September 22, 2011

"When scientists discovered that the particles were arriving 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light... they freaked out."

"I don't blame them. Imagine someone comes to you to tell you that a new observation shows that planet Earth is actually flat."


chickelit said...

And here I thought Einstein's theories were incontrovertible...

traditionalguy said...

Maybe the speed of light has gone up since Einstein measured it.

The Dude said...
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Lucien said...

If Earth really were flat, that would PROVE the Moon landings were fake, right? (Can I get a refund on my GPS?)

chickelit said...

traditionalguy said...
Maybe the speed of light has gone up since Einstein measured it.

Light acceleration?

Fred4Pres said...

Haven't they ever watched Star Trek?

Fred4Pres said...

How about Lost in Space?

Lucius said...

I can't wait for "dark matter" to go kerplunk-- and their risible "parallel universes."

Physics is a schtick. Maybe Whitehead's alternate theory of relativity will be resurrected?

I'm no creationist. I just think physicists don't understand basic logic anymore. They let mathematical modelling take them to Zen.

In fact, I suspect a lot of that 27-dimensions that fell away 0.00000218204 nanoseconds after the Big Bang [I'm making up the numbers, but you know what I'm talking about] crap is half-digested Kabbalah that some of these kids were reading at 13.

Physics wants to be groovy and all about "chaos" but they're determinists at the same time. So if a prediction goes wrong-- hey, it was right, it just turns out *in a parallel universe*!!

Fruitcakes. We'll never figure the universe out. I'm a-ok with that. But it'll be fun to be in on one of the paradigm-breakups.

Let the f**kers go back and get Literature degrees. Stop subsidizing them with billions of dollars to collide neutrinos and build subatomic black holes already.

End communication.

Fred4Pres said...

Acutally it is kind of cool. There have been hints of faster than light speeds in quantum mechanics.

And I doubt this will invalidate Einstein's relativity theory (any more than Einstein wiped out Newton). Why this is exciting is it may lead to completely new theories. For these physicists this is pretty heady stuff.

But first things first, repeat the experiments and verify first.

edutcher said...

I guy I knew in physics class (high school) demonstrated the holes in Relativity.

Apparently, a lot of kids with an aptitude for math and physics do it.

But, yeah, sounds like shooting another big hole in Darwin.

SteveR said...

Einstein had no illusions about the theories of Special and General Relativity. They merely explained things in a way much better than what existed before. In any case, this one set of experiments in this one place, will need to be verified.

Charlie Martin said...

Not a problem -- it just means the neutrinos are travelling backwards in time.

coketown said...

Anyone who has seen a documentary called Battlestar Galactica will not be surprised by these findings. Fraking idiots.

Unknown said...

Scientists have so much blind faith in their high priests. Heretics are skewered, laughed at, and shunned. Dissenters either shut up or have their careers destroyed.

A divinity school drop-out doom monger could make a billion spieling the prevailing doom, an unemployed railroad engineer was catapulted to a position that allowed him to fly first class and build multi-million dollars homes all over the world. Life is good if you settle on the settled science of the day.

Big Mike said...

Interesting contrast between the physicists from CERN who published this result and the climate scientists (alleged scientists that is) who push the anthropogenic global warming theory.

The physicists exposed their experiment and results to the broader science community, which will attempt to repeat the experiment to determine it's accuracy. If found to be accurate, then theoreticians will have to reexamine relativity and rework or replace the theory to accommodate the experimental results.

The climate theorists behind AGW have sat on their data and refuse to provide access for others to validate their work. When reality is shown to conflict with the theory, the scientists offering up the conflicting data are publicly pilloried as "unbelievers" and their integrity is challenged. (As though reality is funded by the Koch brothers.)

And as for the physicists quoted in the article as saying that the CERN results are "impossible"? They've been hanging around too many climate scientists.

Lucius said...

@Coketown: Whatever gets latex bodysuits introduced to the Small Magellan Cloud quickest.

Can't happen soon enough--is 10 million years ago too late?

wv: geoxisti Chariots of the Gods, I'm tellin' ya, man . . .

PaulV said...

The speed of light varies depending on which substance it passes through. That is why a prism can bend a light beam. Neutrinos, who knows?

GPE said...

Yes, I hate it when things like this happen. Particularly when that someone arrives 60 nanoseconds before the Earth is actually flat to tell me it's flat. Annoying.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

Einstein allowed for wiggle room in his theories. He was apparently uncomfortable with quantum physics. General relativity is still good for explaining how very large things work.

God may not play dice with the Universe, but he seems to be a good poker player...

Michael said...

Didnt happen. Consensus of scientists say it couldnt happen. Didnt happen.

Jose_K said...

He was apparently uncomfortable with quantum physics.
He won the Nobel Prize for quantum theory.Relativity´s math was proved wrong in 1916. After 1922 in colaboration with a italian or french mathematician , he was able to correct the numbers.
Anyway, until replicated is nothing different from cold fusion

rhhardin said...

Lots of things go faster than light.

It's only group velocities that are less.

Thurber on the speed of light

"I doubt everything [scientists] have ever discovered. I don't think light has the speed of 7,000,000 miles per second (or whatever the legendary speed is). Scientists just think light is going that fast, because they are afraid of it. It's so terrible to look at. I have always suspected that light just plodded along, and now I am positive of it."

Fred4Pres said...

I find that when the house is not ready for a party, guests will start arriving 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light.

It is highly annoying.

X said...

the speed of light was originally measured by Albert Abraham Michelson which is a kind of speed record that I suppose has now been broken.

Little known fact: Albert Abraham Michelson got into the US Naval Academy with a little help from Ben Cartwright.

Larry J said...

Some scientists have proposed the existance of hypothetical particles called tachyons that can't travel slower than the speed of light. Mathematically, they're possible but no one has ever detected tachyons.

n.n said...

Has Speed Of Light Slowed Down?

There was an earlier claim made, more definitive, by a group of Soviet scientists, who conducted an experiment where they measured a discernable deceleration of light. I am not aware of any independent reproduction of their experiment.

Is the principal issue with these discrepancies the speed of light or measurement of time? What other physical phenomena lack the constancy which we routinely ascribe to them?

There is no reason to believe that "time" is indeed a discrete dimension similar to physical dimensions. In fact, if String Theory can ever be proven, then "time" may simply be defined as a perception of motion or transition.

In any case, until there are measurable and reproducible discrepancies in reality, which affect human life (positively or negatively), then this topic of interest is better suited to philosophical examination.

As long as we are limited to the system we observe, and hope to characterize, then we will never know, and will never be able to confirm, any fundamental truth.

In the meantime, there is limited, circumstantial evidence which spurs our imagination, and may potentially lead to an elevation of the human condition, if not actual knowledge of our true nature.

SunnyJ said...

Uhh Aww!!! Settled science becomes the 8 track tape of the decade.

The more we know, the more we realize we don't know...there is no room for settled anything. Got to ride the change train, it travels faster than the speed of lol physics is just plain good stuff.

Carol_Herman said...

It's the neutrinos. The elusive neutrinos. (The math is there ... because Murray Gel-Mann worked on "quarks") ... but they could never be found.

I remember when people stuck equipment deep down in wells ... hoping to "find one."

And, now it turns out they were just faster than the speed of light!

I wouldn't worry too much about what's gonna happen to the theories.

Richard Feynman said we can't get the guantum stuff to work ... because as soon (let's say you built an engine) ... it would disappear as soon as it came into contact with "reality." Or "matter."

Wat's da matter?

Ya know, if you tickle a "quantum bit" it's got no way to laugh.

Psychedelic George said...


Everyone knows that ulcers are caused by stress and spicy foods.

Bacteria cause ulcers? Poppycock.

SunnyJ said...

Einstein did no math of his own. He was a visionary...he saw relativity and asked the mathematicians to prove what he saw.

He was never held down by the math...he understood it to just be the tracks in the snow that you follow until you find out what it was and where it was taking you. He was never disappointed when it took him somewhere unexpected though, he also never gave up on searching for the tracks that would prove out his original thought.

He was early ADD, not hyper ADHD...he had mulitple tracks running at all times and could easily connect the dots across the tracks, which would seem like chaos to others but, made perfect sense to him. He couldn't understand why no one else made the connections or saw the tracks in the snow the way he did.

I admit to deer hunting here in WI every year for over 40 yrs and never failing to see the different tracks in the woods without contemplating Einsteins thought process. So elegant and so simple, never ends up the way you think it will. Tracking the answers.

Revenant said...

And here I thought Einstein's theories were incontrovertible...

They're solid enough that if I had to bet, I would bet on experimenter error. These "oh my god we saw something going faster than light" news stories come out at a rate of around one a year and thus far they've always turned out to be bunk.

That being said, it would be neat if it was true. :)

Revenant said...

But, yeah, sounds like shooting another big hole in Darwin.

I can't tell if that was a sarcastic joke or just a really dumb remark.

Revenant said...

Scientists have so much blind faith in their high priests. Heretics are skewered, laughed at, and shunned. Dissenters either shut up or have their careers destroyed

That's hilariously wrong, at least where physics is concerned. It is made even funnier for being posted in response to a "heretical" finding from one of the world's premier research institutes. What, is CERN going to be "shunned" and destroyed now?

Cedarford said...

SunnyJ said...
Einstein did no math of his own. He was a visionary...he saw relativity and asked the mathematicians to prove what he saw.

He was never held down by the math...he understood it to just be the tracks in the snow
Nonsense. All his seminal 1905 papers were backed with math proofs.

On neutrinos exceeding the speed of light, I think Einsten's theory will hold up because it was tested in other areas and holds up as law.
What is possibly the solution to this is that we have the measured speed of light...but we know that light is affected by matter. It bends in gravity, it slows down in various medium when travelling through it.
But neutrinos are barely (weakly interacting) with matter and gravity.
So it possibly is that something is holding down the measured speed of light neutrinos are not affected by. Dark matter may be a candidate.
The other thing, and I am not that hot on quantum mechanics besides how they pertain to one area of nuclear fission physics..and keep up on some of the science channel news. But neutrinos exhibit mysterious, magical (to me) stuff in quantum mechanics physics. They switch between the 3 main forms of neutrinos. They also "jump" in space - disappear then reappear in a new space - with no change in velocity or no apparant drain on any energy source related to the particle that powers the jump. On a quantum level, the "jump" appears to already be outside E=MC2. And of course Newtonian physics.
Their mass does increase, but the "jump" requires no energy.

richard mcenroe said...

I'm wondering how the physicists detected the particles. I assume flash photography was out.

"Missed! Wait for it to come around again! Oh, Crap!"

Michael Haz said...

I continue to believe that scientists will one day learn the the event immediately before the Big Bang was the frantically whispered Big Oops.

And that a loving God who has a sense of humor planted fake dinosaur and cavemen bones in parts of the earth He created so that humans would later find them, and without ever seeing the living entities, concoct all manner of theories as to their history and existence.

Luke Lea said...

Ten to one odds it doesn't pan out. Any takers? A good bottle of wine maybe?

[note to Ann: your gullibility is showing; see Lubos Motl for the cure]

tamsf said...

Ok. So the guy at the sending station shouts "Go!" and the guy at the receiving station pushes the stop watch. Is it a Swiss stop-watch or a Chinese knock-off? That could account for your time discrepancy right there.

Paul said...

Has anyone ever suspected that once you hit the speed of light things go in reverse?

Maybe time. Maybe energy.

But Einstein may still be right, but his theory only went so far. There may be more to the story!

Carol_Herman said...

Hello. This light measurement is taken in a vacuum.

No. I don't know how this was done.

But "time" is quite variable.

Heck, you can demonstrate differences if all you do is bake a pie. Works close to sea level.

And, then you go to live high on top a mountain. And, all your cooking skills turn to shit.

The "neutrino" is there ... because there's a mathematical place it holds.

It's never been observed.

But, yes. People have been looking for "it."

When I was young it was BIG news that the atom wasn't the whole story. There were bits and pieces inside the atom.

(Oh, and the electrons don't really make the patterns you see in a diagram. The diagram is there for human consumption.)

Now, if you go back to the 1940's ... Murray Gel-Mann wrote a paper for a physics magazine. And, he wanted to call "a bit" ... A QUARK. Richard Feynman wanted to call this a POSITRON. (Or something akin to this.)

Quarks WON the day! Murray Gel-Mann found the word in James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. ("3-quarks for Mr. Mark." Or something like that.)

Murray Gal-Mann loved READING.

His other word trick was to apply the Buddha's 8-FOLD WAY to some of his mathematics.

And, again, Murray Gel-Mann was turned down by the American Physics Magazine editors. So to bypass them ... he had his papers published in England.

"Faster than the speed of light in a vacuum" isn't going to change your life in any way.

Plus, Richard Feynman said "a good physics department is one that doesn't get caught up in personal politics." He meant everybody talks to one another. And, you don't go crazy with hierarchy.

A. Shmendrik said...

Dat shizzle r movin'!

james said...

Oddly enough, neutrinos have been observed, Einstein was quite good with math, neutrino mixing isn't unique--quarks do it too, quite a lot of physicists would love to make a name for themselves by finding holes in the standard models, and this would, if true, be a rather large effect. SN1987A results strongly suggest that the neutrino speed in a vacuum is pretty darn close to lightspeed. These are higher energy neutrinos passing through matter, so it isn't quite the same experiment. But my bet would be on subtle timing issues, and not new physics. It'd be fun if I were wrong, though.

Kirk Parker said...

So we have inflation in the speed of light, while the Soviets experienced a deflation? Why am I not surprised???

Tregonsee said...

For some perspective, the numbers say that the neutrinos are moving 14.7 km/s faster than the speed of light, which is 300,000 km/s. That is .0048% faster. Lots of room for experimental error there, however confident they are.

Gabriel Hanna said...

The laws of physics are related to each other in non-obvious ways.

The speed of light can be measured in experiments that have nothing to do with speeds or light--it's a property of space. Many of these experiments that implicitly assume relativity are very sensitive tests, such as the spectrum of hydrogen.

The challenge, if this result is true, is how to explain all the other experiments that SHOULD have shown the effect but haven't.

Not only is the effect small (an excess of 1 millionth of the speed of light), but it involves neutrinos, which are of all particles the most difficult to detect. (Contra Carol Herman, they have been detected and in fact Antartica has a neutrino telescope--there's a professor at UW-River Falls involved in that one.)

So some caution in pronouncing the death of relativity is warranted.

Quantum mechanics doesn't help you out here. It doesn't violate relativity or conservation of energy or anything else when particles tunnel. They have a probability of being found somewhere and some of those places they could be found, are places where classical physics would say they couldn't be. But to say that they "moved" from where they were to where they are is a logical contradiction--one reason being that you have no way to know it was the same neutrino or a different one. You can't passively "watch" a particle move through space like you could a planet or a billiard ball, but the English language assumes that you can and so we can confuse ourselves talking about it. But experiments with quantum particles would come out radically different if you could tell them apart and passively "watch" them.

And of course all the creationists and the global warming "skeptics"--which in many, though not all cases, are the same people--are saying that this somewhow provides evidence for their entirely unrelated beliefs.

ErnieG said...

I am reminded of Isaac Asimov's comment about the speed of light: "That nothing can travel faster than the speed of light is a theory. That Superman can travel faster than the speed of light is a fact."

Baronger said...

But the Earth is flat. However since space is curved, it circles back on itself so it just appears to be a sphere from our perspective.

Much like the Earth is traveling in a straight line, but because of gravity warping space we are going in an orbit around the sun.

Maybe the neutrinos are going in a straight line, and are unaffected by gravity so they are still going the speed of light. But are not following the curve of gravity.

But IANAP (I am not a physicist.)
I just play silly mind games with physics.

Scott M said...

Something that I've always found very interesting is the concept of "pushing" gravity as opposed to gravity that pulls. If you're not familiar with it, basically it says that space-time wants to remain "flat" and that any distortion of that flatness causes space-time to push back to a "flat" state.

In other words, according to this theory, the mass of the Earth is not pulling you down like we were always taught, but rather the mass of the Earth distorting space-time is causing space-time to push you toward the center of the mass in an attempt to go "flat" again.

The best analogy is a bowling ball on a trampoline...but obviously happening in every direction simultaneously.

I don't remember the arguments for or against, but I do remember a couple of the more notable proponents making the claim that standard gravity theory has some wholes that pushing gravity closes neatly.

gerry said...

I continue to believe that scientists will one day learn the the event immediately before the Big Bang was the frantically whispered Big Oops.

I can't stop chuckling. Thanks!

Last eveniong in the local tavern, a gentleman who had been imbibing for some time held forth about how he, as a second-grader - in 1958 - predicted the discovery of anti-matter to his teacher, who immediately whacked his knuckles with a ruler and compelled him to write out pages 12 through 15 of the speller textbook's glossary.

He then preached to a couple at a table about his calculus adventures when in the sixth grade, and concluded his lecture to whomever was not deaf concerning the weight of light which had to have weight because otherwise one could not modulate it and send it through fiber optic cables.

To think I got the show for free. And he did it all because of this story, which he saw on CBS Evening News.

ErnieG said...

Out of curiosity, I ran the numbers and found that light travels about 18 meters, or 59 feet, in 60 nanoseconds. Considering that GPS measurements are good to a few feet over similar distances, this looks to be a huge discrepancy, hardly on the order of a rounding error.

Still, the experiment is reproducible and thus falsifiable: the essence of scientific inquiry.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Ernie G:Considering that GPS measurements are good to a few feet over similar distances, this looks to be a huge discrepancy, hardly on the order of a rounding error.

I get the same answer you did. But the hard part is knowing at what time the neutrino was emitted. Where it was, not so much a problem; where it ended up and when it got there no problem. But when it was emitted is tricky.

If other groups reproduce it, then I guess physicists have to live with it, but it's pretty early yet to say that. A great deal of work will need to be done if this is true.

But it seems like the press reports on something like this about once a year and it never seems to pan out.

Tibore said...

I think everyone needs to keep in mind that the researchers themselves are making the findings known specifically because they know that error may be the real cause of the results. They even come out and say this in their paper:

"Despite the large significance of the measurement reported here and the stability of the analysis, the potentially great impact of the result motivates the continuation of our studies in order to investigate possible still unknown systematic effects that could explain the observed anomaly. We deliberately do not attempt any theoretical or phenomenological interpretation of the results."

Translation of that paragraph: "We know what we saw, we made damn well sure we saw it and recorded it accurately, and we damn well know what it means for relativity, but we also know that by tested and validated theory it’s just not right, and that we’re more likely wrong or have just plain screwed up somewhere we haven’t identified yet. So don’t take our findings as proof that relativity is wrong; we’re getting this out there so you all see everything we did and can try to figure out why we got what we got." (continued)...

sorepaw said...
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Tibore said...

... (continuation):

Lemme strike the "everyone" from that last paragraph. There are folks here - like Gabriel Hanna - who are demonstrating a far better understanding of this than my own layman's level.

But at the same time, I think too many of us here are taking this research as final i.e. that it's clearly, unambiguously showing that previous knowledge is definitively proven wrong. That's not the correct way to interpret that:

Science extends. It's not very common that it overturns, not in the sense used in this case where too many in the press are ready to declare the ultimate limit of C to be wrong. As a historical example: Newton's laws sure as heck weren't refuted by Michelson & Moreley, Lorentz, Einstein, and up through Hawking. They were shown to be inertially dependent, therefore a specific case, but they weren't overturned, rejected, ejected, discarded, or plain "proven wrong". They were shown to be entirely correct and applicable in the reference frames Newton was perceiving and operating in. And that's a big difference. If people want to criticize the notion of "settled science", then they'd better understand how knowledge really gets generated.

Science extends. Previous observations cannot simply be discarded in the face of a single current one. All must be explainable. In this case, if this isn't experimental error - and again, I must point out that the authors themselves are specifically wanting commentary on their work because that's the most likely cause of the measurements turning out the way they did - then this could still have a multitude of explanations that don't violate current understanding. Previously unobserved tunneling effects is one example of an answer. But the point is that we know that major elements of relativity have to be correct because if they were wrong, they'd have manifested in ways blatantly obvious to people. Causaility is the prime example of that: Violate the speed of C and you upend basic causality. We obviously do not see and have not seen that effect taking place in nature.

If this is indeed an accurate observation, then it's an extension of what we know, not an upending of it. We make a mistake if we 1. Declare the speed of light as "broken" (it certainly isn't broken in phenomena like Cherenkov radiation, and that's very well known and understood), and 2. Think of science as some free-for-all where later understanding completely obliterates prior. If prior knowledge is completely upended, then sure, but which case of established theory has that happened to? I have to go outside established knowledge to areas in pseudoscience such as Lamarckism/Lysenkoism to find where bodies of knowledge are simply overturned at their fundament. Most other times, it proceeds like it has in the past with relativity, and evolution, and the like.

Let's not fall into the cliché here of thinking "Oh, my, something was proven wrong with this single new experiment, so everything else up till now has been mooted". That's not the case. Not even the researchers themselves are going there. And that right there, above all else, should be instructive in how we should view this.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@sorepaw:Isn't it kind of cowardly, resuming your crusade against the CAGW critics on this thread, which isn't about CAGW...

I didn't originate it, merely responded to sentiments such as

Thank goodness the science is settled.


Interesting contrast between the physicists from CERN who published this result and the climate scientists (alleged scientists that is) who push the anthropogenic global warming theory.

from other commenters. I don't see you castigating them for bringing it up; only me for responding.

instead of defending your boy Al Gore

He's not "my boy", and I don't endorse anything he says. Earth in the Balance put me off Al Gore long ago. The reality of what you call "CAGW" is what it is, but what (if anything) we can realistically do about it is another thing entirely about which reasonable people can and do disagree.

To me environmental issues are economic, not moral. I do not think it is evil to pollute. It's a cost which we bear in exchange for the benefits pollution brings. We should find find ways to maximize our net. Lying about the costs, or pretending they don't exist, gets in the way of that.

Scott M said...

He's not "my boy", and I don't endorse anything he says.

Toldja, sorepaw.

Earth in the Balance put me off Al Gore long ago.

You should read his much more commercially successful "Harry Potter And The Balance Of Earth", a clear blueprint to defeating global warming and dark wizards.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@ScottM: Remember when there used to be Democrats like this?

I read her rebuttal of Earth in the Balance in the WSU library.

Anonymous said...

Einstein: The science is settled. Nothing can travel faster than the speed I say. These people are light speed deniers.

Scott M said...

Vaguely, but they have given way and power to the Boomer Democrats, a most vacuous breed.

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Gabriel Hanna said...

@sorepaw:Do you think that whatever climate change is presently taking place is catastrophic, or not?

Depends on what you mean by catastrophic, I guess. I think globa warming is too slow to be a "catastrophe", unlike say Katrina or Fukushima. It may be expensive to adjust to its effects, and it may kill some people, but so would suddenly abandoning fossil fuels. Poverty kills. We have to intelligently weigh costs and benefits and we can't do that when people ignore or lie about science.

Do you think that whenever Al Gore quotes Michael Mann or Kevin Trenberth or Jim Hansen accurately, and says he agrees with them, what he's saying is still wrong?

Do you think when a creationist like David Klinghoffer quotes people like Anthony Watts accurately and say he agrees with them, what he's saying is still wrong?

A true thing does not become false when Al Gore says it.

Without political fronting from a bunch of people (Al being the most famous), do you really think that the CACCistocrats would have gotten nearly so much funding from governments, from the UN, or even from some of the fossil-fuel companies?

NSF, NASA, and NOAA predate Al Gore, so, yes, climate science would still have got funding. Global climate models would still have been written and run, data would still have been colelcted and analyzed. Carbon dioxide emitted by human industry would still warm up the earth, all else being equal.

everyone who disagrees with you about CAGW is a "denialist," "denialists" must all prove they are not "creationists," "denialists" can never have honest but mistaken reasons for their views, "denialists" must all be funded by fossil-fuel interests—then turn around and pretend that Al isn't your guy.

Wow, you can't read. Who types your posts for you? I said the opposite of most of those statements in this very thread. Other commenters, who CAN read, will judge that for themselves, whether what you say is accurate--there's no point in lying about what anyone can scroll up and read.

If you can't quote me saying those things, then will you apologize? Not likely. You always accuse me of holding positions I don't hold, "campaigning" to get people fired, etc, without a shred of evidence.

And you are anonymous and I'm not. It's really brave of you to hurl false accusations from behind a screen name. But since I'm a "designated", according to you, member of a powerful conspiracy I suppose you can't be too careful.

ErnieG said...

Seen at NRO:

The bartender says, "We don't allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here."

A neutrino walks into a bar.

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