If we can produce neutrinos at the same time as photons,then detect which arrives first the question of neutrino speed vs light speed would be settled. CERN – OPERA measured neutrinos arriving faster than light would have, astronomers have measured neutrinos and light arriving at about the same time from supernovae. How can we verify the CERN – Opera experiment,reproduce the supernova result, and settle this question once and for all? We can do this by repurposing one of the most destructive things ever created by the hands of man, a atomic bomb.
Complication is the mother of all experimental doubt and error, and the OPERA experiment is indeed complicated. Any experiment which uses a setup largely similar to it will be dogged by the specter of error due to their complexities.
OPERA measured neutrinos arriving 60 nanoseconds before they would have if they moved at the speed of light and no faster.
Supernova SN1987A produced a burst of neutrinos and light. The neutrinos zipped from the core of the star to the surface without interacting with anything. This made the neutrinos arrive four minutes faster. The light would need to bounce around in the star just that long before exiting. Essentially the light and neutrinos arrived simultaneously. This is seen by some as a definitive test of vneutrino/vlight. Others are not so sure.
A simple race
The simplest most direct test would be to keep observing supernovae and see if their neutrino pulses arrive way before their light. The light and neutrinos travel through the same space, along the same path from source to observation. In essence it is a straight forward race between two particles. The problem is that some can doubt weather a given neutrino signal is from a particular supernova. We need more control at the point of production, we need a manmade supernova, we need to use a fusion bomb (or six). This would produce anti-neutrinos, but that should not affect their speed. (Using nuclear devices in this way was first proposed by Fred Reines and Clyde Cowan of Los Alamos National Laboratory http://library.lanl.gov/cgi-bin/getfile?25-02.pdf)
The proposal is technically simple, but politically complicated.
- Step1: Remove the warheads from two minuteman ICBM’s.
- Step2: Mount said warheads on a Delta IV rocket, withwhatever is required to arm them once the probe has escaped from earth orbit,and safely away.
- Step3: The probe should launch individual warheads (usingthe MIRV technology developed for the minute man). Once the probe is a safe distance away thewarhead will detonate.
- Step4: The existing infrastructure of neutrino detectors canbe used in conjunction with simple telescopes and well known electronics to determinewhich is detected first. There are threepossible results from step four.
- A Vneutrino/Vlight>1 Neutrinos do travel faster than light.
- B Vneutrino/Vlight=1 Neutrinos travel only as fast as light.
- C Vneutrino/Vlight<1 Neutrinos travel at a lower speed than that of light.
This should be done multiple times to give the result some statistical significance. Three to six times would be most practical because a minuteman three has three MIRVed warheads.
I defy anyone to find a problem with the physical reasoning.
If the neutrinos are detected more than a few nano seconds before the light; then result A has been obtained. (For the same reason that it takes light longer to exit the core of a star, neutrinos are less interactive than light.) This would show without any ambiguity that OPERA was right, and neutrinos do travel faster than light. If neutrinos are as fast as OPERA indicates they should arrive a matter of seconds, not just nanoseconds, before the light. The distance from these explosions to the earth would be millions of miles. It would be a very clear signal.
If results B or C are obtained by this method then OPERA is wrong and we all have to live constrained by the speed of light.
Why this will probably never be done, politics.
This will never be done for one reason, politics. The physics is very clear that this would work as a test of neutrino speed. The problems come from non-scientific concerns. Sill valid, just not scientific in nature.
The partial test ban treaty has, since the 1960’s, prohibited nuclear weapons testing in space. That has been interpreted the use of any nuclear devices in space. It could be argued that this would not be a test of the warheads. We know they will work, never the less, we would need permission from the other signatories of that treaty. One would think Russia would not mind having two fewer minutemen pointed at them, but you never know.
Anti-Nuclear public sentiments, reinforced with some legitimate fear. A certain segment of the public is afraid any time we use nuclear technology in space. Notably in the generators of certain space probes such as the latest Mars rover set to launch very soon. The proposed experiment would use actual nuclear bombs. Devices designed to blowup and kill millions in the process. It is not inconceivable that an accident could lead to detonation. The warheads could arm on the Launchpad and the Delta IV could have a catastrophic failure. The results would be an almost unprecedented catastrophe.
Getting the political support needed to make this happen would be almost impossible. I just don’tsee congress and the president ever going along with this, let alone the international community. There is too much fear around the word nuclear. The chance of accidental detonation of an unarmed nuclear device is essentially zero. There is a better chance of being killed by lighting than by the described space mission. Such facts never get in the way of anti-nuclear hysteria.
Too long; Read This.
The experiments done to date, or proposed for testing the OPERA result suffer from the same fundamental weakness. They are physically complicated in many and various ways. The simplest test would beusing a ready made supernova, a nuclear device. When these detonate a pulse of neutrinos is released as well as a pulse of light. We can detect which arrives first the anti-neutrinos or the light and that will give us a simple and definitive answer. This will likely never be done due to politics, and mostly irrational fear. So, keep watching the neutrino detectors and the skies for more supernovae. They are the best most direct test of OPERA’s results.