In 2007, MINOS observed that neutrinos arrived faster than light over non-astronomical distances. That experiment carried a significance level of 1.8 standard deviations, which means in plain language: If this were a study on the safety of a new vaccine, doubting it would according to usual practice equal being called a silly Luddite who was deceived by quacks.
The recent 2011 OPERA results, although often portrayed as just a one-off strange fluke, is actually a confirmation of the earlier MINOS experiment (UPDATE: more details here). And what a confirmation it is: A whopping confidence level of six standard deviations. There are no studies that disagree either, because supernova data do not tell us anything about short distance behavior of high energy neutrinos. Translated in terms of vaccine studies: Your doubting this study would make scientists call you publicly a baby killer.
This is certainly not the first time that a new result goes against the standard interpretation of accepted scientific knowledge about space and time, not even in recent times. The first ether-drift experiment found none of the ether that science strongly believed in around 1900. That is why Michelson and Morley repeated the experiment. They confirmed the unexpected result with better accuracy a few years later. In the 1990s, observing the universe accelerating its expansion went against orthodox dogma. The observations were repeated and accepted after confirmation (they have even gotten a Nobel Prize).
This article does not demand to go ahead and accept superluminal speeds. I have stated repeatedly and early on that I expect them to be a systematic error.
Especially many interested in STEM subjects do not grasp that science does not float in a social vacuum, so I apologize to those who may not need to be told repeatedly in bold face what this article is not about:
This discussion is not about light speed and it is valid regardless of whether speeding neutrinos turn out to be real! I already discussed elsewhere (use that mouse thingy with the clicky-di-click sound) that particles could go faster and what new experiments this suggests, why it does not imply time travel or violates causality, why it is somewhat expected for neutrinos, and why short-distance propagation with many times the speed of light is indicated. This discussion here is not about any of that; none of that matters here except perhaps for proving that superluminal neutrinos are scientifically less problematic than the non-existence of ether in 1907.
The only aspect important here is the bare fact of that scientists outright reject an experimental, high confidence level confirmation of a previous result, all completed by many established scientists using the most advanced, checked and double-checked means available that usual money can’t even buy.
Ever been in the presence of scientists and tried to point out similarities between science and religion? Here we have an experiment that very many established scientists worked on with super reliable instruments, getting significant confirmation of another, already significant experimental observation, with no obvious financial or political interest at stake, no oil lobby, no pharmaceutical shills, yet the majority of scientists simply refuse the result because it does not fit their belief system.
Did you ever try and doubt the one or the other study where a relatively small number of people partially funded by a big corporation proved yet again with ‘scientific significance’, meaning often a mere standard deviation (one, not six) that vaccines are safe and alternative medicine is useless? Feel free to put your pet issue here, GMO, global warming if you like, whatever rocks your boat.
(UPDATE: Indeed, two days after I wrote this, Global Warming deniers have in fact started to use the discussions around the Neutrino data in order to argue against global warming in the manner that is indicated in this very article here, see details in the response to people misreading this article.)
Of course you (you, not them) won’t ever change your opinion about XYZ, because after so many years of being such a clever person, you have the only reasonable opinion about XYZ that all truly reasonable Scotsmen can possibly have, no doubt about that, I know. But you see, XYZ is also not the issue. The issue is that the public does not trust science anymore and Exxon oil or woo doctors are not the main culprits. Superstition and manipulation have always been around, but today they bloom because of the corrosion that is internal to modern science, systemic in the social construct which is called “science”.
The public trust crisis that science suffers today is not the media’s or the politicians’ fault, but it is a reflection of that science itself is in a deepening crisis. It is corroded by the publish-or-perish (POP-science) culture and the decadence that comes with the increasing participation in power and exploitation. The public starts to recognize this and reacts to the sheer arrogance they encounter. Too often they trusted experts just to find out that they were fooled, their families’ health and safety compromised, sometimes for nothing more than a single scientist getting tenure while his conscientious competitor goes unemployed.
Every single scientist knows from her own field that the amount of sheer rubbish being published nowadays is astounding. Especially the ‘reputable’ high impact journals are full of it. If you take a paper on nanotechnology and actually believe that what they found happens to be 10% better than the result the competition published a few months back, you are naïve. If you just go ahead and trust the latest medical research results, you are stupid to the extend of being a danger to your health!
However, instead of facing up to these problems and asking for help with reforms, the scientific community behaves like the usual Middle East dictator: Hide the problems; silence the critics. Every occurrence that just cannot be hidden, like preposterous claims of arsenic based life making it all the way into the most prestigious journals, are downplayed as unfortunate hiccups or “bad apples” instead of what they really are: The tip of the iceberg and direct consequence of science being done the way it is done today. Funding, jobs, publishing, all of it is the same connections and money game dependent on small established cliques without any independent external oversight and no alternative to young scientists who would like to do good science without participating in systemic corruption.
Only in rare events, when they are caught off guard, taken by surprise as in the case of the recent neutrino observations, do scientists ever reveal hidden aspects, like that they themselves hardly ever follow the so called “scientific method” they preach. The public may not understand much science, but you do not need to learn Latin in order to understand that the catholic priests talk Latin just so you won’t understand.
Arrogance is the true trigger of violent revolt against callous power. The arrogance with which scientists suppress critics of the growing corruption in science is what turns the distrust of the public into direct action. Science is attacked where it is perceived to invade ruthlessly like a religious occupation force or totalitarian police state. Laboratories are burned down, GMO fields destroyed, maybe soon conferences attacked. People fear, and rightly so if science is not carefully explained enlightenment but dogma shoved down our throats by clearly interested parties.
I am not an expert on climate or public health. They tell me that I should therefore trust the scientific consensus on global warming and vaccine safety as it is explained to the public. I am an expert on space-time physics and nanotechnology. In both these fields, I know that the scientific consensus as it is portrayed to the public, whether it is on the safety of nanotechnology or the unassailable truth of orthodox relativity for example, are distortions, to say it euphemistically. How can I tell you to trust the consensus on something so politically volatile and economically important as medicine or climate; how can I possibly do such an irresponsible thing if in all the fields I actually know about, relatively unimportant and innocent fields at that, much of the “scientific consensus” as it is portrayed is basically convenient bullshit that sells?
Will science get ever worse like evolution may generally predict (after all, science belongs to the selective perception apparatus of evolving super-organisms)? Can there be a turnaround, perhaps a Jasmine Spring of Science where young researchers just cannot take any more of the exploitation they themselves must endure in order to suck their way up in the hierarchy? Can science ever again embrace what it was based on, namely transparency (looking as objectively as possible at unbiased data)?
Transparency has become the new battle cry, the slogan of Wikileaks and for example the Pirate Party (Piraten Partei), a political party that has gotten a surprisingly large number of votes recently in Germany, coming out of nowhere, much like The Greens before (or the tea party if you prefer). Maybe “Transparent Science” will someday be as well known as “Green Science”.
Whatever the answer, I have promised many times to write future-relevant straight shit on the next level. After doing some thinking and encouraged by the uprisings against Western backed dictatorships in the Middle East and the increased rioting in the Western pseudo-democracies, all with transparency being one of the most important, and not surprisingly most consistently by the media ignored demands, I have decided that transparent science will become more to me than just explaining science clearly. Maybe it is as useless as life itself, but perhaps our practicing and solidarity concerning transparency can hold the neo-dark ages at bay for a little while. For starters, making the suppression of criticism via so called “peer review” public is long overdue, and maybe yet more researchers will join to expose this snake nest of opaqueness if I just join in and also start to shine some light.
Sure, the establishment discusses such topics at times:
The question therefore is whether the scientific community would benefit from knowing retrospectively what has been discussed during peer review, at least for those papers that do get published. Nature: Transparency in peer review
Sorry my laughing out loud dear editor gods, but critique that is suppressed does not get published! We need transparency and the only way to get it is putting what they do not want you to see out there for everybody to see. Stay tuned.