The big question is whether OPERA researchers have discovered particles going faster than light, or whether they have been misled by an unidentified "systematic error" in their experiment that's making the time look artificially short. Chang Kee Jung, a neutrino physicist at Stony Brook University in New York, says he'd wager that the result is the product of a systematic error. "I wouldn't bet my wife and kids because they'd get mad," he says. "But I'd bet my house."
Jung, who is U.S. spokesperson for a similar experiment in Japan called T2K, says the tricky part is accurately measuring the time between when the neutrinos are born by slamming a burst of protons into a solid target and when they actually reach the detector. That timing relies on the global positioning system, and the GPS measurements can have uncertainties of tens of nanoseconds. "I would be very interested in how they got a 10-nanosecond uncertainty, because from the systematics of GPS and the electronics, I think that's a very hard number to get."
No previous measurements obviously rule out the result, says Kostelecky, who has spent 25 years developing a theory, called the standard model extension, that accounts for all possible types of violations of special relativity in the context of particle physics. "If you had told me that there was a claim of faster-than-light electrons, I would be a lot more skeptical," he says. The possibilities for neutrinos are less constrained by previous measurements, he says.