Science Saturday: FTL Neutrinos Debunked + All-Electric Aircraft + Rename the VLA + Mysterious Sunrise + More |
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Science Saturday: FTL Neutrinos Debunked + All-Electric Aircraft + Rename the VLA + Mysterious Sunrise + More October 15, 2011

by Kayla Iacovino , Filed under: Science/Technology , trackback

Welcome back to Science Saturday! This week: Debunk those faster-than-light neutrinos, take a flight in an all-electric aircraft, rename the Very Large Array, and see a mysterious Argentinian sunrise. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: the throwable panoramic ball camera!


Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Mystery Claimed Solved via Special Relativity
It’s been three weeks since CERN scientists released the news that neutrinos had been measured moving faster than the speed of light between two laboratories, as measured by super accurate GPS. Since then, specialists have been pouring over the data looking for an explanation of the event. The general concensus is that the CERN scientists must have missed something, and that the neutrinos are still bound by the universal speed limit, c. Ronald van Elburg at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has made a convincing argument citing special relativity as the culprit for the misfit neutrinos. It’s a rather complicated story, but simply put, van Elburg says that CERN scientists failed to account for the motion of the GPS satellites relative to the Earth. For most uses, this is a negligable effect, but when measurement accuracy needs to be within nanoseconds, this relativistic motion can make a big difference. In fact, according to van Elburg’s calculations, the adjustment for special relativity equates to about 64 nanoseconds, almost exactly the time discrepency observed at CERN.

Read more.

Concensus? Einstein’s still right.

NASA Awards Largest Prize in Aviation History for All-Electric Aircraft
NASA has awarded the largest prize ever given out in aviation history, that’s $1.35 million, to Team Pipistrel for their electric airplane, Taurus G4. The Taurus covered 200 miles in less than 2 hours, using the electrical equivalent of less than one gallon of fuel per passenger. The idea behind the NASA- and Google-sponsored CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) Green Flight Challenge has been to encourage the development of a new era of ultra-efficient aircraft that use either pure electricity or ultra-efficient fuel engines. Check out a video of the Taurus G4 below.

Very Large Array Radio Observatory Asks Public for New Name
The world’s most famous radio telescope, the Very Large Array (VLA), is looking for a new name to reflect its new capabilities. The VLA, featured in in films such as Contact, Armageddon, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon, has undergone a transformation known as the VLA Expansion project, which began in 2000 and increased the array’s capabilities by a factor of 8,000. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory has decided that the VLA needs a new name to reflect its new upgrades. The public are welcomed to submit their name ideas, and entries are being accepted until midnight December 1st. The new name will be announced January 10th, 2012.

Re-name the VLA!

Strange Sunrise over Argentina
The image below (click to embiggen), captured by a photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina shows a new kind of sunrise phenomenon that no one can yet explain. The image is a combination of a normal and very short exposure so as not to oversaturate the bright sun, but the photographer saw this structure with his own eyes, indicating that it is not the effect of the camera or lens. Some speculate that the effect may be caused by low level clouds just thick enough to scatter sunlight but not so thick as to block out the sun. For now, it remains a mystery.

Click to embiggen

Gadget of the Week: Throwable Panoramic Ball Camera
As someone who frequently takes panoramic photos, I am super excited by this new concept: a throwable panoramic ball camera. Basically, it’s a ball (duh) with 36 mobile phone cameras facing in all directions. When thrown into the air, the camera detects when it’s at the apex of it’s trajectory, then takes all of the panoramic snaps at once. There’s even a computer program that will stick the photos for you and let you look around and zoom within the entire space. Unfortunately, this baby’s not for sale yet. But, the company is looking for investors and hopes to release the product to the public soon!

Upcoming Events
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Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.



1. I'm Dead Jim! - October 15, 2011

Fascinating! First?

2. KeepTheJeepRiding - October 15, 2011

FIrst! Totally want that camera ball!

3. CmdrR - October 15, 2011

Panorama ball. I want to have that for me. Can you mount one of those suckers on an Estes rocket and get your whole neighborhood?

Einstein still rules. But, I hold out hope for loopholes, thanks to dark matter. Ah, it’s so cool to be utterly ignorant of whatever that stuff is. I can use it as my own personal red matter.

That is a wiiiiiiide airplane. Not sure I’d feel safe sitting in whichever cockpit has no controls. Still, nice to see the effort to bring down gas consumption. Wonder if you could make it about 300 fuselages wide… and super strong. That way, the underoo bomber could only blow himself to crap. That’d be cool. Everyone safe; clean-up in seat 217B.

As for Virgin… I definitely think it’s time for private enterprise (pun!!) to take over space flight. Maybe with gov’t backing. Hell, we’re buring so much money on wars and genetically-engineered carp, we might as well do that, too…

Thanks, Kayla!

4. KeepTheJeepRiding - October 15, 2011

OK, not first! Still want the camera ball!

5. NCC-73515 - October 15, 2011

This Thursday, ESA will launch the first Soyuz rocket from a spaceport outside of Kazakhstan or Russia

6. Blake Powers - October 15, 2011

Amazing how the debunking stories did not spread as fast as the “we broke the ultimate speed limit ,C,” story.

7. David no longer in Maine - October 15, 2011

Could it be a Fata Morgana at sunrise? Check out the wikipedia article: . The pictures there all show clouds (and that is how I have seen it), but what would it look like with the sun at the horizon? And how many photographers would have the equipment and skill to capture it (the article seems to imply that it was not easy to photograph). Ad perhaps the atmospheric conditions that cause Fata Morgana don’t usually occur at sunrise (I think the time I saw it it was probably late afternoon).

8. Captain Dunsel - October 15, 2011

“poring”, not “pouring”

9. Buzz Cagney - October 15, 2011

They forgot the satellites were moving? As a certain fat yellow gentleman would say…. ‘doh!’

We need more smartified scientists!

10. Phil - October 15, 2011

Nothing faster then light to see here, folks. Move along now…..

The sunrise photo is kinda cool, though. Ans at the speed of light, no less.

11. VZX - October 15, 2011

There was a question about the relativistic speeds of satellites on the IB Physics test a few years ago. And that is at the high school level. It’s hard to believe the CERN scientists would overlook something like that. Whoops. Maybe they should stop making cheesey rap videos…

12. Vad_Baxter - October 15, 2011

The satellites are not a factor in the measurements as they claim. They probably use at least a dozen if not more. I can see one, maybe two being off. It’s not even realistic to say the GPS satellites being used were off, it’s just NOT possible to have that wide range of discrepancy with today’s technology.

It has more to do with researchers who don’t work at CERN to be proven wrong and lose the millions of dollars in research grants they get every year.

13. Thorny - October 15, 2011

I don’t remember the VLA being in “Armageddon”. There was that awful opening scene with the amateur astronomer who evidently lives in the Mt. Wilson Observatory, though. And there was that laughable scene of the Hubble Telescope taking flash photographs (realism was obviously the last thing on the minds of the people who made “Armageddon”.)

12… I think a GPS fix uses three satellites. One for longitude, one for latitude, and one for elevation.

14. MJ - October 15, 2011

Bummer. The light speed limit SUCKS !!!!!

15. MikeTen - October 15, 2011

@14, people don’t even get Einstein’s theory right. He stated that nothing can travel at the speed of light, he never says things can’t travel faster than light and there are even theorized particles called tachyons that travel faster than light but can’t slow down to light speed.
I’m hoping humans can someday create a Einstein Rosen bridge that connects two points in space and time so travel to any point in space (and time) can be almost instantly, like a stargate or what Barclay did at the end of TNG episode “The Nth Degree” or even the way the Battlestar Galactica jumps thru space.
That would take the adventure out of racing around the galaxy as shown in Star Trek or Star Wars but to me space jumps or stargates seems to be the most likely way to really travel across the galaxy and eventually the universe. IMO.

16. Kayla Iacovino - October 15, 2011

@3 You are a genius! As soon as those camera balls are for sale, I’m mounting one on a rocket and getting some sweet photos. Good call!

And, hey, only ONE grammar nazi this week? Phew!

17. Khan 2.0 - October 15, 2011

Matt Reeves to direct the Twilight Zone movie

wonder if JJ Abrams will be involved in any way?(like he was with Cloverfield)

18. CoolPT - October 15, 2011

I guess the Dish Network has already been used for the VLA renaming huh?

19. Daniel - October 15, 2011

FTL Neutrinos Debunked – very interesting idea. When I first heard about the FTL neutrinos I assumed that the CERN scientists had merely identified the speed of light more accurately than was previously possible.

20. CmdrR - October 15, 2011

I hate driving 671,000,000 miles per hour in a universe built for 9,572,340,598,273,509,283,752,308,975,432.

21. Sheldon Cooper - October 15, 2011

There must be a perfectly cromulent explanation for that sunrise photo.

22. Dr. Cheis - October 15, 2011

That Neutrino thing had me all excited when it was first announced. Darn, looks like we’ll have to find a different way to break the lightspeed barrier…

23. Red Dead Ryan - October 15, 2011

I was cautiously optimistic about the possible faster-than-light neutrino. Sad to hear it was an error.

I still remain optimistic, however, of all the possibilities that are within are grasp, FTL travel included.

24. Red Dead Ryan - October 15, 2011



25. Vultan - October 15, 2011

In 1955, Albert Einstein’s last words were lost to history (his American nurse didn’t understand German), but I like to think he was trying to say: “Watch out for those neutrinos. They have a lead foot.”

Here’s hoping….

26. Joseph - October 15, 2011

A GPS does use at least three satelites, but it’s inaccurate to say that one of them is for longitude, another for latttude, and the third elevation. It’s just old-fashioned triangulation, measuring the relative signal strength to determine how far you are from each satelite, forming a sphere around each of those satelites with a radius equal to the measurement you get, and then looking for the point of intersection to determine where you are in three dimensional space. Without at least three satelites it would be impossible to calculate your location with any kind of accuracy.

27. Canon Schmanon - October 15, 2011

Einstein vindicated again! What a brilliant guy.

28. Buzz Cagney - October 15, 2011

I’m just assuming the Enterprise engine’s have Einstein Compensators fitted,
Problem solved! ;-)

29. Buzz Cagney - October 15, 2011

I do know my TOMTOM speed readout is more accurate that my car’s speedo. So maybe these satellites are being underestimated!
Admittedly I rarely approach the Speed of Light these days. What with the cost of petrol an all!

30. Charla - October 15, 2011

Love the picture of Einstein, I bet he’s doing that right about now! :P

31. Vultan - October 16, 2011


Buzz, I hope there’s a special lane for light-speed travelers over there. Hate to see a Sunday driver get his atoms spread over half of England by some lead foot with a white helmet.


32. Buzz Cagney - October 16, 2011

mate i’m happy to do the speed limit these days!
I wound the Laguna dci up to 90 last night on a very quiet stretch of the A419 and most enjoyable it was too! lol
Not sure i’d want to hit 3 figures though- its an instant ban. 8-/
Not much good when my job depends on my Licence.

I guess Speed Cameras wouldn’t even be able to register 299,792,458 metres per second though!

Talking of which i’ve managed to blag my way into helping out in the Sales Showroom today. I’m pretty excited. I’ve gone from being in a job I hated to being in the environment that I’ve wanted to be in since I was a kid in just a few months. It can happen, Vults. I hope it does for you too.


33. Holger - October 16, 2011

The VLA also features prominently in the classic movie 2010.

34. Captain Dunsel - October 16, 2011


I really wish people didn’t feel free to use that word as if it were a synonym for “I don’t like what you said.” OK – so you dislike the fact that I pointed out a gramnmatical error. But errors of grammar and terminology have consequences, *especially* in science reporting. And what you implied about my intent is way way out of line.

35. johnbijl - October 16, 2011

I know what why they measured neutrinos faster than light. It never occurred to them to think of space as the thing that was moving.


36. Electron - October 16, 2011

Is that a “Bird of Prey” in the photo just above the sunrise? Maybe it’s the TOS crew coming back to save a whale.

37. DeShonn Steinblatt - October 16, 2011

Real science is of no interest to Trekkies. That’s why these articles get so few comments.

38. Creed - October 16, 2011

This headline is inaccurate. FTL Neutrinos is far from debunked and the blog linked to is not very conclusive whatsoever. Use some inverted commas, eh?

39. Lostrod - October 16, 2011


“Amazing how the debunking stories did not spread as fast as the “we broke the ultimate speed limit ,C,” story.”

Exactly. This was a sub point in an excellent novel by the late Michael Chrichton. Once misinformation gets out there it is difficult, if not impossible, to get corrected.

I highly recommend the book. I wish someone would turn it into a movie.


40. Lostrod - October 16, 2011

Oops. Forgot to give the title of the book. It is “State of Fear”.

It also deals with conspiracy theories about global warming. Perhaps Mr. Orci should adapt it. :)


41. =A= - October 16, 2011

Strange Sunrise over Argentina photo is not sun’s flare. i believe it was clouds. look very carefully…

42. Thorny - October 16, 2011

38. Creed…

I think you have things a bit backwards. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and by asking someone to prove that the neutrinos traveled FTL, you’re asking someone to prove a negative… a classic logical flaw. CERN has to prove it did happen, it is not for us to prove that it didn’t.

Now we have the laws of physics that say CERN’s claim is impossible, and we have a strong explanation for their faulty data.

It’s over. Move on.

43. Thorny - October 16, 2011

42.. That should read “neutrinos didn’t travel FTL”

44. Rola - October 16, 2011

Actually, Creed is 100% correct. CERN’s findings have not been debunked. The article clearly says “the argument” was made using accepted theory. Not experiments were conducted. You can not disprove experimental results with a hypothesis. The scientists at CERN have shared their results and methods. The scientific method dictates that peers try to replicate the experiment to see if the same or similar results are found and to test their hypotheses about flawed methods to see if those experiments disprove or confirm CERN’s findings. The onus IS on the scientific community to confirm or disprove the results. That is how science works: peer review, replication, confirmation or disproval.

45. Rola - October 16, 2011

Here is a direct link to CERN:

The scientists at CERN did not, despite mainstream media’s hype, claim Einstein was wrong. They found shocking results and want their peers to help them confirm or disprove their findings. Basic science. But media as entertainment dictated ridiculous headlines and oversimplification of what was going on.

46. Vultan - October 16, 2011


That’s great to hear, Buzz! And you are definitely right. A couple of months ago I got in contact with the folks at Pixar. They have a workshop set up next spring for aspiring animators, and it looks as though I’ve got my foot in the door. “California, here I come!” :D

47. Battle-scarred Sciatica - October 16, 2011

@36 Electron

That’s exactly what i thought…good shot of a bird of prey!

48. Buzz Cagney - October 16, 2011

Oh Vults, i am absolutely delighted for you. Thrilled in fact. What exciting news. I hope it works out for you my friend. I”m sure you will grab the opportunity with both hands.

(Oh, and i sold a car yesterday! A lady came in absolutely certain she didn’t want a Yaris, by the time i’d finished she’d bought a new Yaris!
I think the salesman was quite amazed!)

49. Vultan - October 16, 2011


Hey, congrats! I wasn’t that familiar with the Yaris, so I had to look it up. Not a bad looking little car. Not terribly exciting either. Must have taken some fancy talk to convince her. Let me guess—you emphasized the mileage (that is, the miles per gallon), right? That’s a big selling point over here, anyway.

50. Buzz Cagney - October 16, 2011

You know i’m really not sure what i said now lol
She came in a bit concerned that the car had a bit of a reputation as a ‘retired persons car’, which in fairness it does! I just suggested that ‘with age come’s wisdom’ haha
I took them on a test drive in the diesel version which, to be fair, is a cracking little car. Its quite the little rocket-ship actually. And does 60mpg with no effort at all.

After the test drive i handed them over to the Salesman and the next thing i knew they were standing at the Paypoint putting a deposit down!
I later asked the salesman how on earth he made that sale and he said he didn’t, i did! Apparently i was so enthusiastic about the car she was won over, or so she said, apparently. I was really chuffed.

And to start Monday off hearing that your career is heading in the right direction, well, happy days!

51. Jesustrek - October 16, 2011

37.- real science if it is of interest to Trekkies one example is the scientist Miguel Alcubierre star trek inspired him to develop the theory that bears his name.

52. Vultan - October 16, 2011


60 mpg! Holy cow! I may have to look into one of those myself.

Gas just shot up thirty cents this past week at my local station (diesel is even higher), so those “retired person’s cars” are looking pretty good right now.

53. Vultan - October 16, 2011

Apologies to Kayla for turning this board into “Car Chat with Buzz and Vults.”


54. Buzz Cagney - October 16, 2011

#53 ditto that, Kayla. I have read and enjoyed this article, as always.

My god, that is a shocking price rise for fuel over there! Whats brought that on?
Is the Yaris sold in the States?
Diesel car’s have become more and more popular over here in the last decade. I have one myself- as I said above a Renault Laguna Turbo Diesel. Thats the word you want to see before Diesel, Turbo! It makes all the difference. Overtaking urge is terrific. In that respect they make comparable petrols look sluggish. You’d enjoy it!
I believe diesel is still very rare in car’s in the US?

Ignore Clarkson and his mates on TG, diesels are remarkable. My car is a good sized car- near Mondeo sized, but returns 40mpg and my average speed is only 20mph as i do mostly town driving. When I get on a run she’ll do 50mpg easy.

My dream car at the moment would be a new Prius. Not because they are green and tree huggy (though that is a bonus) its because I genuinely like them and the way they drive. I love the futuristic dash and the silence when you pul away is spooky! lol I never tire of it. And they do 70mpg on petrol so owners tell me. Amazing. piece of kit.
We have an all black Prius Tenth Anniversary spec in the showroom and I love it. But £27k is a bit rich for me!

When you are a big cheese in tinseltown you do know you will have to get one, don’t you?
Come see me and i’ll do you a good deal. ;-)

55. Cygnus-X1 - October 16, 2011

Great Science Saturday!

56. Bob Tompkins - October 17, 2011

I knew the faster than light neutrinos were a figment. If something moves faster than light, we’ll never know it unless we measure for them before we create them.
Faster than light means they move backward in time. Indeed we might not even be able to detect them.
It all has to do with time moving more slowly as an object approaches the speed of light. Exceed the speed of light and logically, by Einstenian theory, the object would move backward in time.
The amount of energy necessary could never be achieved because infinite energy is required to move an object faster than light in a vacuum.

57. Bob Tompkins - October 17, 2011

As for the Panorama camera— so what? A useless toy.

58. Bob Tompkins - October 17, 2011

How about renaming the VLA the VFHA– the Very F***ing Humongous Array?

59. Vultan - October 17, 2011


I can’t tell you why gas prices go up and down (usually up) so wildly here. Maybe it’s just our local stations gouging us, but it seems to be across the country. Most often it’s due to something going on in the Middle East—though when isn’t there something going on there, right?

Diesel. Yeah. Not sure why US automakers have never fully embraced it… with cars. Plenty of diesel trucks around.

Yes, the Yaris is sold here (had to look it up again), as well as the Prius. That’s the Hollywood “it” car right now. Every big shot with a green thumb likes to say they have one (often used to get them from the front door of their mansion to the limo at the end of the drive).


60. Adama - October 17, 2011

Nothing about Zachary Quinto coming out?

61. Cujo - October 17, 2011


Apparently not.

62. Mel - October 17, 2011

@ 60

I guess no one is really surprised. It was an open secret, that he is gay. But for anyone, who is interested, Quinto said here, that he is gay:

63. On Vacation With Landru - October 17, 2011

I’ll be really disappointed if there isn’t an article on this site about it, though. There have been lots of articles about nothing – like the tweets from actors about the next movie before it was even written (is it now??). I’m not that into celebrity gossip, so it was news to me. I think the reason he decided to officially make his personal life public is important, too.

64. Krik Semaj - October 17, 2011

I wonder if Spock drops Uhura in the next movie, and hits on Kirk instead.

65. MC1 Doug - October 17, 2011

Very funny, Krik (rolling my eyes with disgust). Was that really necessary?

66. Schultz - October 17, 2011

#63 I totally agree with you. Quinto said this: “living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it, is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality”. I hereby ask trekmovie to play their part in helping the actor of Mr. Spock and others tackle this “immense work” that needs to be done.

67. Krik Semaj - October 17, 2011

65 – Lighten up. There is enough stuff out there in the Trek world making fun of the Kirk/Spock romance. My comment was tame compared to what appears on this site on a regular basis.. You poor thing – so disgusted. Typical nerd Trekkie response.

68. Buzz Cagney - October 17, 2011

#59 funnily enough the first car I hopped in was a Prius this morning!
Then the Dealer Principal had me sit down in his offer and tell me that I did excellent work yesterday and they want to ease me full time into Sales!
Man, some day life just give’s you a good bounce, Vults. My head is spinning to be honest.

And as to Quinto and his sexuality, who care’s. I wish him nothing but happiness.
Surely that is the most basic thing that Trek has taught us?

69. Buzz Cagney - October 17, 2011

#68 that should have said in his office! durr!

70. Captain Hackett - October 17, 2011

No news about the falling German satellite ROSAT? It is supposed to make an entry this week.

71. DeShonn Steinblatt - October 17, 2011

Well, it’s getting a little better. I guess car talk could qualify as science.

72. Buzz Cagney - October 17, 2011

#71 I appreciate your patience, De. :-)

73. BoltBait - October 17, 2011

Where on this site do you submit links for news items?

74. Supreme Commander Thor - October 17, 2011

I hate to be an “I TOLD YOU SO”, but I’ve said all along that Pine and Quinto are gay and you guys argued that they are not. Well, Quinto just came out of the closet and it is a short time before Pine will too. I TOLD YOU SO!!

75. Supreme Commander Thor - October 17, 2011

Oh, check out if you doubt me.

76. NuKirk - October 17, 2011

panorama ball camera? so basically the Kinos from Stargate Universe???

Also congrats to Zachary Quinto (NuSpock) for coming out.

77. Buzz Cagney - October 17, 2011

Pine ain’t gay. Keachick would’t allow it anyway!

78. Michael Hall - October 17, 2011

Heh, #56. Maybe you could drop a line to those confused eggheads at CERN, who apparently don’t seem to grasp Special Relativity with nearly the finesse that you do.

As for the big news item of today, I expect much in the way of exploding heads on this here site in the next day or two.

79. Keachick (rose pinenut) - October 17, 2011

#77 Even if Chris Pine were gay (which he isn’t), he would make an exception for me…:)

80. T'Cal - October 17, 2011

“The image below (click to embiggen), …”

Cracked me up! Jedidiah would be proud.

81. PEB - October 17, 2011

Just read about Zach, and there’s only one thing for me to say… welcome to the club man! Always nice to see those in the spotlight take that big step.

82. Basement Blogger - October 17, 2011

Great stuff Kayla. I hope I get this right. We can cheat the speed limit by “warping” time and space.

83. Jai - October 18, 2011

Michael Hall, re: #78, Basement Blogger, re: #82:

“Heh, #56. Maybe you could drop a line to those confused eggheads at CERN, who apparently don’t seem to grasp Special Relativity with nearly the finesse that you do.”

“We can cheat the speed limit by “warping” time and space.”

I think the whole “FTL” label stuck onto the CERN neutrinos mystery misrepresents what may have happened, especially if people aren’t aware of the other theories attempting to explain it. One of the suggestions currently being investigated is that the neutrinos took a shortcut through another dimension and therefore appeared to travel faster than light, but didn’t really.

If that’s what actually happened then I guess the misnomer is similar to the fictional Battlestar Galactica’s inaccurately-named “FTL drive”, where the ship “jumps” practically instantaneously from one point to another but doesn’t actually travel faster than light, despite the name.

So, the CERN neutrinos mystery hasn’t necessarily been solved.

84. Crusade2267 - October 18, 2011

That’s not the sun, it’s the Quark’s Treasure!

85. Kayla Iacovino - October 22, 2011


Correcting minor grammatical and typing errors does not add to the conversation. I did not take offense to your comment, it’s just annoying.

86. Baroner - November 19, 2011

Very very large array is represented by Gorilla Nation. Please contact Gorilla Nation for ad rates, packages and general advertising information.