The Role of Skepticism

Brokk Toggerson

Sometimes, even if the result is “statistically significant” the results are still met with skepticism, even from the researchers themselves. As astronomer Carl Sagan put it, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” A good example of this is the result from 2011 which measured neutrinos (a type of very light sub-atomic particle) of traveling faster-than-light. At the presentation of the results, the spokesperson for the collaboration said, “We made a measurement and we believe our measurement is sound. Now it is up to the community to scrutinize it,” and also “We are not in a hurry. We are saying, tell us what we did wrong, redo the measurement if you can.”

Other groups repeated the experiment and found no evidence for neutrinos traveling faster than light. Ultimately, the anomaly was traced to a connection in the fiber optic system (although more complex than the “loose cable” sometimes mentioned in the press!) and the result was retracted.


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Physics 132 Lab Manual by Brokk Toggerson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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