It’s a little-known spinoff of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. When you accurately measure the velocity of neutrinos, they can turn into ham!
I observed this myself. It came in the mail along with some sausages, bacon, and peach and blueberry syrup. They’re from Heather Vandagriff. Thanks, Heather!
These are the first of my winnings on some bets concerning the famous OPERA experiment that seemed to detect neutrinos going faster than light. I bet that this experiment would be shown wrong. Heather bet me some Tennessee ham against some nice cloth from Singapore.
The OPERA team announced that they’d detected faster-than-light neutrinos back in September 2011. But later, they discovered two flaws in their experimental setup.
First, a fiber optic cable wasn’t screwed in right. This made it take about 70 nanoseconds longer than it should have for a signal from a global positioning system to the so-called ‘master clock':
Since the clock got its signal late, the neutrinos seemed to show up early. Click on the picture for a more detailed explanation.
On top of this, the clock was poorly calibrated! This had a roughly opposite effect: it tended to make the neutrinos seem to show up late… but only some of the time. However, this effect was not big enough, on average, to cancel the other mistake.
The OPERA team fixed these problems and repeated the experiment in May 2012. The neutrinos came in slower than light:
• OPERA, Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam, 12 July 2012.
Three other experiments using the same neutrino source—Borexino, ICARUS, and LVD—also got the same result! For a more detailed post-mortem, with lots of references, see:
• Faster-than-light neutrino anomaly, Wikipedia.
My wife Lisa has a saying from her days in the computer business: when in doubt, check the cables.