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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blah de blah, neutrinos blah de blah

Otto had a post about Ritholtz posting about a bad CNN report on faster-than-light neutrinos.

He said this:

1) Scientists confirm that neutrinos do indeed travel faster than light
2) They then find a way of controlling a flow of neutrinos.
3) This controlled flow is then used to design a messaging system (it can be pretty simple, e.g. one burst of neutrinos is a 1, a double burst is a zero, binary computer systems take it from there)
4) As soon as the messaging system is understood it's used by somebody in, let's say, 2025, to send a message back to the person who invented the neutrino-control-and-messaging service on, let's say, May 23rd 2012.
5) The message sent back in time alerts us to a pending catastrophic event in, let's say, 2018 and how to avoid it.
6) We in 2012 take the necessary measures to avoid the event, thus it never happens.
7) This then negates the need for the message sent in the year 2025 to the year 2012.
8) Which means the message is never sent.
9) Which means the catastrophe is not avoided and it happens.
10) Wait a minute.....

Unfortunately, there's a mistake made in step 7. Here's the corrected version:

1) Scientists confirm that neutrinos do indeed travel faster than light
2) They then find a way of controlling a flow of neutrinos.
3) This controlled flow is then used to design a messaging system (it can be pretty simple, e.g. one burst of neutrinos is a 1, a double burst is a zero, binary computer systems take it from there)
4) As soon as the messaging system is understood it's used by somebody in, let's say, 2025, to send a message back to the person who invented the neutrino-control-and-messaging service on, let's say, May 23rd 2012.
5) The message sent back in time alerts us to a pending catastrophic event in, let's say, 2018 and how to avoid it.
6) We in 2012 take the necessary measures to avoid the event, thus it never happens.
7) This creates a 2025 Version B that replaces the 2025 Version A that sent the message.
8) The 2025 Version B now will not send the message to 2012, but that's okay because 2012 got the message from 2025 Version A.

I never thought I'd say this... but the solution is easy to see if you'd only have watched more Star Trek.

But it doesn't matter anyway because the neutrinos aren't actually travelling faster than light. From the little I've bothered to read about it, what's happening is analogous to a waveform travelling faster than light, which happens all the time believe it or not. I.e., it doesn't seem to me that they're measuring the speed of a single neutrino... um, nor could they, I guess.

Also, they're supposedly travelling only a fraction faster than c, and as anyone will tell you, "science ain't an exact science with these bozos". Even if the accuracy of the experiments can't be questioned, there are still possibly all sorts of ways and places where c may be found to be vaguely variable. I personally think we'll someday find enough variability in c to explain away the various measurements that have led scientists to believe in all that silly "dark matter" and "dark energy" chickenshit.

Don't call me old-fashioned for disbelieving "dark matter", a form of matter that doesn't really interact with normal matter, is made of some strange kind of matter we haven't figured out yet, and which no scientist seems even remotely able to explain in layman's terms; blame the scientists for being old-fashioned, pining for the days of the "luminiferous aether".

Personally I prefer John Moffat's variation of MOND as a way to explain away all that dark matter bullshit, because he can actually explain it to a layman in a book.

Anyway... as for the story itself, it's easy to assume that the media got it all horribly wrong and are presenting a childishly oversimplified version of the story for an audience that they assume failed fucking grade 6 physics. Not that the masses really are stupid, but rather that the media always treats them that way.

Because - and while this is the 4th law of the internet, it can be applied to older media - it's always the most stupid people who complain the loudest about things they misunderstand. Blame it on the democratization of society. Used to be stupid people would keep their fucking mouths shut in polite society. But the media cater to complainers, and the complainers are always the most stupid. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever been on a bulletin board system.

And as for the "sending messages back in time" bit. It really seems like all the vaguely-possible methods for doing this sort of thing (wormholes, etc.) require a whole load of energy, far more than we can ever find. Basically, you're trying to violate the 4-dimensional structure of the universe, by sending a message into a light cone from outside of it. That sort of thing really can't be done - the light cone's edge can be fuzzy (if light has variable speeds), it can maybe even be bent a bit (depending on what gravity's doing around the area and how you're rotating, if I remember), but a light cone is still pretty much an inviolate thing. This goes way beyond applied physics, to basic causality and stuff.

Anyway... I'd rather go play some more Civ 4. Just wanted to vent about the stupid mass media and their poor reporting of stories.

As if you didn't already know that they get shit wrong all the time.

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