Saturday, April 14, 2012

If you are reading this, then my blog post has successfully reached you in the future

Cyanide & Happiness, a webcomic by Explosm :)

Now that I have your attention, I can start geeking out. You may or may not know what a neutrino is. For those of you who don't know, a neutrino is an elementary subatomic particle. In English, that means it's “really freakin' tiny”. And by tiny, I mean that the squared radius of an electron neutrino is only 1.0E-33 cm. [1] For comparison, a normal electron has a radius of 2.8E-15 m. (The squared radius of an electron is about 78 million times larger.) And the electron neutrino is the largest of the three flavors – yes, physicists really do refer to the different types as “flavors”.

Before you navigate back to the awesome Hunger Games trailers out of boredom, let me explain why this post is about neutrinos.

Neutrinos are so small that they, logically, have very little mass. This allows them to propagate at speeds approaching the speed of light. (They were thought to be massless until they were found to oscillate.) However, there are some speculative models that show neutrinos as having tachyonic properties, meaning they can travel at the speed of light and possibly back in time. [2]

The prospect of traveling back in time has always been a closet fantasy of mine ever since I was a young child. While all the normal, well-adjusted children were playing tag or maiming each other in dodgeball, I was riding the slide over and over trying to get up enough speed to go back and see the dinosaurs. (I assumed I needed to be moving at least 88 MPH.) The possibility of watching an infinite number of Swat Kats episodes was also a factor.
More recently, however, my desire to travel back in time has deepened, fueled by the desire to stop myself from ever seeing Twilight. In my defense, it was only the last few minutes of the movie.
In the middle of the night, I still wake up screaming in horror, reaching desperately for a bottle of Captain Morgan rum hoping against all hope that I can forget. Unfortunately, as any vet from 'nam will tell you: “What has been seen...cannot be unseen.”

And it only gets worse. A few weeks ago, I heard that the OPERA researchers who did the neutrino-moving-faster-than-light experiment goofed up. I checked this article on Wired Science to find out more. Apparently, there was a loose fiber-optic cable, which made the time stamps from the master clock wrong. The margin of error was so small that the neutrino was only clocked as arriving 60 nanoseconds before it was supposed to [3], so I guess it's true: the size of your margin of error isn't important; it's the motion of your oscillation! HAHAHA! (crickets chirping)

At least that's what people keep friend. Anyway, another experiment conducted in the same laboratory earlier in March recorded neutrinos as moving at the speed of light. According to this article on BBC News, Antonio Ereditato (the head scientist of the original controversial experiment) has resigned.

Looks like I won't be going back in time anytime soon. Now not only will I never get to see my favorite dinosaur (the ankylosaurus) in action, but to add insult to injury it looks like I've lost my Man Card forever. My dreams of happiness and salvation now lay in shambles around me.

[1] Neutrino. Retrieved April 13, 2012, from
[2] Tachyon. Retrieved April 13, 2012 from
[3] Wired Science. Faster than light neutrino results may be due to faulty cables. Retrieved April 13, 2012 from
[4] BBC News. Neutrino 'faster than light' scientist resigns. Retrieved April 13, 2012 from

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