Light is once again the speediest thing in the known universe. Last September, OPERA, a project organized by an international group of physicists, boldly proclaimed that it had clocked some neutrinos, sub-atomic particles, moving faster than light. It was a shocking result, since Albert Einstein's longstanding theory of relativity says that nothing is faster than light. Well, it turns out Einstein was right all along. Late Wednesday, Science Insider broke the news that OPERA's experiment was flawed — its results compromised by a faulty connection between a GPS receiver and a computer. Indulging in schadenfreude, critics are scoffing at the respected scientists' screw-up. Here, a sampling of the reaction:
This "distinctly ordinary" error is certainly convenient, says Tom Chivers at Britain's Telegraph. We no longer need to rewrite "the laws of the universe."
The first commandment
As a bunch of brainy scientists should know, says David Coursey at Forbes, you "always check the cable before doubting Einstein." The "problem is always a cable until proven otherwise. Home entertainment installers also know this truth. Likewise, all my ham radio buddies."
It could happen to anyone
Physicists supposedly checked and rechecked their results last year before announcing their "puzzling observations," says Robert T. Gonzalez at io9. But then, "fatal flaws" do have a tendency to hide in plain sight.
Thank goodness we know longer need to question "our very basic idea of physics," says Eyder Peralta at NPR. In a manner of speaking, the original results suggested "you could be shot before a bullet left a gun."
Indeed, "the universe as we know it was saved today," says Jeffrey Kluger at TIME. "The instrument of its salvation, and that of the very edifice of physics itself? A fiber optic cable." Hallelujah!
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- What is Molly? Everything you need to know about the party drug
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- Russia's giant spy ship was a high-tech disaster waiting to happen
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- The constant struggle of running a family farm in 21st century America
- How to stop misogynists from terrorizing the world of gamers
Subscribe to the Week