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# Why CERNs claims for faster-than-light neutrinos is wrong

## John P. Costella, Ph.D.

Melbourne, Australia (23 September 2011)
Abstract I explain why todays claim of the OPERA group at CERN for having measured faster-than-light neutrinos is based on an incorrect statistical calculation.

A simple calculation The distribution of event times is shown in Figure 9 of the OPERA paper. To a first approximation, it is roughly uniform (rectangular) in time, with a width of about 10,500 nanoseconds; the edges are not absolutely vertical, and the top looks more like Bart Simpsons head than a straight line, but this will be a good enough approximation for the following. Now, each of the individual neutrinos that happen to be detected will have a delay (from the start of each burst) that follows this distribution. The shift in the travel time can be estimated by simply computing the mean travel time. The statistical distribution of the sum of the 16,111 arrival times could be obtained by convolving the distribution with itself 16,111 times, but we know both intuitively and by the Central Limit Theorem that it will approach a Normal distribution, with a mean and variance that are each 16,111 times the mean and variance of the above distribution; dividing by 16,111 to compute the average, the variance of the result will be 1/16,111 of the variance of the distribution. Now, the variance of a uniform distribution of width 10,500 nanoseconds is (10,500)2 /12=9,187,500 , so the variance of the calculated mean will be about 9,187,500/16,111570 , and so the standard deviation of the mean will be about 57024 nanoseconds. This is only an approximate calculation for the standard error of the estimate of the mean, but any more sophisticated calculation should give a result of at least this size. Since the OPERA group do not give any substantial details of their calculations, I dont know how they managed to get a statistical uncertainty that is almost three and a half times smaller than it should be. The level of statistical confidence they quote would require almost 12 times as many measurements: not the 16,111 events they did measure, but rather more like 193,000 events.

Conclusions From the above, the OPERA result becomes 61 ns with a statistical uncertainty of 24 ns and a systematic uncertainty of 7 ns. Even if we were to take the systematic uncertainty to be accurate, this result is now within two standard errors, which disqualifies it as a discovery, rendering it simply an interesting result. Given the much tighter bounds that we have on the neutrino speed from other sources such as Supernova 1987A, one must conclude that OPERA has simply made a mistake, albeit a highly embarrassing one which has gathered international media coverage today.