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    Superluminal Neutrinos: Opera Spokesperson Resigns
    By Tommaso Dorigo | March 30th 2012 05:47 AM | 96 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

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    Antonio Ereditato (left), spokesperson of the Opera collaboration, announced today he stepped down. He is no longer leading the Opera experiment.
     
    The Opera experiment last September made headlines around the world with their announcement that neutrinos sent from the CERN laboratories to the Gran Sasso cavern appeared to be moving at superluminal speed.

    The claim was fortified two months later, when results of a custom-made narrow-bunched beam of neutrinos sent for a week to Opera in October proved that the result of the timing measurement was not an artifact of the ill-understood bunch structure of the beam which had provided Opera with about 15,000 neutrino interactions in the past two years -the statistics on which the original claim had been based.

    The Opera analysis apparently showed that neutrinos were arriving to the Gran Sasso cavern after a 720km trip through the earth's crust a full 60 nanosecond earlier than if they were traveling at light speed in vacuum. This fostered all kinds of speculations from theorists, but also a lot of scepticism. Many questioned several details of the measurement, pointing their finger to unaccounted-for systematic uncertainties. The measurement is of course a very hard one to perform with the required accuracy, despite being a "simple" measurement of a time delay, resulting from a distance determination and two timing measurements.

    Other experiments had measured the speed of neutrinos in the past, always finding results compatible with the predicted motion at light speed. In particular, the detection of a few neutrinos after the burst of the Supernova 1987A had shown that electron neutrinos had moved at exactly light speed to reach the earth after a very long trip; however the Opera neutrinos are of the muon kind, and they have a much larger energy, so they could still be thought to behave differently.

    If neutrinos were superluminal particles, some theorists argued they should radiate energy in the form of electroweak interactions. A measurement of the energy spectrum of the neutrinos detected by the ICARUS detector - another facility invested by CERN neutrinos at the Gran Sasso cavern - had shown last fall that there was no such energy loss. If neutrinos were indeed superluminal, they therefore needed to be supposed to produce further exceptions to the rules of quantum physics, besides breaking the rules of Einstein's theory of relativity.

    Then, a month ago Opera released information about two sources of systematic uncertainties that had previously been unaccounted for. These could or could not invalidate the measurement, and more studies were therefore needed to ascertain their effect. However, by that time the scientific community had already largely understood that the Opera claim of superluminal neutrinos was hardly believable. Indeed, the simultaneous measurement of cosmic ray muon signals in Opera and a nearby detector had shown that the two experiments saw a difference of about 60 nanoseconds in their timing measurements: the analysis of the additional systematic uncertainties was in a way redundant at that point.

    Lastly, the ICARUS collaboration performed a independent, full-fledged measurement of the neutrino speed using the same methodology as the one of the original Opera measurement. They found a result perfectly compatible with neutrinos moving at light speed, and utterly incompatible with Opera's 60 ns effect.

    Two days ago a workshop was held at the Gran Sasso laboratories, where the various experiments reported their findings and discussed them. I have no report from the workshop, but it is clear that the superluminal signal of Opera is as dead as it can be. Following the workshop, the Opera collaboration is reported to have voted on removing Ereditato from the leadership position. The motion did not pass, but the voting showed that the collaboration was split, and this must eventually have led Ereditato to step down today.

    Physics is a hard science, and it progresses by trial and error. I see no particular exception in the case of Opera neutrinos. However, the affair does force us to question whether it was reasonable for the Opera management to come up with such a steep claim, which was bound to make headlines around the world. They did have a significant effect, but the claim was of such extraordinary size that additional caution might have been a good alternative. However, I dissent from that reading of the matter.

    I believe we are focusing on the wrong issue if, horrified with the distrust that the general public must be feeling after having seen a steep claim made and retracted in the matter of a few months, we conclude that scientific results should be produced, digested, and sat on for enough time to make us fully confident they are "exact" before being released to the public.  The issue we should address is not how to avoid distrust from the public, in my opinion. The issue is how we educate the public!

    The release of the preliminary Opera results last September was made after the news had leaked from the experiment to a few scientists not belonging to the collaboration. This is natural and unavoidable -I could cite a gazillion examples and explain to you why it is not possible, in the era of cellphones, email, and twitter, to keep scientific results private for long. Should we try to avoid the unavoidable ? No reason. Let us instead try to educate the public on the fact that what happened to Opera's superluminal neutrino claim is good science: we study an effect, find something unexpected, and then try to kill the effect with all our means by studying it in more detail and with all the other tools we have available. What survives this kind of treatment is usually only real, trustable effects.

    Comments

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I believe we are focusing on the wrong issue if, horrified with the distrust that the general public must be feeling after having seen a steep claim made and retracted in the matter of a few months, we conclude that scientific results should be produced, digested, and sat on for enough time to make us fully confident they are "exact" before being released to the public.  The issue we should address is not how to avoid distrust from the public, in my opinion. The issue is how we educate the public!

    Let us instead try to educate the public on the fact that what happened to Opera's superluminal neutrino claim is good science: we study an effect, find something unexpected, and then try to kill the effect with all our means by studying it in more detail and with all the other tools we have available.

    Antonio Ereditato (left), spokesperson of the Opera collaboration, announced today he stepped down. He is no longer leading the Opera experiment.
    How very sad that this poor man Antonio Ereditato should have felt obligated to step down from his position as spokesperson of the OPERA experiment when all along OPERA made it very clear that they did not make this 'steep claim' as cited in this blog, instead they repeatedly said that their results might well be incorrect and asked the rest of the world's physicists to try to work out what they had done wrong in their calculations, concerning these hypothetical OPERA superluminal neutrinos.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    lumidek
    Is that actually known whether he resigned because of the superluminal blunder?
    ...instead they repeatedly said that their results might well be incorrect 
    Even more importantly, Helen, their results *were* incorrect. You probably don't think it's important whether a scientist produces right or wrong results but I still hope I am not the only one for whom it *does* matter. Scientists who are wrong, especially about important things, big claims, or repeatedly, simply have to be disadvantaged relatively to those who are right. They must be disadvantaged whether or not they admit that they could be wrong. It's necessary for science to keeps its standards of validity. 

    Science simply can't afford to be dominated or led by people who are or have been wrong, whether or not they admitted it.

    I think it would be very sensible for him to resign because of the superluminal blunder but I don't know whether it was the actual reason.
    ...and asked the rest of the world's physicists to try to work out what they had done wrong in their calculations, concerning these hypothetical OPERA superluminal neutrinos.
    That would be pretty counterproductive as well, wouldn't it? World's physicists had no way to find the reason for the mistake which was actually hidden in the cables and obscure largely unpublished parts of their synchronization method. So if they asked world's physicists to try to find a problem, we also know that they have simply wasted time of the world's physicists.

    Needless to say, the world's *junk* physicists such as Mr Smolin et al.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/arXiv:1110.0521 

    didn't hesitate for a  minute and immediately reacted in the same way as a mosquito reacts if you offer him a hot smelly pile of shit. They just went to devour it! In the paper above, they argued that all the counter-arguments, like Cohen-Glashow, are too weak for their marvelous theories that are  predicting nothing else than that superluminal neutrinos are possible!

    The reason why crackpots such as Smolin never resign, not even after hundreds of similar wrong claims they make, is that in certain portions of theoretical physics, standards no longer exist. And they don't exist because people like you, Helen, don't even like the situation when they do. And people like you, Helen, have made it to the media and all kinds of grant agencies etc. Thank God that at least in some portions of experimental physics, their traditions remember what physics used to be.
    Imagine that physics is like professional ice-hockey. In professional ice-hockey, fans usually do care whether their teams win or not. Whether or not a player will see his $7 million contract to be renewed does depend on his playing and the results of the team. Unfortunately, physics "fans" aren't like ice-hockey fans; most of them don't give a damn what is the truth and you're unfortunately an example of that. OPERA benefited from some expectations which are known to be wrong now so the fair minimum is at least to "undo" the benefits.

    I don't know how to respond to this politely, so I'll just go with my gut: This sentiment is idiotic. Being wrong is not to be punished. You would discourage breakthroughs, not encourage them. Holding on to a theory long after it's been firmly established to be wrong; ignoring experimental evidence; ignoring critique of results or experimental setup --- these are things that should be discourage (but still not punished). Simply being wrong in the eyes of abstract truth (but right in the eyes of current results) is not a fault.

    lumidek
    Daniel, you are a complete lunatic. What the OPERA people did by the forced resignation was to discourage additional *bullshit* in their experiment, not "breakthroughs", because *bullshit* is exactly what was happening for half a year when the neutrino-oscillation experiment OPERA was rebranded, under the supervision of this signore, as an experiment that may have defeated Einstein. Everyone knows it was *bullshit* today so why the hell do you pretend that we are discussing about a breakthrough? We are not discussing any breakthrough here. We are discussing *bullshit*....

    One gets rewarded for actual breakthroughs, by Nobel prizes and all the things - these are the "carrots". But there must also be "sticks" that punish people for doing things that are bullshit just "dreamed to become" a breakthrough. If there were no sticks like that to regulate hopeless attempts, everyone would start to do bullshit with an arbitrary infinitesimal chance that he may be right about a far-reaching strange claim. It would be like giving lottery tickets to the people for free. They could win but they could never lose. Of course that everyone would try to get as many lottery tickets as possible, flooding the literature with kilotons of complete *bullshit* claims. No one would be doing any serious work anymore.

    Science is all about the separation of grains from the weeds. You don't have the slightest clue what science is and how it works (or worked) when it works (or worked). One giant blunder of this magnitude is enough to liquidate the good name of a scientist. One simply can't afford to do such things, surely not repeatedly. Your suggestion that you disagree only shows that you don't expect any quality, probably because you don't have any yourself, but this is unacceptable in science.
    Holding on to a theory long after it's been firmly established to be wrong; ignoring experimental evidence
    Well, that's what he and his allies in OPERA have done, too. The theory that one may surpass the speed of light was established to be wrong in 1905 which is 107 years ago. Isn't it a long enough time already? How long time do you need to allow me to say that it's a long time? Some people humiliate geocentrists who believed geocentrism almost 100 years after Copernicus. But this is already 107 years so the people who still don't understand that relativity holds are worse than the medieval Catholic bigots.
    Simply being wrong in the eyes of abstract truth (but right in the eyes of current results) is not a fault.
    Sorry, it surely is a fault. It's the main fault, aside from the scientific misconduct that you mentioned and that shouldn't be tolerated at all (you even want to cancel any punishments for scientific misconduct!? Holy cow). You may try to humiliate the truth by calling it "abstract" and giving it other insulting names but it's still true that the search for this "abstract truth" is what all of science is all about. In this truth, the knowledge accumulated in recent experiments matters but so does the knowledge accumulated in all the previous experiments.

    If someone allows loosely connected wires to be used as a weapon to question one of the most important pillars of modern physics, relativity, and to build his fame on this possible "breakthrough", then it simply is a huge mistake, much like when a soccer player gives a really embarrassing own goal in an attempt to do something unusual. A "punishment" simply has to occur, otherwise people would be scoring such own goals ever more frequently. Science would become a pile of *bullshit*.

    Do you have a frothy dick up your ass? Did you even read any of the articles published? The only reason they came out and said anything was because the information was leaked. Once a can of worms is opened, you can't close it, end of story. The only thing you can do is try your best to mitigate whatever fallout occurs. They were 100% honest with everything every step of the way. Why you feel the need to deride everyone on this topic is well beyond me, but get a fucking grip. It's not necessary for you to respond with long-winded rants on why everyone here is on the evil side of science. Science happened exactly the way it was meant to be.

    I'm curious---is one of those "sticks" removal from a university post because of the inability to converse with others in an adult manner?

    lumidek
    I wasn't removed from any university. I decided not to extend my visa because at the top level, Harvard started to be de facto controlled by immoral dishonest human shit similar to yourself. I don't have to tell you that scum like you that always switches to untrue ad hominem attacks should be exterminated, do I?
    You do realize that ad hominem attacks are the meat of all your comments here and your writings on your blog, right?

    lumidek
    I urge you to apologize me for these lies and offer me $100,000 in compensation because here on the territory of the EU and the Czech Republic, the lies you are spreading about me are illegal. You're a criminal, liar, and shithead and I plan to liquidate you if you won't peacefully comply with the law.
    Please don't sue me. I'm very sorry. Please post your bank information here and I shall start sending payments. As a physicist, I can't afford to send the 100,000 all at once. So expect it in installments. Since you are almost a physicist, I'm sure you understand.

    Hank, I really don't understand why you are letting the garbage (my opinion) from DanielGr stand. DanielGr claims that Lubos Motl was fired from his teaching post at Harvard. This claim can be checked and verified. If you should do this, I suspect that you should find it is false and that Lubos is right when he says that he resigned of his own free will. Claiming that someone was fired when he or she was not can be viewed as defamatory and damaging to the person's reputation. Now I don't suggest that Lubos sue you or this web site; he is not the suing kind anyway.

    However, just as a matter of fairness, I suggest that you put a stop to this nonsense.

    P.S.: I see nothing wrong with calling Lubos a "fascist clown", as someone else in this discussion has. Protected speech and anyway Lubos has thick enough skin.

    Actually, Eugene, if you reread my comments, you'll see I never wrote anything about Mr Motl's career trajectory. Though if we're nominating anything for moderation, I'll propose at least censoring the foul language in certain comments.

    Hank
    It's Tommaso's column and, aside from that, he is also one of the sitewide moderators so he decides what stays or goes.  Different authors have different tolerance levels for insult.  We celebrate that diversity.
    lumidek
    Thanks, a lot, Eugene. You may be fighting wind mills but it's simply right to help an innocent person who is being lynched.
    "The theory that one may surpass the speed of light was established to be wrong in 1905 which is 107 years ago. Isn't it a long enough time already?"

    Gravity and the electrical force use "action at a distance", they are superluminal. If the earth acted on the gravity of the sun *eight minutes ago*, we would be slung out of the solar system within a few thousand years. The speed of light cannot only be broken, it is necessary for the coherence of the universe. Look at quantum entanglement.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    What I wrote was :-

    How very sad that this poor man Antonio Ereditato should have felt obligated to step down from his position as spokesperson of the OPERA experiment when all along OPERA made it very clear that they did not make this 'steep claim' as cited in this blog, instead they repeatedly said that their results might well be incorrect and asked the rest of the world's physicists to try to work out what they had done wrong in their calculations, concerning these hypothetical OPERA superluminal neutrinos.

    Lubos, you have made a lot of comments, so I will reply to them all here. Firstly, you have convinced me that it is right and probably honorable, that Professor Antonio Ereditato decided to step down. Secondly, you have not convinced me that it is not sad and you probably never will.

    Is that actually known whether he resigned because of the superluminal blunder? ...instead they repeatedly said that their results might well be incorrect.


    According to this BBC article Professor Ereditato has not yet commented but his handling of superluminal blunder is blamed in this Sciencemag article :-
    Some 16 group leaders voted against the pair (Ereditato and Autiero - my insert) yesterday, while 13 voted in their favor and several others abstained, the source says. Although collaboration rules specify that a two-thirds vote is needed to remove experiment leaders, the result meant that a majority wanted the pair gone.

    Ereditato apparently resigned his post a few minutes after the result of the ballot was known, whereas Autiero waited until today to step down. But it's unclear what their positions will now be within the collaboration. Some collaboration members believe that the results, when first announced at a symposium at CERN on 23 September 2011, should have been presented more clearly as preliminary. They are also unhappy that more experimental checks weren't carried out before the announcement. "Once the seminar was done,OPERA should have undertaken a more extensive campaign of tests before submitting its paper to a journal," says Luca Stanco, leader of a group from the University of Padova in Italy, "including the famous cable test. Technical errors can happen to any collaboration. But we should have been more careful."
    The reason I think its sad is because this man has had a brilliant career up until now, and when the results were announced in September last year the BBC article said he stressed words of caution :-
    <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]-->

    Speaking at the time, Professor Ereditato added "words of caution" because of the "potentially great impact on physics" of the result. "We tried to find all possible explanations for this," he said. "We wanted to find a mistake - trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects - and we didn't.

    "When you don't find anything, then you say 'well, now I'm forced to go out and ask the community to scrutinise this'."

    In this Reuters article he was also quoted as saying :-

    <!--
    Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, told Reuters that measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done.

    "We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing,"he said. "We now want colleagues to check them independently."

    "It is a tiny difference," said Ereditato, who also works at Berne University in Switzerland,"but conceptually it is incredibly important. The finding is so startling that, for the moment, everybody should be very prudent."

    Ereditato declined to speculate on what it might mean if other physicists, who will be officially informed of the discovery at a meeting in CERN on Friday, found that OPERA's measurements were correct.

    "I just don't want to think of the implications," he told Reuters."We are scientists and work with what we know."

    If you had been in his position, with these weird hypothetical superluminal neutrino results being consistently churned out for 3 years and your team of physicists and technicians repeatedly checking and rechecking the results and unable to find where they were going wrong and then Tommaso or someone else found out and wrote a blog about it, what would you have announced to the press Lubos? That they are all a load of idiots probably :)

    Even more importantly, Helen, their results*were* incorrect. You probably don't think it's important whether a scientist produces right or wrong results but I still hope I am not the only one for whom it *does* matter.

    Yes I do think results being right or wrong is important.
    Scientists who are wrong, especially about important things, big claims, or repeatedly, simply have to be disadvantaged relatively to those who are right. They must be disadvantaged whether or not they admit that they could be wrong. It's necessary for science to keeps its standards of validity. Science simply can't afford to be dominated or led by people who are or have been wrong, whether or not they admitted it.
    The Sciencemag article concluded by saying :-
    <!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]-->

    The collaboration now has to appoint a new spokesperson, although exactly when that will happen remains unclear. "I hope it won't affect the future of the experiment," Stanco says. "It is absolutely essential that we continue with the scientific program."


    I wonder who will want that job? It will probably end up being like the CEOs in America, who have to go to prison if there is anything at all wrong with their company's accounts, only criminals, risk takers or fools will take these positions, not necessarily the best people to run the show?

    The reason why crackpots such as Smolin never resign, not even after hundreds of similar wrong claims they make, is that in certain portions of theoretical physics, standards no longer exist. And they don't exist because people like you, Helen, don't even like the situation when they do. And people like you, Helen, have made it to the media and all kinds of grant agencies etc. Thank God that at least in some portions of experimental physics, their traditions remember what physics used to be.
    Well, as I said earlier, I agree with you that Professor Ereditato probably should have resigned and he did, but I still feel sad for him, but then I am a crisis counsellor and empathy is a tool of my trade, unfortunately it is not a tool that I have seen being used much by physicists.

    BTW Lubos, I hope that you physicists who spend hours and weeks of your lives examining the data from the particle collisions at the large Hadron Collider and then write reams and reams about the LHC results (that I enjoy reading) are perfectly happy with the functioning of the 3
    level trigger data selection system? As well as being a counsellor I am also a very experienced computer analyst/programmer and that trigger selection system contains reams of code that has evolved over the last decade written by hundreds of past and present computer programmers. It sounds like a Frankenstein system to me, how can anyone be confident in it? How well documented is it and who would know? Also has anyone checked the thousands of computer cable connections that it relies on lately? Who is their spokesperson, definitely must be a risk taking individual :)

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...It will probably end up being like the CEOs in America, who have to go to prison if there is anything at all wrong with their company's accounts, only criminals, risk takers or fools will take these positions, not necessarily the best people to run the show?
    Oh yes, those poor CEO's.  Imagine being forced to accept millions of dollars in compensation and then actually being held accountable.  The injustice of it all.

    Let's not hold anyone accountable, that way we won't have the unpleasant task of informing anyone that something is wrong. 

    Perhaps one day, the rest of us can also escape accountability for our actions and jobs, but for now, let's ensure we bestow it on those with the most power and money ... yeah ... that'll work.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I have an even better idea, let's bring back witch hunts, they very successfully made accountable 40,000 to 60,000 witches in Europe in the middle ages. We could revise it slightly, every time we find incorrect data or a loose connection we could burn a spokesperson.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    What?!?  Accountable for what?  This wasn't some fantasy error, nor was it scapegoating.  You have a strange sense of feeling sorry for people that don't need it while completely ignoring the ramifications of their actions.

    In addition, you [and others] are beginning to change the story as if to suggest that there is a public clamoring for his resignation.  If I understand correctly, this is something that was decided internally and was likely based on the perception of his ability to continue leading a team that may well have lost confidence in his ability to do so.


    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    In addition, you [and others] are beginning to change the story as if to suggest that there is a public clamoring for his resignation.  If I understand correctly, this is something that was decided internally and was likely based on the perception of his ability to continue leading a team that may well have lost confidence in his ability to do so. 
    Not true Gerhard, if you reply to a person's comments its always a good idea to read them first. If you had you would have seen that I quoted an article above explaining what led up to Professor Ereditato's resignation, he didn't have to resign, however, he chose to for whatever reasons still undisclosed :-
    Some 16 group leaders voted against the pair (Ereditato and Autiero - my insert) yesterday, while 13 voted in their favor and several others abstained, the source says. Although collaboration rules specify that a two-thirds vote is needed to remove experiment leaders, the result meant that a majority wanted the pair gone.

    Ereditato apparently resigned his post a few minutes after the result of the ballot was known,
    You say that I have 'a strange sense of feeling sorry for people that don't need it while completely ignoring the ramifications of their actions'. However, I think that the ramifications of his actions with the general public are not as bad as you scientists think. I have just had lunch with a bunch of laypeople who all said they knew the story of the OPERA superluminal neutrinos saga and what a neutrino was but if I had asked those same people a year ago if they knew what a neutrino was I doubt if any of them would have had any idea. Now they are much better informed about this area of physics and how unlikely superluminal neutrinos really are.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...I think that the ramifications of his actions with the general public are not as bad as you scientists think...
    I don't think the public has anything to do with the resignations.  While I can only speculate, it seems clear that something caused the group leaders to cast a 'no-confidence' vote and I suspect that this is a case of some political chickens coming home to roost.


    Mundus vult decipi
    lumidek
    There were various confidence votes and their pre-votes, already on March 28th, and right before another one yesterday, he resigned. See
    https://www.google.com/search?aq=f&hl=en&gl=us&tbm=nws&btnmeta_news_search=1&q=resigned+opera+vote#q=resigned+opera+vote&hl=en&safe=off&gl=us&tbm=nws&source=lnt&tbs=sbd:1&sa=X&biw=925&bih=775&cad=b&fp=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb


    Otherwise I agree with Gerhard. Helen's sadness is just bizarre, especially because this man - a tenured professor - doesn't really lose anything when it comes to finances etc. He's just losing a symbolic chair in which he failed. Accountability is simply not something that we can be "sad about".
    However, I think that the ramifications of his actions with the general public are not as bad as you scientists think.
    That's because people like you, Helen, whom you call "the public" and I call them "dishonest folks without character" don't give a fucking damn what the truth is, whether relativity is right or wrong. For you, science is just an irrelevant theater that doesn't have to have any rules. The truth is just a slut for you and you're ready to piss on her whenever you want. So you don't care whether a paper is right or wrong, whether a cable is correctly connected or not, whether Einstein was a groundbreaking physicist or a Smolin-like fraud. You just don't give a damn.


    I do give a damn. For me, the truth is more important than the money, so this failure to protect quality of their experiment is a bigger failure than the failure of some CEOs who helped to spark the recession 4 years ago. At any rate, those folks got some extra visibility in the media  and maybe even financial advantages and it was shown to be unjustifiable, so it's obvious that the negative backlash has to be at least equally large. It should actually be larger because what we know now is the truth while what people thought they previously knew was temporary rubbish.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    That's because people like you, Helen, whom you call "the public" and I call them "dishonest folks without character" don't give a fucking damn what the truth is, whether relativity is right or wrong. For you, science is just an irrelevant theater that doesn't have to have any rules. The truth is just a slut for you and you're ready to piss on her whenever you want. So you don't care whether a paper is right or wrong, whether a cable is correctly connected or not, whether Einstein was a groundbreaking physicist or a Smolin-like fraud. You just don't give a damn.
    Lubos, all that you have said about me here is simply not true and if you give a damn about 'what the truth is' you will believe me, why should I lie? I do care a lot about the truth and relativity and papers being right or wrong, cable connections and whether Einstein was a ground breaking physicist or fraud.

    You still haven't answered the two questions I asked you. If you had been the spokesperson for OPERA in September last year and the news of 3 years of crazy superluminal neutrino measurement data and repeated checking and rechecking had leaked, what would you have told the press? 

    Also, how confident are you that the data that is selected by the 3 level trigger system at LHC from the particle collisions, does not have a loose connection anywhere or an accidental programming error made by one of the hundreds of programmers that created it and no longer work there, that could be causing even just a small skew in the data? If this does turn out to be the case do you think that you and all the other physicists that have trusted and spoken to the public about this data with such confidence, should then resign? I bet I could find a problem in that code if anyone would let me anywhere near it!
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    lumidek
    If you had been the spokesperson for OPERA in September last year and the news of 3 years of crazy superluminal neutrino measurement data and repeated checking and rechecking had leaked, what would you have told the press? 
    If you are really asking me what *I* would have told the press, I would have said that we have a rather clear, 6-sigma evidence that there's still an unknown large error somewhere in our experiment, despite my employees' assurances that they're infallible. Because a 6-sigma proof of an error in the experiment is exactly what the OPERA folks had at that moment. And I would apologize that I wasn't able to guarantee that everyone does his or her job properly.

    I would personally never allow to publish a paper that suggests a brutal violation of relativity or another centennially verified principle of physics without an independent measurement of the distances and timings.
    Also, how confident are you that the data that is selected by the 3 level trigger system at LHC from the particle collisions, does not have a loose connection anywhere or an accidental programming error made by one of the hundreds of programmers that created it and no longer work there...
    I have already addressed exactly this problem in the second part of my blog entry on the resignations. The rational reason to be very confident that both the LHC experiments and the LHC simulations are done and evaluated properly, within the declared error margins, is that the experiments and simulations agree within these error margins. If at least one of them were wrong, it would be very unlikely for the two sides to match.

    But whenever there's a discrepancy between the theory and the experiment that might be interpreted as "new physics" by the optimists, there is an obvious possibility that there is an error in the detectors, the software behind the simulations, the software evaluating the collisions, or the way how these things are used. Of course that all these things are almost always issues and possible explanations that must be considered simultaneously with the possibility of new physics - and I would even say *before* the possibility of new physics.

    How confident I am about the validity of some particular software of course depends on the situation, on how many times the software has been verified in similar situations, whether this verification was successful at all, and so on. So of course that if there's some unverified software that has never explained anything nontrivial accurately enough, I don't trust it at all. Existing long-term climate models are textbook examples of that.

    The Monte Carlo models behind the LHC are being verified in dozens of papers that try to search for new physics and the agreement with the data remains remarkably good. That's pretty much the only reason but a big reason why sensible people trust these models.
     If this does turn out to be the case do you think that you and all the other physicists that have trusted and spoken to the public about this data with such confidence, should then resign?
    Yes, of course, resignation of the responsible folks would be appropriate if not needed. Isn't it pretty much the same situation as the OPERA situation we're discussing here? You can't blame your failures on some abstract programmers in the past who are not even in the job today. At least you shouldn't. A scientist is co-responsible for all the input he uses as facts in his own research. If there's a sensible risk that this input could be invalid, scientists have the duty to rerun the calculations, rerun the experiment, and rediscover or reprogram all these things themselves. Read "Cargo Cult Science" by Feynman for explanations why it's totally necessary.
    Glass houses mr Motl... Glass houses

    I seem to remember your unceremonious firing, errr umm i mean resignation.

    When the second confirmation of OPERA results has been released, Mr. Motl himself jumped into bandwagon of speculations about possible implications of superluminal neutrinos for string theory: he wrote a long-winded article about it, he even spread it across public forums. So I really don't understand, why is this psychopath is so obsessed just with prof. Smolin, who just did the same. I'm pretty sure, if superluminal neutrinos finding would prove it's relevance, Mr. Motl would be first, who would interpret it as an ingenious victory of string theory...

    Eriditato has tenure and will remain a highly paid group leader of his institute -- being spokesperson of an experiment is not usually directly what provides one's salary. The people to feel bad for are the poor postdocs and students on that experiment who will have trouble finding permanent jobs because their experiment looks ridiculous. No need to feel bad for Ereditato at all.

    +1

    Hank
    He must have been a driving force behind the tone of the announcement or they would not have attempted the 'no confidence' vote, and the fact that they attempted it at all was a sign his leadership was over.  But getting rid of ethical people who can be wrong leaves only unethical people or overly cautious people willing to do the job.

    As a layperson, so obviously only a data point of one, while I never believed the result I don't think it hurt their credibility. But I am in a world of more general science media, where 'miracle vegetable cures' and lots of other nonsense get printed every week, so this was just another media event to me and not an indictment of the experiment. 
    lumidek
    But getting rid of ethical people who can be wrong leaves only unethical people or overly cautious people willing to do the job.
    This "proof" of yours is demonstrably based on the assumption that there only exist 3 groups of people: unethical people; overly cautious people; and ethical people who are wrong.

    Don't you think that you have forgotten about ethical people who are right? In my opinion, it's this category who should lead all science experiments and not only scientific experiments – it's the category whose very existence you have completely overlooked or denied.
    He must have been a driving force behind the tone of the announcement
    You, Helen, and so many others are so incredibly superficial. Don't you think that he was also the person responsible for the research of OPERA, at least in the big picture? Why are you so obsessed about irrelevant things such as the "tone of announcements"? Don't you think that whether or not someone's measurement is right or wrong, i.e. agrees with relativity or not, is more important than the "tone of an announcement"?

    None of you folks has any passion for the truth. You treat Her like a slut. Your priorities and your way of reasoning brings me close to vomiting. 
    I think that there have been people in the OPERA experiment who realized it was preposterous to suggest they overthrew relativity and that it was far more likely that there was a glitch or two that couldn't be found, under this signore's supervision, for several months. They were proven right and now we know that the name of these scientists has been harmed by the forced connection with the superluminal claims they disagreed with. So I find it totally unsurprising that they demanded the head of the signore. It's how things should be. If it were the other way around, i.e. if an overly chief would prevent the publication of an important breakthrough, later proved to be right, he should be punished as well. If the bosses do something important that's right, they must be rewarded. At any rate, results and their validity must matter.
    "forgotten about ethical people who are right?"

    Can you prove they exist, Lubos? Or do you just believe so? First - "eithical people who are right", what's next, "Jesus Christ"? Or "Santa Clause"?

    lumidek
    Can you prove they exist, Lubos? 
    Yes, it's enough for me to look in the mirror. If you do the same experiment and only see a immoral deluded pig, it does *not* prove that ethical people who are right don't exist.
    "Yes, it's enough for me to look in the mirror."

    Words fail. A hybris explosion in the range of 40 Megatons must be immiment. Women and Children are requested to move to the nearest shelter!!

    Nonsense. I'm ethical. Most of the time. And I don't suppose Lubos is pretending to be perfect either. Being ethical is just good old-fashioned integrity. It's not something to be proud about like it's exceptional. If people are UN-ethical they should be ashamed, that's the point. Ethical is simply entry level to being human. Neutral.  After that you can start doing something good and worthwhile with your life - and endure all the jealous whisperings from the semi-humans.

    Hank
    I limited him to tone because OPERA is a collaboration.  You ironically create a world where everything is wildly exaggerated (I treat truth like a slut) or dismissed immediately while you criticize me for not being nuanced about the kinds of people who could run the experiment. 

    You seem to think he saw a blip, overruled everyone, and declared we would have a warp drive next week.  That isn't what happened.  Obviously the responsibility is his but I think he was ethical to resign. 
    Stellare
    " this was just another media event to me and not an indictment of the experiment. "

    Me too, Hank! Besides, I am so used to headlines and articles that are created to get attention, and attention first and foremost, I have developed a relaxed critical filter. I basically wait for the wolves to attack the colleagues with potential success and see if the science holds. :-)

    I am not a fan of the media approach though. When it comes to this particular case I doubted very much that they were right and all the media coverage didn't have any effect on me or my thinking.

    These experiments are big and complicated and many things can go wrong, like very mundane and silly practical things....

    It seems like a correct thing to do to step down, though.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Hank
    Sure. And I think the difference in respect among the public for physics and something like climate science is that when the IPCC published bogus data, Rajendra Pachauri had no intention of stepping down, and no scientists in his collaboration expected he should, even though the impact of the errors was much greater culturally than anything OPERA did.
    Physicists are human, thus they have the herd instinct, which depends on a "follow the leader(s)" reflex (Pavlov or not) but not crucially. The chase for exciting physics is in all active physicists in analysis, and unusual results are eagerly sought after and discussed.

    There is a sociology to these large experimental groups of physicists, and I have observed it over the 40 years of my work in collaborations. It is inevitable that a feedback mechanism starts when something unusual is detected.The whole group gets into a fever, an excitement, and after proof is built up, nay-sayers have small probability of being heard. When the "exciting datum" is debunked, then the whole group becomes very conservative , and even when some really new physics appears they are very cautious in authorizing publication because of the swing of the group pendulum.

    Thus the spokesman is the sacrificial goat of the pendulum swing in the collaboration when it was found to be supporting an error. I am sure that the majority was quite happy to accept the results when the excitement was on.

    lumidek
    Physicists are human, thus they have the herd instinct
    Sorry, Anna, but good physicists or scientists in general simply can't afford to be "human" in this particular pathological way. Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts. A scientist simply can't afford to react according to things such as a "herd instinct". When you discuss Pavlov, you may be confusing physicists with dogs; these are different species. Or at least they should be different.

    This signore's behavior may have been matched by many other members but it's obvious that there were still sane people in the experiment who realized that because of the extensive tests confirming relativity that have been accumulated in 105+ years, relativity simply couldn't fall in this trivial way. It's right for them to demand the head of the boss who is responsible for this "story" that OPERA went through.

    He's not just a passive guy, a pendulum controlled by a wind, or at least he shouldn't be evaluated as if he were one. He is the guy who is responsible for directing the OPERA experiment - that should normally study neutrino oscillations. He's surely the guy who mostly redirected the whole experiment to this superluminal mirage so of course it's right if he is sacrificed after this blunder harmed the good name of all the scientists in the collaboration within the scientific public, including the name of the right ones who don't suffer from the herd instinct, who know what the term "relativity" means, and who knew that they didn't have enough robust work and rechecks for such an extraordinary claim.
    Hi Lubos

    Pavlov relates to the training all young physicists get, it induces reflex reactions.

    All I am trying to point out is that of course he, as the figure head, will be held responsible for blunders of the group, as he would get the credit for something new and exciting, but that the whole group of physicists is also responsible collectively because of the sociology of large groups. The cautious ones are overwhelmed by the excitement of new physics, and by the politics within the group.

    lumidek
    Dear Anna, I don't really believe that the basic values that a scientist (especially physicist) must cherish may be trained. It's a built-in moral compass that someone has or doesn't have. Moreover, Pavlov hasn't trained even dogs to react according to herd instinct. He trained them to correlate saliva with some particular observations....

    No doubt, most members of OPERA have a larger or smaller responsibility for what has become important and sexy to believe in their previously neutrino-oscillation-focused experiment. This signore's resignation is a "symbolic" punishment of all the OPERA members who got carried away. The resignation is a signal that they should try to learn a lesson.

    It's not really clear to me what is the purpose of your debate about "politics" when we discuss who is to be blamed. Politics makes human interactions and decisions complicated but people still have some responsibility. You can't ever say that "politics" is the culprit. I know that this is exactly how most of the Greek citizens explain that their country is a giant mess - but in functional bodies and countries, one can't or shouldn't "depersonalize" responsibility in this way.

    I really don't know what experience you have conducting research, but I find your attitude abhorrent. It's one thing if they were presenting these results as fact in a journal or conference paper, but that is not the case. It is irrational to expect people to be 100% right before they've even finished their research; if they were able to guarantee that, then they wouldn't need to do the science in the first place, they would be God.

    dorigo
    Hi,

    I believe the motion to get rid of him was motivated by the way he handled the whole business, of which many within Opera may well have been unhappy. But I have not spoken to any Opera collaborator (yet).

    Best,
    T.
    There is more on the LNGS workshop on wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light_neutrino_anomaly_%28OPERA...

    INFN president Ferroni gave an interview where he talked about the workshop. A translation can be found here:
    http://profmattstrassler.com/2012/03/16/this-time-icarus-really-does-ref...

    I am not sure I understand how they cross-checked a timing delay with atmospheric neutrinos which arrive at random times. Nevertheless, looks like the May replication is pointless.

    Lubos, stop being so hard on Helen, she raises horses, she is not a physicist.

    Question: What lesson should we learn from this whole episode? Here's what I'm getting, so far:

    1) Publish enough detail about your experiment so that people can find the error, and say "Do this and the error will disappear." instead of just enough that people are forced to say "Well, it could be this" and "it could be that" and "it couldn't possibly be because despite the way it's acting that's completely different from what was expected, it should inevitably act like everything else in every other way possible."

    2) Don't bother publishing anything that suggests particles can move faster than light - no proof will ever be good enough.

    3) If you're a member of a team that has made the mistake of suggesting that you've found something funny, and you need help finding where things went wrong - be sure to strongly encourage the leader of the project to step up and throw himself on the train tracks for the sake of your own careers. Don't actually force him out, though - that will only make him a martyr.

    4) Quit using English, or any other human language in your reports. The press will assume you actually mean what you say. Limit yourself to complex mathematical formulae & equations so that when someone asks you what it means, you can claim they could never actually understand.

    Lets see:
    They got unexpected result.
    They tested many time and continued to get the same result
    They went public and said this is are results, but would would like other people to verify them, cause the result seem unlikely.
    People looked into the test, found some issue, but they wouldn't account for the 60 ns
    then some more test where run, the result where as expected(not FTL)

    Sounds lie proper science to me. Why was he forced to step down? Are we now saying that only scientist whose experiments are successful can do experiments?

    If it was on experiment that they don't repeat, and the went to the press to sell something, then yeah, he shoudlLets see:
    They got unexpected result.
    They tested many time and continued to get the same result
    They went public and said this is are results, but would would like other people to verify them, cause the result seem unlikely.
    People llooked into the test, founsd some issue, but they wuoldn't account for the 60 ns
    then some more test where run, the result where as expected(not FTL)

    Sounds lie proper science to me. Why was he forced to step down? Are we now saying that only scientist whose experiments are successfull can do experiments?

    Gerhard Adam
    Nice story, but that's not what they said.  He specifically indicated "high confidence" in the results.  That isn't exactly coming forward with a "problem".
    Mundus vult decipi
    That was weird. I wrote a post, made some corrects, then cut this line "If it was on experiment that they don't repeat, and the went to the press to sell something, then yeah, he should" . Then when I posted my comment, there was a double post. I have no idea how I did that, I apologize It should ONLY be:
    ~~~

    Lets see:
    They got unexpected result.
    They tested many time and continued to get the same result
    They went public and said this is are results, but would would like other people to verify them, cause the result seem unlikely.
    People looked into the test, found some issue, but they wouldn't account for the 60 ns
    then some more test where run, the result where as expected(not FTL)

    Sounds lie proper science to me. Why was he forced to step down? Are we now saying that only scientist whose experiments are successful can do experiments?

    Gerhard Adam
    I agree with the resignation.  That's the price one pays for being a leader and making poor choices.
    Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, said: “We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8783011/Speed-of-light-broken-at-CERN-scientists-claim.html
    Obviously, they had too much confidence.  Had they been correct, then he would've been lauded a hero.  However, being incorrect [especially amidst so much justifiable skepticism] simply makes him a poor leader.
    Ereditato says that he is confident enough in the new result to make it public.
    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110922/full/news.2011.554.html
    ... and there's the problematic decision.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Tomasso Dorigo: You wrote the following sentences in your article:

    "However, by that time the scientific community had already largely understood that the Opera claim of superluminal neutrinos was hardly believable. Indeed, the simultaneous measurement of cosmic ray muon signals in Opera and a nearby detector had shown that the two experiments saw a difference of about 60 nanoseconds in their timing measurements: the analysis of the additional systematic uncertainties was in a way redundant at that point."

    This difference strongly states that the OPERA's "neutrino velocity measurment" was wrong. I here assume that "the nearby detector is the "LVD detector".

    But there might be one nonzero chance for the LVD detector to only be physical able to measure only subluminal particles. The reason for this is that the LVD detector is using a totally different type of detector than OPERA, namely a "LIQUID scintillation counter" that detect the muons INDIRECTLY, while OPERA is using "SOLID BRICKS" to detect the incoming particles DIRECTLY. Extremely energetic particles that moves with superluminal speed might cause unusual waves (due to the particle/wave duality) and because of this the "LVD LIQUID scintillation counter and its indirect measurments" might not be able to detect such particles/waves. But OPERA that uses "solid bricks detectors that measures directly" might be able to measure those superluminal particles.

    dorigo
    You do not seem to understand that the way neutrinos are detected in the two detectors is based on the same physics, namely charged current weak interaction.

    In any case the check was done using muons from cosmic rays, not neutrinos.

    Best,
    T.
    Luboš Motl: you are a self-righteous, pretentious asshole.

    Signed: someone who won't bother to read, your self-righteous, pretentious response.

    Gerhard Adam
    Say what you will, but he's right.
    Mundus vult decipi
    lumidek
    Thanks, Gerhard! Just to be sure, I'never had real doubts, since the beginning, that a mistake would be found. That's also what I wrote in all the newspaper articles I was asked to write. The same is true for blog entries in English e.g....

    http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/09/italian-out-of-tune-superluminal.html 
    http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/09/potential-mistakes-in-opera-research.html 

    but I have still considered what the sources of the anomaly could be. This wasn't a minority opinion, fortunately. I am sure that even within the OPERA collaboration, some folks were trying to find the error inside the experiment. They deserved to be at least mentioned as having been right, too.


    Ahahaha Lubos! What a nice thing to read you saying that Smolin is a crackpot!!!
    Finally my suspicions find some confirmations.
    There is a part of physics that is taking a very,very wrong path....

    I agree with Lubos. Only today - before I heard of Ereditato's resignation - I was saying to a colleague that super-luminal neutrinos and time travel are going to have to wait, it was just a lousy connection.

    And I mentioned the folly of asking other scientists to find their mistake by publishing the methods without stripping down the equipment.
     
    My colleague suggested some technician would get the blame, but that is precisely how you do not run a department. Work and standards must be constantly audited.

    How does the Antonio Ereditato / OPERA situation
    compare with
    the Carlo Rubbia / CERN situation in which
    "... June, 1984, Rubbia announced that UA1 had observed events consistent with the top quark ... July 4, CERN confirmed the discovery ...
    The New York Times ... headline read ... "
    Laboratory Confirms Existence of Top Quark ..."
    and
    Carlo told me [Cline] ... In 1984, we discovered supersymmetry ...
    1985 ... In December, Rubbia had flown to the Rutherford Laboratory in England ... and said that the new physics had apparently been confirmed ...
    Rubbia showed his pictures of dijets ... Ellis had been predicting that if supersymmetry was correct, dijets would show up in UA1 ...
    nature picked up on the ... lectures and published a story that came only a hairsbreadth short of claiming that supersymmetry had been discovered ..."
    ?

    As we all know, despite his egregious top quark and supersymmetry errors,
    Rubbia remained at CERN and in my opinion that was good because Rubbia was good at making machines work
    and working machines are what are needed for getting data
    and data is what is needed for theoretical advance.

    Tony

    PS - If Rubbia had been running the LHC when the copper bars were being installed, my guess is that he would have been on top of the details of their installation and the junctions would have been soldered properly and the 2008 mishap would not have occurred.

    Dear Lubos,

    There is no wrong path to take in regards to science. A scientist is responsible for progressing the know-how and technology of their people in any means possible. It is up to the people who support the scientist to figure out a means or certainty to use the technologies with, at the suggestion of scientists.

    Quack-pot science fuels the discovery of real science, and always has. The simple entrance of an opposing idea fuels discovery.

    You're probably the same kind of guy that hates Edward Teller for sticking around after the Manhattan project to develop the h-bomb and plunge us into the thermonuclear age.

    Maybe you should get into politics?

    lumidek
    Cheap Dumbos Lotr,...

    quackpot science fuels nothing. Only Dumbos Lotrs like you are obsessed by the bogus feelings of their own importance but in the history, pretty much only competent physicists have made progress in the actual science.

    I don't hate Edward Teller. One of the things that makes me a fan of his is that he was a right-winger. His contributions to the H-bomb helped, too, and I think that this invention should be used against the Iranian bunkers as soon as possible. So you must have confused me with someone else.

    While I have been heavily interested in politics since my 8th birthday or so, I couldn't serve as a politician because the idea that I am supposed to serve to millions of morons, including obnoxious anonymous scum like you, seems utterly frustrating to me.

    Cheers
    LM
    Lubos,

    in all your years of academia, you never learned the psychological barriers people put up in response to someone spouting arguementum ad hominem? If everyone arguing with you is mentioning the attitude you possess instead of the actual work and math you produce, don't you ever begin to think that maybe you're a legitimately smart guy that is too much of a mouth-piece?

    I didn't know who you were in the beginning of reading this and all of your replies, but after some searching it astounds me that someone so bright could fall so far. You're akin to an idiot savant in my eyes. You're brilliant in a narrow aspect, but you don't understand how that narrow aspect plays into the rest of the world. When the rest of the world doesn't mesh, they're idiots. The reality is that the outside world is looking in at you, and your inability to converse with them, laughing.

    I sincerely hope you get your wish of everyone suffering the same mid-year resignation as you did, sir.
    -Mubos Lotl

    lumidek
    Hi, I tried to make sense of the question in your first sentence but it was impossible, most likely because the question doesn't make any sense.
    ... maybe you're a legitimately smart guy that is too much of a mouth-piece?
    At least I am not an illegitimate, anonymous jerk who is too little of a brain-piece.
    I sincerely hope you get your wish of everyone suffering the same mid-year resignation as you did, sir.
    I've never had the wish and I don't wish *everyone* would be made evaporated from the system. I only wanted human trash such as you, feminists, professional blacks, Marxists, crackpot to be fired. It turned out to be very far from possible in the current level of deterioration of the Academia - which is literally flooded and controlled by the trash - so I had to escape myself in order to save my bare life.
    "...good science: we study an effect, find something unexpected, and then try to kill the effect with all our means by studying it in more detail and with all the other tools we have available. What survives this kind of treatment is usually only real, trustable effects."

    Very well and compactly stated Tommaso!

    Random insults at all involved, pedantry, missing the point and a swipe at Smolin completely out of context? Must be Lubos!

    Lubos is a fascist clown, but he is right about Smolin!

    You do know that in science, a lot of things have been discovered because of mistakes or unexpected results (X Rays, Radar, etc.)

    Next time a scientist does an experiment and sees something unusual that might lead... to a major discovery, he will say nothing and we will lose precious years or decades.

    Good job, OPERA. Thanks for screwing future discoveries.

    Gerhard Adam
    Next time a scientist does an experiment and sees something unusual that might lead... to a major discovery, he will say nothing and we will lose precious years or decades.
    What story are you following?  This isn't about ONE scientist doing research and being criticized for being wrong.  This is about a team, where there was plenty of dissent and instead the management elected to take results [which were highly suspect] public. 

    No one is criticizing the error.  That's fully expected.  However, one doesn't go public with a "high confidence" announcement when there are so many potential issues that remained unresolved.
    Mundus vult decipi
    lumidek
    Dear Gilbert, science wouldn't lose any big discoveries if it were obeying the proper standards I expect. Take the closest discovery that could be an example of your scenario, Penzias and Wilson's discovery of the cosmic microwave background. They struggled with an antenna. It was producing thermal noise. They tried to remove pigeons and their feces, and so on. Noise decreased but it was still there. ...

    They ultimately decided that there is an effect unrelated to things similar to feces and published it in this 1500-citation paper:

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=penzias+wilson&hl=en&lr=&btnG=Search 

    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1965ApJ...142..419P 

    Take the first one. Astrophysical journal 1965. 

    They got a Nobel prize for the CMB. A big discovery. Still, there are several obvious differences. Penzias and Wilson's finding didn't really contradict any previous research (it was just a new thing seen in a context of frequency/accuracy/timing that no one had looked before) and didn't contradict relativity; it was, on the contrary, a big new step in confirmation of relativity (general one in this case). Most importantly, they were right, unlike the superluminal OPERA. The uniform extra temperature was due to a real effect, a cornerstone of modern cosmology.

    But if the system or we were not punishing failed attempts to make a revolution, everyone would be publishing fake discoveries all the time, having a tiny chance to become the Messiah of science, but risking nothing when the claim is wrong. This would be analogous to offering lottery tickets for free and would have the same effect: everyone would be getting as many tickets as possible. Now, 99.9999% of the tickets don't win. In the same sense, 99.9999% of the literature would be wrong. Science just can't afford it. In science, it should really be true that something like 99% of the papers should be right. Once most papers (or even a significant fraction of papers) start to be wrong, it's not science anymore. It's drowning in the mud.
    What deluded physics fans and crackpots like you misunderstand is that science isn't a lottery. One doesn't make discoveries in science by doing things sloppily so that a big breakthrough will emerge by accident. That's how occultists try to do great things. Science is about a careful process in which one tries to know what he's doing - as much as possible - most of the time and he cares a lot whether every procedure or step is right or wrong. If something is wrong, a belief, assumption, equation, part of a procedure, it must be eliminated as soon as possible. What you propose as a replacement is the opposite of science; it's the medieval superstition race to chase gods and ghosts that people would do thousands of years ago which was why they never made any scientific progress.

    Authors of wrong papers have to feel that they're punished regardless of the tone of their announcements etc. - and this feeling must be allowed to affect their behavior - otherwise we're not talking about science. In fact, if one wants the percentage of right papers to be above 90 or 99%, the punishment for wrong papers has to be larger than benefits from a right paper, otherwise the punishment would be statistically negligible and led to a higher percentage of wrong papers.

    The man wasn't able to manage or audit his technicians etc. properly much like the relevant technician wasn't able to tame the fiber optics cable. This is the ultimate failure that shouldn't be repeated, especially when it leads to big outcomes such as wrong claims about relativity. Everything else are just words by which people are trying to strip themselves or others of all the responsibility.
    Lubos:

    You wrote this:

    "Needless to say, the world's *junk* physicists such as Mr Smolin et al.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/arXiv:1110.0521

    didn't hesitate for a minute and immediately reacted in the same way as a mosquito reacts if you offer him a hot smelly pile of shit. They just went to devour it! In the paper above, they argued that all the counter-arguments, like Cohen-Glashow, are too weak for their marvelous theories that are predicting nothing else than that superluminal neutrinos are possible!"

    I don't have the wherewithal to fully understand Smolin's paper that you cite, nor the time. But I did find this in the concluding section:

    In order to make our point we made use of a simple, unrealistic model. We have not addressed the question of whether
    there is a physically realistic model with deformed Lorentz4
    transformations that can explain the data on neutrino speeds
    3
    .
    To explain the challenges faced by the construction of such a
    model we point out that there are again two possibilities.
    The first class involves non-linear realizations of the
    Lorentz transformations acting on linear momentum spaces
    and are obtained by nonlinear changes of variables in momentum space. These were the first cases to be investigated [13]-
    [16] and it is unresolved whether they can be realistic. . . . . . .

    . . . . Our example is in the first class, but it is in the second
    class of examples that we hope to realize a physically realistic
    model.


    If the OPERA results are confirmed, theorists will face a
    formidable challenge (see [17],[22]–[27] for some of the attempts to deal with this challenge.) What we have learned is
    that this is more likely to succeed if we adopt the framework
    of deformed rather than broken Lorentz invariance.


    Can't these remarks be interpreted as meaning that Smolin, et.al, are simply anticipating the situation the physics community would face should the results be confirmed? I don't see where the authors are saying that Cohen and Glashow, Bi et. al. are 'dead wrong'; it seems, instead, that they're saying there might be around what, if confirmed would be quite puzzling results.

    Isn't this a fair and charitable reading of what they wrote?

    vongehr
    besides breaking the rules of Einstein's theory of relativity. ... The issue is how we educate the public!
    Telling the public yet again nonsense about stuff that you do not understand and that you have been corrected for many many times by now, yet not caring, yet again simply ignoring and supporting convenient misinterpretations, if you think that is how the public should be educated, I can only say one thing to the public: You all better read the bible.
    LM wrote: "Scientists who are wrong, especially about important things, big claims, or repeatedly, simply have to be disadvantaged relatively to those who are right. They must be disadvantaged whether or not they admit that they could be wrong. It's necessary for science to keeps its standards of validity. "

    --- So everyone who made a positive LHC supersymmetry prediction is facing a career downgrade?

    Hfarmer
    After having suffered my share of attacks when I declared in no uncertain terms that the opera experiment was WRONG in making the claim that they did this feels like a tiny vindication.  Many really smart people tried to explain to me why a huge complicated experiment like theirs could not have fallen prey to one single loose wire.  
    I respect the man for stepping down.  This should not end his career though.  There is a reason he was put in charge in the first place. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    lumidek
    Dear Hontas, congrats for having been on the right side. At any rate, it's silly to be afraid of the chairs - Autiero resigned as well. They're tenured professors so they don't face any risk of being ended as scientists. It's preposterous to be sorry about them.
    They stopped being leaders and it's the right thing because the most visible part of their career *is* about the measurement of the neutrino velocity which was wrong.

    There may be a reason why they were put in charge but we have more complete information about them as scientists now than what they had when the men were put in charge, and the more complete information is less flattering.
    lumidek
    Incidentally, see my blog
    http://motls.blogspot.com/

    for proper links but right after the guys lost the leadership, all the fog about the actual effect of the loose cable is as clear as the skies. A talk linked to in my blog revealed using a clever method that 73 plus minus 9 nanoseconds was accumulated because of the errors. When subtracted, -60 nanoseconds becomes +13 nanoseconds of delay, within 1 total sigma from the speed of light. Mystery is gone, there is nothing else to solve.

    However, those guys wanted to feel important for several months, do extra tests in May etc., and be cherished by the media all the time. It's sick. They became men thirsty for (undeserved) fame and obstacles in the propagation and learning of the truth. It's not just the blunder for which they deserved to be removed.
    Hfarmer
    Supreme arrogance on their part.   It's one thing to think one has a theory about a poorly understood part of physics, and something else to contradict a well understood well tested phenomena.    Like they though they would be the ones to tell the world the sky is actually orange and water is not in fact wet. 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    BDOA
    Its a shame that a leader or a spokesperson had to resign because of a mistake was made in setting the GPS clocks a Gran Sasso. Mistakes may happen in science and resignation isn't what is required only apology and improving future methodology. I hope Antonio's career survives, I do not see how blame can be personnelly laid at his feet.
    BDOA Adams, Axitronics
    The crux of the matter is not a bad cable connection (that can happen to everyone), but the fact that what OPERA was saying was so improbable (possible? idk really...) that much more caution was needed to present the result (this aspects may be seen as less important, but evidently was the main reason of the group discontent) . Probably, they should have taken much more time and effort to check everything. On the other hand, i really think that they were so confident about the correctness of their result that only a stupid bad cable connection could invalidate it! ;)

    To Lubos: You are a true fascist who would have burned Galileo, imprisoned Darwin, the Curies and of course Freud (whom you most certainly despise because he shows your irrationality); all these were pioneers who went against the accepted discipline, and because of vile characters like you, were made to suffer. Even though they improved the world.
    The news from OPERA and the way Ereditato handled their results were direct and rational. They discovered an anomaly that was outside of official theory and pursued this lead. Should they have just dismissed their OBSERVATIONS and not analyze their results WHEREVER it might lead? That is real science and why we have sterile hospitals (thanks to Semmelwies-who had a mental breakdown due to know-nothing loudmouths like you). I am certain that with enough time, OPERA would have validated their results, even with new parameters. But this will not happen since Ereditato was fired. Are you aware that MINOS also found FTL anomalies a few years back, but they also were afraid, and dismissed their results "due to artifacts."
    Instead of observation, your self-worth is dependent on the theory of relativity, which to you it is a religion that can never be overturned. In the 107 years since Einstein formulated his theory that there is no ether and that nothing can travel faster than light, no PRACTICAL application of this theory have occurred (please spare me the GPS adjustments). Isn't this strange-the theory that much of theoretica physics is based on can never produce anything in our lifetime, but somewhere in the vast future, that in reality will never be possible to use? What about his false constant, time-travel and not aging, does it not smack of science fiction, or the supernatural? If one searches hard enough, there have been scientists who have disproved the null-ether, and the so-called maximum speed of the universe, but are marginalized because of scientists and the lay-public who are intolerant of new views. But as in Galileo's time, the scientist did not dare look into his telescope.
    Ereditato was careful and humble in his presentation, and one can sense that he was aware of his fate during OPERA's announcement. I felt he wanted a way out quickly since his career was on the line, and when the "loose cable" and "atomic clock", theories emerged, there was a visible sense of relief from his grave responsibilities. Are readers aware, that before the announcement, he offered every one of the 200 or so scientists working on the project to opt-out of signing it? He was not a dictator as you charge. This opt-out is never done, and shows the punishment he knew he was up against. But like it or not, independent thinkers will be around to overturn cherished religions.
    PS I prefer not to use my real name since you are an ass.

    I'm trying to figure out what the difference is between this "ether" that doesn't exist, and this "sea of virtual particles" that does exist (except that it only exists "virtually") - and then there's these particles that somehow relate to forces, but aren't actually the forces themselves, because the forces are fields that exist everywhere (whoops - that's sounding like "aether" again!)...

    Tony Fleming
    What I find interesting is not the individual professional outcomes which have attracted all the bumble bees to the honey pot, but the fact that the scientific community had to consider the possibility that Einstein's postulate about the constancy of light might be inaccurate in some circumstances.  I see Einstein's opinion as an observation and not supported by any fundamental mathematical theory. He was right within a precision of significant figures, perhaps 1015. ( see _http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6092-speed-of-light-may-have-changed-recently.html) Cosmology knows for instance that there was a period of cosmological inflation at superluminal speeds following the Big Bang.  So there is no reason apart from the Michelson-Morley experiment why there should be any constancy of light.  It is just an observational fact that at this cosmological time it in deep space and near our solar system it appears to be a darn good approximation. 

    cheers Tony
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    lumidek
    Relativity isn't "Einstein's opinion". It's one of the key pillars of all of modern science.
    The principle of relativity is a symmetry directly extracted from our everyday observations, confirmed by precise measurements to a staggering accuracy, and a natural assumption mathematically, and other consequences of relativity follow from that mathematically and rigorously i.e. indisputably. Any violation of relativity is unmotivated and its existence would just means that physics faces a new spectrum of hierarchy problems - to explain why the coefficients of the relativity-breaking terms are nonzero but so tiny.

    Einstein's discovery of relativity wasn't about a man articulating an opinion. It was one of the greatest events that the mankind has ever experienced. The fact that you're clearly unable to understand this simple point only shows your inadequacy.
    Stellare
    It puzzles me that science is seen as 'having an opinion'. It seem to be a popular concept particularly in the US, though.

    Calling Einstein's theory for an opinion is hilarious! And sad. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    lumidek
    Exactly, Bente, and it's not just the U.S. During my translation of Greene's "The Hidden Reality" to Czech, I have faced many pains in the neck because of my perfectionist (in her own way) language editor. But one of the repeated proposed corrections was to change words that indicate "facts" and "discoveries" into words similar to "opinions" and "guesses" and "beliefs". ;-)
    It's how "intrinsic non-scientists" simply think. In all countries. They're just not getting the very point that the scientific claims could be supported by something that isn't subjective.
    Tony Fleming
    Bente
    You must understand I see science as a 'knowledge onion'. We evolve with time to another layer of the onion. This is a progressive evolution that hits nearer the bullseye each time it peels back a layer.

    regards Tony
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    Tony Fleming
    Yes, well, we all have our opinions Lubos, even us 'inadequates'. But you concentrate on the tealeaves of what I said rather than the import of what I said. I did mention the wonderful precision. Despite what you say about 'a natural assumption of mathematics' there is no mathematical reason for any constancy of light at any point in space-time. But it is nevertheless a very good approximation.  
    In summary I don't agree with you
     'Einstein's discovery of relativity wasn't about a man articulating an opinion. It was one of the greatest events that the mankind has ever experienced.'
    Such flowery adulation!! I see Einstein as a wonderful scientist who managed to give us general and special relativity. And he was a character of the highest ideals. The greatest scientist of the 20th century without much doubt. But this is no reason to hold an overblown estimation of Einstein's postulate. It is an assumption that Albert used after his efforts in special relativity to help him on his way to derive the mathematics of general relativity. And it has now been shown to stand the test of time (100 years no less). 

    But don't ask me to bow down before the god of constancy, I won't, despite your protestations and bluster. I see no reason to do so. Now, the Maxwell-Lorentz equations, that's another matter!! As Isaac Newton said, we all stand on each others shoulders (to see the new horizon).

    The fact is that despite all the history of the past 100 years, physics recently had to face up squarely to the fact that Einstein's postulate was called to account, regardless of its lofty status, and that is a good thing. Even the President must pay his taxes.
     
    You are aware that Guth in 1980 outlined the accepted cosmology that sees a period at the instance of the Big Bang of superluminal inflation? This inflationary period was not known during Einstein's time. My point is that there may be areas in (or outside) the Universe where light speed is NOT the maximum possible. Light may not have even existed in its present form in that early inflationary epoch, and there may be a mutliverse out there where speed of light is not obeyed. 

    But this is all far away from neutrinos and their speed. Eventually it appears to have been shown that the postulate was correct. Pity that Antonio Ereditato felt he had to stand down.


    cheers Tony


    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute tfleming@unifiedphysics.com
    I think it is very, very, very, very strange that the OPERA team in february told that they did not check all the cables, etc, before they published their result ???????? I mean almost every sane person with an average IQ in this world will check his cables, etc, right after he sees that his techonolgy produce some unusual results. And only if the same result apears after all cables, etc, is checked carefully then he will of course ask his neighbour if he could do the same with his thechnology to check if he gets the same result. And if his neighbour also gets the same result, then they could be talking seriously about if the result really is thrustworthy. I think. Or ???

    I think it is very, very, very, very strange that the OPERA team in february told that they did not check all the cables, etc, before they published their result ???????? I mean almost every sane person with an average IQ in this world will check his cables, etc, right after he sees that his techonolgy produce some unusual results. And only if the same result apears after all cables, etc, is checked carefully then he will of course ask his neighbour if he could do the same with his thechnology to check if he gets the same result. And if his neighbour also gets the same result, then they could be talking seriously about if the result really is thrustworthy. I think. Or ???

    I mean, there is something spooky around the whole issue with the announcement in february. Didn't they, who are among the 0,000001 % smartest people in this world, check their cables before they published the FTL neutrinos ????? It is like I almost can not belive that fact. I think there is something spooky going on here, I am afraid I have to admit. I apologize for saying that. but I can't say anything else.

    I mean, there is something spooky around the whole issue with the announcement in february. Didn't they, who are among the 0,000001 % smartest people in this world, check their cables before they published the FTL neutrinos ????? It is like I almost can not belive that fact. I think there is something spooky going on here, I am afraid I have to admit. I apologize for saying that. but I can't say anything else.

    Meanwhile, in "The Big Bang Theory", it seems that Sheldon has been fired. The reason was simply that he had failed to put anything on the arXiv for nearly six years, and even before that he only got his name on most of his papers because of acts of charity by senior people. He hoped that running a blog was a suitable replacement for actually doing research, but unfortunately the administration saw through that. In the next episode Sheldon will claim that he wasn't fired, he actually resigned because he feared for his life, and had to run away to a small third-world country where he hides out in an abandoned apartment.

    There is overwhelming empirical evidence in favor of the Rañada-Milgrom effect. The OPERA team totally ignored the Rañada-Milgrom effect. The OPERA story is not over.

    dorigo
    The story is over. What do you pretend to know that experiments have not considered ?

    Cheers,
    T.
    lumidek
    Dear Tommaso, haven't you read the most important paper by the scholar named David above?
    http://vixra.org/abs/1202.0083 


    It's posted on the prestigious viXra archive of Phil ;-) and it manages to link the OPERA neutrino hype to the Pioneer anomaly and super-revolutionary version of MOND. It's exactly the type of theories your blog has covered in the past, as a replacement for things like supersymmetry.
    dorigo
    I see. Thanks, I sort of understand now.
    About Susy: I never wanted to replace Susy with anything - but as with any theory lacking experimental evidence, I think it is quite appropriate to allow it to coexist with other ideas, as strange and crackpottish as they seem at first sight. The relative values of the alternatives should transpire from the following they have, not from the banning of the less probable ones.

    Cheers,
    T.
    lumidek
    Dear Tommaso, what you write may sound as a good part of a populist's toolbox but it has nothing to do with science. Even when questions are not settled - and *especially* when things are not settled (because that's when the scientific research really matters) - it's still important for science to eliminate ideas that contradict the known empirical facts and that just don't make any sense, for that matter. 
    It's what science is all about. The Standard Model and the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model are two examples of theories that may explain the observed phenomena in particle physics; the Milgrom-Pioneer-OPERA-bullshit mechanism is not.
    You're quite right, it's not a theory that explains observed phenomena.

    It's an observed phenomenon to be explained or discounted.

    It's a different part of science, the bit that comes before the theories.

    As such, all the arguments about proponents of false theories should be chucked out a window. They do not apply. This is about faulty experiments.

    If you build a faulty experiment, and no-one can see where you went wrong, the question is whether you can find your mistake. If not, then there's no point continuing in your job, someone else should do it who can find the mistake, because until someone does, the project is at a standstill, it cannot distinguish unique phenomena from randomness. But conversely, if you find it and fix it, and explain the details of what went wrong, then you should continue in your post.

    Yes people should be incentivised to produce reliable and unbiased experiments, but if people are in danger of loosing their job because of producing controversial data, rather than through methodological issues, then exactly the data we need will be obscured.

    People should be in trouble for faulty experiments with obvious or unfixable flaws, and only that. The relation of their experimental results to established theories should be irrelevant in that regard, otherwise we risk producing evidence to suit our theories, not the other way around.