the polite yeti


Please feel free to give me your money via etsy.

If you came for the alternative autism criteria, they are available here (revised version here).

Let's start at the very beginning /Do you have questions into the nature of the universe? Pose them here./ I can't.


DEEP BREATH. In. Out. Be calm.

You might have heard some news about something called a “neutrino” that might have moved faster than the speed of light. This news is out of CERN, in Europe, and like Ron Burgundy, it’s kind of a big deal.

Remember Einstein’s E=mc² equation? Well, that wouldn’t exactly be ruined, but relativity would need to be seriously adjusted. As Phil Plait put it, it would turn so much of physics upside-down that it’s like saying “… that gravity pushes, not pulls.” So what did they observe?

A neutrino is a particular subatomic particle, like an uncharged electron. They travel, well, very fast, and can go through matter. Photons are light, and they travel at (wait for it) the speed of light. According to what we know up to now, neutrinos should travel fast, but according to the laws of physics not as fast as light. That’s where the CERN experiment comes in.

The scientists at CERN set up a detector at a very exact distance away from a source of photons and neutrinos. When I say exact I mean exact. Like so precise that they could be within a meter or so of error at a distance of 730 km apart. They know how fast light travels, and it should have taken about 2.43 milliseconds for the light to reach the detector in Italy from CERN. According to the scientists, the neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds before the light.

The Swiss are impeccable time-keepers.

They report that their error is within 10 nanoseconds, so it’s a significant result. But there are a couple of problems. Not problems that for sure disprove it, but certainly give reason for caution.

  1. It’s very hard to know exactly when neutrinos are created in whatever source you are shooting them from. So the “start” point is a little fuzzy.
  2. As noted at Bad Astronomy, a supernova called 1987a throws some more cold water on this. See, that supernova was 160,000 light years away. So if neutrinos traveled faster than light by the same ratio as above, we would have seen the 1987a neutrinos about four years before the light. And that didn’t happen.
  3. Neutrinos are pesky little things, and very hard to control and measure, being as they flow right through planets and the like.

The scientists had a webcast from CERN today, and they are being very careful to say that this needs to be checked and über-checked, and then repeated again after that. They also claim no theoretical re-writes of history. The problem is that the press is not being nearly so cautious.

So take a deep breath, relax, let their fellow scientists and the skeptics have at it for a while, and don’t be sad if this turns out to not be as big a deal as thought. Of course, it might be true, but when it comes to extraordinary claims, you have to provide extraordinary proof.









Speed of light may have been broken

Okay guys, this one is hot off the press. I’ve only found two sources for this (here and here) that have been posted in the last hour. I have to say that I immediately doubt the validity of this, but I feel I should bring it to your attention anyway.

Reports from our good friends at CERN say that they’ve observed particles traveling at faster than light speeds. For those of you who know a bit about relativity, this ain’t all that cool. The speed of light is basically meant to be the fastest speed there is, and if this wasn’t the case then we may have a major breakdown of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The scientists at CERN have concluded this based off results in which a beam of neutrinos fired from a particle accelerator in Geneva traveled 434 miles 60 nanoseconds faster than it should have. This may not sound like much, but the error was calculated at 10 nanoseconds and the scientists themselves seem fairly adamant in their results.

Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa

Hold the fuck up.

(This is the second thing I’ve heard about the theory of relativity being questionable in the past few months, though. ffffffff-)



If this is true

I just read this on the news.  It’s an amazing story to wake up to.

I’ll wait until I hear more before I get excited about this /skeptical bastard.

Will you guys lose all respect for me if I confess that my first thought was that contraption looks an awful lot like the Mirror of Twilight in Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess?

-looks around tumblr-

You do realize who you’re talking to, right?

We’re ALL thinking that!

Sadly, CERN’s press release to actual discovery ratio is…poor. The chances that this turns out to be accurate are not very good.