• guest post: a new physics?

    with all the recent talk about faster-than-light particles, we thought it timely to bring you selected excerpts from physicist Ben Still’s Neutrino Blog looking at how such speeds might be possible, what that means for physics and how we might have seen this all once before. illustration by Sister Arrow

    + + +

    The neutrinos released in supernova deaths of stars, such as SN1987a, a far less energetic than the neutrino beam used by the OPERA experiment. In fact, the energy of neutrinos fired from CERN to the OPERA detector in Gran Sasso, Italy, are of the order 1000 times as energetic as those seen from SN1987a.

    Einstein’s theory of relativity assumes that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, this property is known as Lorentz invariance. It is hard coded into the mathematics and it is the ratio of the squares of the mass and energy that determines how close to the speed of light a particle can travel. The smaller the ratio m2/E2 the closer to the speed of light a particle gets.

    The extremely small mass of the neutrino, means that it requires very little energy to travel at amazingly fast speeds. At an energy of 10 of MeV, neutrinos are traveling at 99.999999999998% the speed of light. The difference in speed when we raise the energy of the neutrino to 10GeV is a tiny 0.00000000001998%. If 10MeV (roughly that from SN1987a) and 10GeV (roughly the energy of OPERA) neutrinos were in a race all the way from the large Magellanic cloud, where SN1987a died spectacularly, then the 10GeV neutrinos would arrive just one tenth (0.1) of a second before the 10MeV energy neutrinos. Although the OPERA energy neutrinos would be faster, note that because of Lorentz invariance they would not travel faster than light.

    New Physics

    The only way in which this can explain faster than light neutrinos would be if a new physics, beyond our current understanding, ‘switches on’ at high previously unexplored energies. ‘Switches on’ is a phrase that theorists like. New physics may exist at scales of energy over the horizon of our previous experiences as it is in these lands that theories lie. The GeV energies used by the OPERA is indeed a new frontier in our understanding of the neutrino.

    The forerunner of theories which allow the neutrino to travel faster than light is that of quantum gravity. Here the neutrinos interact differently than light does with the backdrop of the Universe; the foamy space-time upon which Nature in played out. This difference in interaction, effectively sees particles of light – photons – and neutrinos traveling through different subsets of extra dimensions.

    I would not claim any great knowledge in quantum gravity, but I understand that as yet there is no evidence for extra dimensions or the quantum space-time foam talked of. If the OPERA results do withstand the rigorous tests and scrutiny they will most certainly be under then it may be the first hint of quantum gravity. Only time, repeat results, and a lot of hard work will tell.

    Deja vu?

    The Kamiokande-II experiment was used to detect neutrinos in a massive tank of 3000 tonnes of ultra pure water – usually around six of the trillions upon trillions of neutrinos that passed through it every day. Imagine their surprise then, when asked by optical astronomers to check their data on 23rd February 1987, in seeing a spike of 12 neutrinos in just 12.4 seconds! With so many neutrinos seen in such a short space of time there must have been a huge intensity of neutrinos passing through the Earth – far greater than that from the Sun and atmosphere combined.

    Intensity of neutrinos equates to intensity of energy, as it is the neutrinos that take energy away from the supernova. The intensity of neutrinos and energy was calculated and found to agree well with theoretical models. In these models the energy taken away from supernova accounts for 99% of the total energy emitted. The energy released in forming a neutron star comes primarily from essentially the difference in mass between the normal core and the new neutron star. This is a value that is well constrained. So I argue that if the intensity of neutrinos see just hours before SN1987a accounts for 99% of the theoretically modeled energy released, then there could not have been neutrinos missed 4.14 ±1 years previous.

    Of the three neutrino observatories that saw antineutrinos from SN1987a, only the IMB and Baksan detectors were active in 1983, both of which started operation in 1982. Kamiokande in Japan was the largest of the three but did not begin operation until the second quarter of 1983. As far as I am aware there was no neutrino spike such as that seen in 1987 – after this detection of a supernova in neutrinos was made all historical data was scrutinised and nothing appears in publication.

    The neutrinos seen by these detectors were electron antineutrinos. The reason for this is that the likelihood for electron antineutrinos to interact with the normal stuff around us is far far higher because they have the possibility to interact by inverse beta decay p + anti-νe → n + e+. One could then make the argument that perhaps the other types of neutrino traveled faster than light and then we missed them four years previous because we did not see them.

    + + +

    Ben Still is a research associate at Queen Mary, University of London and works on the Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) neutrino oscillation experiment based in Japan. You can find out more about his research at benstill.com

    Sister Arrow is an artist and illustrator working with drawing, painting and animation. Her inspirations include nature, metaphysics, sci-fi, primitive life, caves and Japan. A selection of her recent work is currently on show at Beach London.

    pop culture pulsar


    fifty years ago today, astronomers working at the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory in Cambridge discovered an unusual signal coming from deep space: a steady, rhythmic pulse unlike anything seen before. the radio signal, which repeated every 1.33 seconds, seemly oddly unnatural and was soon nicknamed LGM-1 for “Little Green Men” by its discoverers, Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish, who briefly considered but then ruled out the possibility it had originated from some far-off extraterrestrial civilisation

    read more

    all that glitters


    from the ancient Aztecs to Versace’s new Spring 2018 collection, gold has transcended fashion and culture to remain relevant across millennia. it’s one of humanity’s most enduring precious metals, but it’s taken science until this week to finally pin down exactly where it comes from

    the short answer is that gold and other heavy elements are formed by the explosions created by merging neutron stars – super dense suns that weigh twice as much as ours but are only about 10km across. the long version of how we figured this out is an amazing story of cutting-edge physics, astronomy and some timely international cooperation.

    read more in our new post for AnOther

    space age


    following on from two successful gallery exhibitions, the Vintage NASA Photographs project has just released a new set of photographs for sale, including this one of the Gemini-7 spacecraft as seen from Gemini-6. other highlights of the collection include orbital tests high above the Earth, various Apollo astronauts on the Moon and even some shots from the Voyager probes taken in the 70s and 80s

    read more

    deep space

    Screen Shot 2017-10-15 at 12.06.50 PM

    deep down in the depths of the Earth’s oceans lies a world in many ways more mysterious than outer space. blanketed by darkness and the crushing weight of billions of tons of seawater, this alien abyss is the focus of the Parley Deep Space Program, which we recently profiled for a special insert inside Dazed Magazine…

    read more

    Cassini: a spectacular end

    Wednesday 22 November 2017

    after two decades in space, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has completed its remarkable mission to Saturn. orbiting the planet and its many moons, the probe captured incredible images and made a number of new discoveries before being deliberately plunged into the gas giant to keep its moons pristine and uncontaminated. although the spacecraft is gone, researchers will be studying the rich trove of data from the mission and its grand finale for years to come

    join us hear Professor Michele Dougherty, the Principal Investigator for the magnetometer instruments for Cassini, discuss what new discoveries came from the probe’s long journey and ‘end of mission’ science

    Second Home
    68 Hanbury Street / London / E1 5JL
    free for Second Home members
    £3 for non-members – please RSVP here

    read more

    magic mushrooms


    the complex and mutually-enriching interaction between soil, plants and fungi is similar to the fertile relationship between mushrooms, mankind and art – a dynamic explored in a new show curated by Francesca Gavin that opens tomorrow night in Paris. as she explains, “this simplest of organism has been at the core of ritual, power and ideas around immortality and strength for thousands of years. contemporary artists are continually drawn towards the mushroom for its references to nature, the psychedelic and the spiritual”

    read more

    seeing science


    launched in September last year, Seeing Science is a year-long project at the University of Maryland that examines and documents the ways in which science is represented through the visual medium of photography

    with online platforms, essays, events and exhibitions, the project looks at the ways in which science is represented as an industry and as an academic subject; the people involved and its myriad interactions with our everyday life. from Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering studies of animal locomotion to NASA’s rich photography archive through to augmented reality goggles for surgeons, Seeing Science seeks to examine the various forms scientific images take, what they reveal and how they transform the disciplines they serve. Bobby Jewell spoke with the project’s curator and producer, Marvin Hieferman, to find out more

    read more



    a beautiful magazine exploring all things botanical, THE PLANT is ‘a curious observer of ordinary plants and other greenery’ put together by and featuring creative people who love plants

    Issue 9’s cover and monograph is dedicated to the humble yet irresistible geranium, with illustrations by Mélanie Dautreppe-Liermann, Ken Kagami, Jean Jullien, Mrzyk & Moriceau, Tim Lahan and Okamura Yuta. elsewhere in the issue, Brazilian artist Roberto Burle Marx talks gardens, designer Antoni Arola details his passion for seeds and seed pods, photographer Mark Borthwick explores the flora of Jamaica and super/collider provides text to accompany Kuba Ryniewicz’s incredible photos of the Danakil Depression – an arid, alien landscape in the Afar region of northern Ethiopia

    Issue 9 / £12

    read more

    deep impact

    Meteor Crater by Joe King

    in the first in a series of articles, we explore some of the places we’ll be visiting on our upcoming Total Solar Eclipse Expedition this August. first up is Meteor Crater, a massive hole in the ground in Arizona that helped scientists establish techniques for identifying meteor strikes…

    read more

    ✺ solar eclipse expedition


    14-22 August 2017

    join a small group of creative explorers as we travel across the spectacular deserts, forests and mountains of Western America to witness one of nature’s most incredible sights: a total solar eclipse

    click here to be the first to hear about upcoming fieldtrips and expeditions

    read more

    a planet of oceans


    from the depths of the Marianas Trench to the remote beaches of the Chagos Archipelago, we’ve rounded up five incredible places from around the planet in honour of World Oceans Day

    read more

    L’Indifférence Des Etoiles

    L'Indifférence Des Etoiles

    88 pages / 26 × 19 cm / hardback
    41 photographs / full colour offset
    first edition of 500

    L’Indifférence Des Etoiles (The Indifference of the Stars) is French photographer Julien Mauve’s first book. filled with juxtaposed images of deep space and our world, it is about the quest for meaning and the difficulty to live with the knowledge that we exist. somehow, the stars become a shelter for the mind and help us bear the briefness of human life

    add to cart (UK)
    add to cart (elsewhere)

    read more

    the cosmic desert


    stretching more than 7000 square kilometres across the barren deserts of Western Tunisia, Chott el Djerid is a vast salt lake that extends to the stars. an ‘endorheic’ basin, it floods in winter with rainwater and run-off from the distant Atlas Mountains, with dissolved minerals forming delicate pinks, soft greens, baby blues and other subtly beautiful colours. as spring turns to summer, crystalline structures emerge as the fierce Saharan heat turns the shallow waterways into glittering desert once more…

    read more about Chott el Djerid’s cosmic connections in our latest Where On Earth column for AnOther



    to mark the Hong Kong launch of our retrospective book, super/collider presented a two week pop-up shop at Book B, located inside the new mixed use space common room & co. in Hong Kong

    following on from this, our books have been now been added to the shop’s permanent selection, and we have more in the pipeline. next time you’re in Sham Shui Po, stop by to browse a selection of publications at the intersection of art and science…

    read more

    Time Traveller by Seana Gavin


    34x34cm glicée print
    limited edition of 50

    our collaborative collage series with artist Seana Gavin is inspired by our mutual love of vintage science books, world encyclopaedias and other educational treasures. combing the super/collider library for inspiration, Gavin’s meticulous hand-made collages reposition and reinvent Earth and space-based objects as new forms in surreal, otherworldly landscapes – strange realms devoid of a fixed time and place

    full series here

    add to cart (UK)
    add to cart (elsewhere)

    read more

    art and sci-fi in the Atacama


    in one of the highest, driest and most remote landscapes on the planet, astronomers have constructed a series of megalithic devices to peer deep into space. these complex, futuristic artefacts and the strange landscape that surrounds them are what drew French artist Caroline Corbasson to the Atacama, where she’s currently shooting a new short film. you can read more about the project in our latest article for Amuse and check out this series of exclusive location scouting photos…

    read more


    104-page retrospective book (2006-2016)
    first edition of 1000
    170mm x 240mm
    printed with vegetable-based inks on FSC-certified paper made from 100% post-consumer waste

    in 2006 we published our first fanzine and began a journey into science and culture. from the depths of interstellar space to the limitless subatomic horizons of particle physics to the most beautiful places on our planet, we’ve been privileged to spend the past decade exploring the wonders and aesthetics of science from a creative standpoint

    full of short stories and facts, ten is more than just a retrospective of our work. it’s a visual record of where science has taken us all in the last decade – told through 100 beautiful images from the worlds of astronomy, chemistry, mineralogy, physics, ecology, biology… and beyond

    add to cart (UK)
    add to cart (elsewhere)

    read more

    Platular ring by Noemi Klein

    Platular ring by Noemi Klein

    inspired by the intersection of earthly geology and crystalline geometry, Noemi Klein crafts intricate pieces in a range of fine metals. in her Epoch 5 collection, geological structures in the form of precious mineral clusters crystallise the natural environment and provide a sharp physical alternative to the ethereal and sensory world of the eye

    add to cart (UK)
    add to cart (elsewhere)

    view all items from Noemi Klein

    read more

    the in sound from way out

    GOES satellite

    researchers at Queen Mary University in London are inviting filmmakers and creatives to experiment with sounds from space, as part of a new competition launched today. to find out more about these cosmic noises, we caught up with project lead Dr Martin Archer…

    read more

    islands of ice


    in our latest column for AnOther we overfly the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, which is about to unleash one of the largest icebergs the Earth has ever seen