Archive for September, 2011

My 25 Mundane Neutrino Explanations

Today I had the most fun I’ve ever had on Twit­ter, thanks to the OPERA exper­i­ment work­ing out of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Col­lider.

The blo­gos­phere is ablaze with news that they seem to have detected neu­tri­nos trav­el­ing faster than light.  If true, it would be the biggest sci­ence news of the cen­tury, over­turn­ing one of the most fun­da­men­tal con­cepts in physics.  There is obvi­ously much skep­ti­cism amongst sci­en­tists.  For a typ­i­cally insight­ful expla­na­tion, check out Bad Astronomer Phil Plait‘s post:  Faster-than-light travel dis­cov­ered? Slow down, folks

The Twit­ter fun began when a dis­cus­sion between two physicist/mathematician-types, Blake Stacey (@blakestacey) and S.C. Kavas­salis (@sc_k) led Blake to tweet:

@sc_k Maybe we need to coun­ter­bal­ance the HEP blo­go­he­dron with a Twit­ter meme? e.g., #mun­daneneu­tri­no­ex­pla­na­tions

Then he spun out a few funny exam­ples of more mun­dane expla­na­tions for the unusual neu­trino mea­sure­ment:

  • #CERN physi­cists did arith­metic on old Pen­tium com­put­ers
  • #CERN physi­cists let under­grads near the exper­i­ment
  • Cal­cu­la­tions done by vis­it­ing Amer­i­cans who still don’t get the met­ric sys­tem.

…  all with the #mun­daneneu­tri­no­ex­pla­na­tions hash­tag appended.

I think I was the first one to fol­low his lead with:

  • For­got to carry the one
  • Con­fused neu­trino with one sent later
  • Study pub­lished by Wake­field et al

Then @drskyskull and @physicsdavid and oth­ers joined in (even asto­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Bad Astronomer) and, before you know it, the Twit­ter­verse was alive with funny expla­na­tions, some of which may be as likely as super­lu­mi­nal neu­tri­nos.  I ended up spit­ting out about 25 of them, which I present here, as they were tweeted, in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order (so start from the bot­tom). Enjoy!