Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 01:00 on 30-09-2011, Andy G
And it was 700 km through rock! For some reason I had it in my head that they had fired neutrinos down a long (albeit not 700 km long) tunnel.

at 00:00 on 30-09-2011, Robinson L
Thanks for clarifying, Dan.

I've tried on several occasions to cultivate a robust understanding of quantum physics, but so far, it eludes me. I know that faster-than-light travel (at least for some things) isn't contradicted by general relativity, but from what little I know as an outsider, there's no actual proof at the moment that it does happen, just speculation.

As you say, it's entirely possible that this observation could be due to a mistake, but I wanted to tease out the implications if it turns out not to be. Again, thanks for the discussion.
at 23:55 on 29-09-2011, Alasdair Czyrnyj
This show seems...familiar, somehow. Can't quite put my finger on it.
at 23:37 on 29-09-2011, Dan H
Two meters is a fairly larger error, but it's over 700km, which adds up to a difference of about 0.0003%. It *probably* isn't anything as trivial as just getting the distance wrong, but measuring a distance of several hundred miles to plus or minus a meter is harder than you might think (look at it this way - what's the resolution on your GPS like?) Don't forget that major international engineering projects have been screwed up by things like imperial-metric conversions before now.

I'm not saying it's definitely nothing, just that there is a very, very good chance that somewhere somebody got something very slightly wrong. Measuring things accurate to one part in a million is really quite hard.
at 23:29 on 29-09-2011, Andy G
"... if the team had measured their distances wrong by as little as two meters, that would explain pretty much everything ..."

Isn't two meters quite a large measurement error? I know it was over a very long distance, but surely the dimensions of that distance were fairly tightly controlled?
at 23:12 on 29-09-2011, Dan H
So ... how 'bout them faster-than-light neutrinos?

I'm cautiously interested, but think it's important to remember that pretty much all the news coverage has been wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

Assuming it's *not* just a systematic error (which it might very well be - these things only arrived six billionths of a second early, and if the team had measured their distances wrong by as little as two meters, that would explain pretty much everything) then this has some profound consequences for high-energy physics, but it *doesn't* disprove relativity (any more than relativity disproves classical mechanics, or the existence of protons disproves the existence of atoms).

There are basically two key things to remember.

Firstly, Special Relativity isn't based on the assumption that nothing travels faster than light speed, it's based on the assumption that the speed of light is the same in all inertial frames of reference. That's a very different thing.

Secondly, the notion that some things could travel faster than light isn't as outside the realms of special relativity as you might think. It's possible, for example, for the phase velocity of a wave to be faster than light, and I seem to recall that some interstellar phenomena appear to propagate faster than light as well.

So, yeah, if it pans out, it's going to lead to some exciting new physics, but it's "exciting" in the sense that neutrino oscillations are exciting (the actual experiment they were doing when they made this discovery is a *really funky* one that might explain why the universe exists).
at 20:25 on 29-09-2011, Arthur B
Lemme think about it and I'll get back to you yesterday.
at 20:00 on 29-09-2011, Robinson L
So ... how 'bout them faster-than-light neutrinos?
at 09:52 on 29-09-2011, Arthur B
I think he's taken the measure of the consensus reasonably astutely. He's a smart cookie.
at 07:04 on 29-09-2011, Shim
Maybe my vocal and unrelenting loathing has coloured Robinson's perception?
at 00:39 on 29-09-2011, Arthur B
Hey, I really liked Kevin.

Every other character in that book? Eh, not so much.
at 00:23 on 29-09-2011, Wardog
There were some bitter damn wars over Kevin. At one point I think Arthur and I nearly come to blows ... and then he shot us all.
at 00:17 on 29-09-2011, Rami
I'm given to understand those who liked Kevin were in the minority. A minority I heartily support, by the way, as I really liked it too.
at 00:16 on 29-09-2011, Robinson L
My mistake. I've only listened to the first episode (both parts) so far, and I guess the overall impression I got was one of dislike ...
at 22:09 on 28-09-2011, Wardog
Hey, I LOVED Kevin, and the movie looks *perfect*. Except for Franklin, he is crap. But otherwise :)
at 22:02 on 28-09-2011, Robinson L
So is everyone already familiar with this story about the possible discovery of faster-than-light particles? And if so, what do people think about it?

Also, the US-based leftist publication In These Times recently hosted an article by Tiger Beatdown creator Sady Doyle on Naffissatou Diallo's Ugly Choice. Trawling the ITT archives also brings up a couple of other articles by Doyle (available here.)

re: Wuthering Heights
I notice that one of the most prominent suggested videos for that page is the new film version of the TeXt Factor reviled We Need to Talk About Kevin. Thoughts?
at 07:00 on 28-09-2011, Shim
@Kyra: also a good description. The thing is, I don't remember a single person in it ever behaving or reacting to anything in a remotely sensible or credible way, and I might forgive the lovesick teenagers but the others have no excuse. Basically it has all the hallmarks of a book written by someone whose sole experience of life was being stuck in a house with immediate family, all of whom were slightly mad and equally clueless about the real world, and dependent on melodrama for their education.

(I appreciate this is probably not a totally accurate depiction of her life)

@Arthur: trouble is, they're not believable enough characters to work for me as either.
at 03:34 on 28-09-2011, Cammalot
(Valse, I am blocked from answering your PM.)

Well, behold! And despair! For this is the game that he wrought.

The name itself (in the URL) bodes...
at 02:25 on 28-09-2011, Michal
Hey, remember how Theo "Vox Day" Beale keeps on referencing his expertise as a game designer?

Well, behold! And despair! For this is the game that he wrought.
at 23:24 on 27-09-2011, Arthur B
I find it works well as horror, or as a particularly melodramatic psychological thriller.
at 23:12 on 27-09-2011, Wardog
I don't find it laughable so much as ... well ... "pile of shite" is a bit harsh but only a bit. Being in Love: Making You A Total Tit Since 1847.
at 23:11 on 27-09-2011, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Well, I feel a little bad about this, but I've decided to drop The Half-Made World after 310 pages. Had a great premise: a pulpish fantasy pastiche of the American West that has been the site of a centuries-long war between the forces of The Gun (a collection of Chaos-minded gunslingers armed with demonic pistols) and The Line (an expansionist, Zamyatin-esque hyper-industrialized combine centered around gigantic, possibly divine steam locomotives*), but at the end of the day there wasn't enough plot, character, or really compelling description (though the description does get very good in places) to keep me going. It also didn't help that in any conflict between order and chaos, I always side with order. ALWAYS.

Anywho, I'm off to read a forgotten book discussing Brezhev-era communism by a forgotten Soviet dissident. Ah, good times.

*And no, said locomotives were not named Thomas, Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Percy, Toby, Duck, Donald, Douglas, and/or Oliver. But they should have been.
at 21:07 on 27-09-2011, Shim
I thought the book was fairly laughable, so... not so torn.