected interaction occurs when the leading edge of the neutrino (or the equivalent if viewed as a wave) reaches the detector particle, the portion of that sphere that hits the target should occur at various times of flight depending on which part of the neutrino interacts.

    If such a large neutrino is created with its center, instead of leading edge, at the point of creation, the faster than light step automatically occurs with the leading edge of the neutrino being 18 meters in front of the creation point. In such a case, the travel speed of the neutrino does not need to be supra-luminal.

    If the delta t is a function of the size of the neutrinos created (and detected), it should not be a function of the distance between the source and detector. This could be tested with a detector a far different distance from the neutrino source than 730 km. If a similar delta t were found at 7.3 km, 730 km, and 7300 km distances, that would suggest that there is not a supra-luminal velocity of neutrinos, but a supra-luminal speed for the creation of the neutrino’s boundary.

    Note that the size of the neutrino might be a function of its energy, in which case there would be a distribution of neutrino sizes, which would entail a distribution in arrival times.

    Great. Why don't you propose FTL communication with radio waves? Those photons are like hundreds of meters long according to their wavelength.
    With confirmation of FTL neutrinos, does this invalidate the theory in Neutrino Astronomy that states a pre-supernova star will generate a massive amount of neutrinos before th light event occurs? It seems that the initial FTL burst would account for the three hour time differential between neutrino arrival and photon arrival, in Supernova 1987a.

    Thank your insightful article!


    Dan Tannenbaum

    This has a huge relevance for quantum mechanics, if it could be proven that mass is faster than light :)
    Seen a lot who wants it to be defined as FTL, but they then forget that light still will be a constant, too many experiments proving that.

    And then we will have a very weird result where mass is FTL and also can pass that 'infinite mass' all our common sense, 'energy' as in conservation laws, and the rest of our Standard theory build on as it passes lights speed. And I'm sure Relativity will change if it was so, including all other physics, QM too.

    But Einstein was right, we have tried to find loopholes for a hundred years now, and macroscopically there are none I know of. And GR confirms it. So whatever it is, I do not expect it to be FTL, neither do I expect mass to be 'faster' than light. And considering the 'matter waves' incredible tininess, that tunnelling should have to be a world record if so. But it's an awful lot of energy expended, so?