What false hints of new physics were most notable?

In summary: The Pioneer anomaly was notable because it was one of the first hints of the existence of dark matter and was one of the first convincing demonstrations that space exploration should continue even if there was no evidence of intelligent life elsewhere.4. The discovery of gravitational waves.In February 2015, two separate teams of physicists announced that they had observed a new form of gravitational waves.This was notable because this was the first time that gravitational waves had been observed and because it was predicted by general relativity that they should exist. Although more research is needed to confirm that these waves are indeed caused by the merger of two black holes, this
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ohwilleke
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Sometimes experimental or observational evidence from credible physicists points to new physics and then turns out to be wrong due to statistical flukes, experimental error or a theoretical analysis mistake.

What cases of this happening do you find most notable, what showed that the hints were unfounded, and why do you find them most notable? I'll start with four, to which you can add your own (or which you can discuss in their own right).

Also, what lessons should be learn from these experiences as new hints of BSM physics come up over time?

Ultimately, I find that these false starts strengthen my confidence in the scientific process, because they were doggedly analyzed and ultimately debunked, suggesting that the scientific community is appropriately skeptical even in the face of announcements from authoritative sources.

(For clarity, this thread is not about cases where experiments actually established what constituted new physics at the time or currently unresolved anomalies. It is only about new physics "fails" that at first looked like proof of new physics.)

1. Opera's announcement that it had observed superluminal neutrinos.

In 2011, the Opera collaboration had detectors at a collider and then another detect hundreds of kilometers away. By coordinating observations from those detectors and using precision clocks, they reported that neutrinos seemed to be moving slightly faster than the speed of light, which is prohibited by Special Relativity. The problem in their instrumentation was revealed nine months later.

This was notable because it was a widely reported result of a major big physics collaboration and went to the very fundamental laws of general and special relativity illustrating how the physics community might respond if a real breakthrough did happen. In the end, it turns out to be due to a wiring problem in the measurement equipment.

2. The purported discovery of cold fusion.

In 1989, Martin Fleischmann (then one of the world's leading electrochemists) and Stanley Pons reported that their electrolysis-like setup was generating modest amounts of net energy, which they attributed to a low temperature fusion process.

This was notable because is was proposed by respected scientists despite a lack of any well articulated theoretical basis why it should happen, was widely publicized, and would have had profound economic effects if true. The result was not replicated (something that should have been easy to do in their table top setup) and when studied more carefully did not show signs of fusion byproducts. Within a few months the discovery was discredited.

In some ways, this is the most puzzling of the four incidents that I list here, because the scientists involved knew that they were making extraordinary claims, but did not exercise the extreme care that they should have to make sure that their evidence was similarly extraordinary before announcing it.

It may be that the commercial potential of this claimed discovery put pressure on Fleishmann and Pons to announce their results early in the face of the likelihood that someone would leak this inexpensive to carry out process, potentially depriving them of an inventor's profits from the discovery. The other three examples that I cite had no real commercial application in the short to medium term, even if they were true, and were difficult or impossible for more than a handful of research collaborations to replicate or stumble upon in the meantime.

3. The Pioneer anomaly.

A lot of the research discovering and than explaining this anomaly came from high prestige and authority NASA scientists. As the linked Wikipedia article summarizes:

The Pioneer anomaly or Pioneer effect was the observed deviation from predicted accelerations of the Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spacecraft after they passed about 20 astronomical units (3×109 km; 2×109 mi) on their trajectories out of the Solar System. The apparent anomaly was a matter of much interest for many years, but has been subsequently explained by an anisotropic radiation pressure caused by the spacecraft 's heat loss.
. . .

The two spacecraft were launched in 1972 and 1973 and the anomalous acceleration was first noticed as early as 1980, but not seriously investigated until 1994. The last communication with either spacecraft was in 2003, but analysis of recorded data continues.

Various explanations, both of spacecraft behavior and of gravitation itself, were proposed to explain the anomaly. Over the period 1998–2012, one particular explanation became accepted.
. . .

By 2012 several papers by different groups, all reanalyzing the thermal radiation pressure forces inherent in the spacecraft , showed that a careful accounting of this explains the entire anomaly, and thus the cause was mundane and did not point to any new phenomena or need for a different physical paradigm. The most detailed analysis to date, by some of the original investigators, explicitly looks at two methods of estimating thermal forces, then states "We find no statistically significant difference between the two estimates and conclude that once the thermal recoil force is properly accounted for, no anomalous acceleration remains."

Thus, in this case the measurements showing the anomaly were accurate but the theoretical analysis used to determine the predicted value missed one very subtle point.

While this was a less high profile issue in the popular press than Opera's superluminal neutrinos or Cold Fusion, it too went to very fundamental points of the law of General Relativity in a very clean solar system test never before conducted where there was anomaly that was correctly measured and statistically significant.

Also, while the other two were ruled out in a matter of months, this anomaly wasn't conclusively explained for 32 years, and it took four years of serious investigation before the result that ultimately came to be accepted was proposed.

4. The 750GeV diphoton excess.

In 2015, the LHC saw events which pointed to a new particle with a mass of 750 GeV in the very clean diphoton channel in which the Higgs boson was discovered, and many new physics theories, such as "two Higgs doublet" theories predicted a Higgs boson-like particle for which that mass would have been plausible. It turned out that this was a statistical fluke and when more data was collected in 2016, the combined data actually disfavored the existence of this resonance.

This is very much an "inside baseball" incident that attracted a massive rush of papers from physicists but received much less attention in the general public. But, it is particularly notable because the high prestige physics collaborations in question in this case made no experimental or theoretical mistakes, they just happened to be suckered by a fluke of random chance.

Also, it is hard to fault the physicists in the "gold rush" of papers written to explain this phenomena, because the practical reality in the scientific community is that to receive credit for making important discoveries, you have to articulate theories describing anomalies in published papers long before they reach the generally accepted five sigma discovery threshold. So, you have little choice but to take the risk that an anomaly will turn out to be a fluke if you want to have any hope of ever being considered an important figure in discovering BSM phenomena.
 
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  • #3
I would say the discovery of the pentaquark by LEPs was one of the more important one for insiders. Simply b/c it was plausible theoretically and indeed had been predicted at that mass range earlier. It also had a very large local significance (4.6 sigma) and fractioned a good amount of the community. It was thus interesting both in the sociology as well as a cautionary tale for experimentalists.
 
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  • #4
This is a nice list. I can think of a few others:

Supraluminal motions in quasars: In the 1970's several quasars were observed with transverse motions that were much faster than the speed of light. Many people claimed that these were proof that these objects couldn't be at the cosmological distances that were claimed. It was eventually understood that if the motion is directed near the line of sight, relativistic time dilation can lead to apparent transverse motions much greater than the speed of light.

N-Rays: Further in the past, the N-Ray saga is a great cautionary tale about the dangers of relying on subjective perception as opposed to objective measurements.
 
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  • #5
LEP was not the only accelerator where experiments thought to see pentaquarks, HERA had three as well for example (experiments, not pentaquarks). Wikipedia has some more.

Not a false hint of new physics, but a false hint of actual physics: Searching the top quark was done in many different decay modes ("channels") together, with just a few top events expected per channel. At this time Monte Carlo simulations were not very reliable, and scientists sometimes used the observed events to define their selections. From a modern perspective it is obvious what happened: Every group made a selection that kept their favorite events in and obvious background events out. Even for the same type of object the experiments had completely different selection criteria. At some point the scientists conceded that this was not a very scientific approach, and made the selection criteria uniform - after a lot of fighting because some groups lost their events and the quoted significance went down. It was then discovered with a larger dataset.
Today it is standard practice to develop the selection independent of the physics you are interested in.

Another false hint of SM physics: Towards the end of LEP the machine energy was increased more and more in the hope to find the Higgs boson. Some LEP scientists claimed to see a hint of it right at the edge of the achieved energy, corresponding to a Higgs mass of 115 GeV. It was a very controversial claim, and not enough to keep LEP running any longer. Today we know there was no actual signal.
 
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  • #6
Cold Fusion was more or less the prototypical example in my lfetime.

Not that it was really important, but a few years back colleagues and I had three data sets that seemed to show that the force of air drag was not proportional to air density in a case where proportionality should have been near perfect within our experimental uncertainty which was about 1%. Having learned the lesson of cold fusion, rather than rush to publish, we endeavored to reduce the error and perform the experiment again. When we repeated the experiment, we found agreement between the force of drag and air density to within our experimental error.

Science is a tentative business, and the science of error bars is even more tentative. There are often assumptions made when estimating uncertainties that are reasonable and probable given the available information, but often there is simply insufficient information available to rigorously prove these assumptions. I tend to view error bars as the best available estimate of the uncertainties given the available information at the time rather than anything written in stone.

I have often wondered, "What is the uncertainty on those error bars?" This is a difficult question for which there is no rigorous and generally applicable answer. My ad hoc approach is to double the error bars in my mind and consider whether the import or impact of a given experimental result changes. Justification? 30 years of experience in a broad ranges of disciplines and experiments showing that while errors were occasionally larger than the best available estimates of the uncertainty, it was rare for the uncertainty to be off by more than a factor of two if the estimation process was reasonable.
 
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  • #7
Another one was BICEP2 which claimed to have seen primordial gravitational waves in the cosmic background radiation, but was actually a victim of sloppy data borrowing from someone else's conference paper. As the link explains, there is now a book out about the incident.
 
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  • #8
Dr. Courtney said:
My ad hoc approach is to double the error bars in my mind and consider whether the import or impact of a given experimental result changes. Justification? 30 years of experience in a broad ranges of disciplines and experiments showing that while errors were occasionally larger than the best available estimates of the uncertainty, it was rare for the uncertainty to be off by more than a factor of two if the estimation process was reasonable.

Often this makes good sense. On the other hand, at the LHC, the error bars for electroweak physics are consistently overestimated with result after result producing measurements that are way too good for the claimed error bars.
 
  • #9
mfb said:
Not a false hint of new physics, but a false hint of actual physics

I was there for the top quark discovery and this is not how I remember it.
 
  • #10
This is how Boaz Klima (DØ at that time) describes it. I was not there, I can only write what I hear from others.
 
  • #11
A great historical example is the hunt for the planet Vulcan (https://news.nationalgeographic.com...ry-astronomy-theory-of-relativity-ngbooktalk/)

Essentially, astronomer's saw that Mercury's orbit did not match the predictions of Newtonian mechanics. Scientists therefore hypothesized that another undiscovered planet must be influencing the orbit of Mercury. We now know that mercury's orbit does not match the predictions of Newtonian physics because of special general relativity. Special General relativity accurately explains Mercury's orbit, "proving" that Vulcan does not exist.

This is one of the cases where scientists made an observation that did not fit theoretical expectations and it turns out that the theory was wrong (not the observation). While scientists were successfully able to predict the existence of Neptune solely by relying on calculations, the example of Vulcan shows that discoveries made purely by computation always need to be confirmed by direct observation/experiment because you never know if the underlying math is wrong.
 
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  • #13
Ygggdrasil said:
Essentially, astronomer's saw that Mercury's orbit did not match the predictions of Newtonian mechanics. Scientists therefore hypothesized that another undiscovered planet must be influencing the orbit of Mercury. We now know that mercury's orbit does not match the predictions of Newtonian physics because of special relativity. Special relativity accurately explains Mercury's orbit, "proving" that Vulcan does not exist.
General relativity. Special relativity does not include gravity.
 
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  • #14
I remember in the 80´s my father, who worked in NMR and MRI at the time, got a fax of a pre-print paper regarding memory effects on water. Thermal fax paper was expensive then, I remember him being upset at the waste of money...
Found it on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_memory. Quote: "Benveniste was a French immunologist who sought to demonstrate the plausibility of homeopathic remedies "independently of homeopathic interests" in a major scientific journal.[3]"
 
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  • #15
The first item on your list does not belong on the list! The reason is because any physics undergraduate with paper and pencil ca prove in five minutes than faster than light travel or communication is impossible.

Read the following websites.

http://www.askamathematician.com/2012/07/q-how-does-instantaneous-communication-violate-causality/

https://physics.stackexchange.com/q...ith-speed-greater-than-light-breaks-causality

There are some things which in some sense could be said to involve something going faster than light, such as the EPR paradox, so-called "spooky action at a distance", or the expansion of the Universe, but none of these things would allow you to send a message faster than light.

In special relativity, a particle moving FTL in one frame of reference will be traveling back in time in another. FTL travel or communication should therefore also give the possibility of traveling back in time or sending messages into the past. If such time travel is possible, you would be able to go back in time and change the course of history by killing your own grandfather.

Let's say neutrinos went faster than light. You could, by turning the machine on and off, use Morse code to send a message backwards in time, and the message could read "Do not send the message", so if you don't send the message, then you do send it, and if you do send it, then you don't send it. Since that's a paradox. that means neutrinos could not go faster than light.

There is a difference between a statement being factually wrong, and a statement being meaningless. The statement that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a volume of three cubic inches is factually wrong. The statement that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a volume of -45 cubic feet is meaningless because the volume of an object can not be a negative number. To claim that the velocity of a neutrino could be faster than light is a similar meaningless statement.

Let's say that a boy in 8th grade was given a math homework problem where he was supposed to calculate the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and he arrived at an answer of -45 cubic feet. Well, he knows he must have made a mistake since the volume of an object can not be a negative number. He checks his work over and over again, and can not find his mistake. Then he shows his work to other people, and asks them to help find where he made his mistake.

Let's say that this story was then picked up by the Associated Press, and hundreds of journalists wrote articles announcing that the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza is actually -45 cubic feet, apparently unaware that the volume of an object can not be a negative number.

This is the same as what actually happened. One newspaper printed the ludicrous headline "Roll Over Einstein". The problem is that the average non-scientist does not realize that traveling faster than light in one frame is traveling backwards in time in another frame, and instead they imagine it as like you're driving down the road, and you pass a sign that says "65 mph", but despite that, you COULD put your foot on the accelerator and go faster, and hope that you are not pulled over by the cops, so they imagine that maybe sneaky neutrinos are breaking the rules. That is wrong!

It is easy to prove than faster than light communication is impossible because it would violate causality. You should not have included that in your list!
 
  • #16
Hi David,
That was a thorough discussion on the existing theory. Thanks.
But if one ignores potential new observations that contradict existing theory, then we would be missing an important step in the scientific process...
Anyway, the original point was: "Sometimes experimental or observational evidence from credible physicists points to new physics..."
Naturally experimenters should try to find explanations for what they observe that doesn´t fit the theory, but hey, if they can´t figure it out, publish it...
Cheers and good ´sciencing´ everyone.
RP

David Neves said:
The first item on your list does not belong on the list! The reason is because any physics undergraduate with paper and pencil ca prove in five minutes than faster than light travel or communication is impossible.
 
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  • #17
I agree that we should not ignore new observations that contradict existing theory. However, there is a difference between new observations that contradict existing theory and a claim that leads to a paradoxical conclusion.
 
  • #18
David Neves said:
I agree that we should not ignore new observations that contradict existing theory. However, there is a difference between new observations that contradict existing theory and a claim that leads to a paradoxical conclusion.

There are a number of paradoxes out there already when viewed in the context of the laws of physics believed to apply at the time of their discovery. For example, the Bell Inequalities of QM, or special relativity's conclusions viewed via classical Newtonian mechanics.

There were hundreds of superluminal neutrino papers out there trying to resolve the apparently paradox. People are creative. The resolutions of the apparent paradoxes could have worked if the data had held up. You can be skeptical of new physics experimental results, but the fact that they create a paradox within the scope of existing physics is no reason to ignore them.

For example, if our determinations of the speed of light in a vacuum were actually measuring the speed of light in a non-vacuum medium (call it aether for old times sake) that neutrinos did not interact with, that we had previously not be known to exist, that would resolve the paradox. It would do so because Lorentz invariance relates to the maximum speed of light in a vacuum, not the lower maximum speed of light in some medium. For example, the fact that it is possible to observe something traveling at faster than the speed of light in water causes no difficulties conceptually.

As long as there is some speed "c" that is maximal and used to calculate Lorentz transformations, you can still avoid causality problems and paradoxes. it doesn't terribly matter if it is photons or something else that travels at that highest possible speed, or for that matter if nothing reaches the asymptotic peak speed because all fundamental particles believed to be massless actually have some negligible mass. Similarly, if photons, contrary to widespread belief, actually had negligible mass, there would be no problem.

Similarly, a parts per million scale difference in the absolute magnitude of "c" is really not such a big deal conceptually. Notable yes, but not Earth shaking.

Obviously, none of that happened. But, experiments that contradict existing physical laws sometimes are occasions for progress, and abandonment of an old paradigm.
 
  • #19
David Neves said:
The first item on your list does not belong on the list! The reason is because any physics undergraduate with paper and pencil ca prove in five minutes than faster than light travel or communication is impossible.
Yes, the undergraduate can prove it, by assuming that the theory of relativity (in its standard form) is valid. Every proof in theoretical physics or pure mathematics depends on some assumptions (axioms) that one didn't prove. In this case, the assumption is theory of relativity. In principle, it is logically possible that theory of relativity is violated in some cases, perhaps with neutrinos. An experimentalist has a right to question any standard assumption of theoretical physics, including the assumption of the theory of relativity. Therefore, the first item absolutely deserves to be on the list.
 
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  • #20
I was wondering if there has been any more study on the 240 GeV Higgs like fluctuation. Or does the LHC need to collect more data. It would be interesting to see a list of scientific discoveries that were great, but originally were trashed.
 
  • #21
Copernicuson said:
I was wondering if there has been any more study on the 240 GeV Higgs like fluctuation.
This one?
Corresponding search at CMS - with a slight undershoot at 240 GeV and 700 GeV.
Just a statistical fluctuation.

Both experiments now have a bit more than twice these datasets recorded, but updates are not very likely before late 2018 or 2019 (then using the full run 2 dataset).
 
  • #22
David Neves said:
The first item on your list does not belong on the list! The reason is because any physics undergraduate with paper and pencil ca prove in five minutes than faster than light travel or communication is impossible.

Read the following websites.

http://www.askamathematician.com/2012/07/q-how-does-instantaneous-communication-violate-causality/

https://physics.stackexchange.com/q...ith-speed-greater-than-light-breaks-causality

There are some things which in some sense could be said to involve something going faster than light, such as the EPR paradox, so-called "spooky action at a distance", or the expansion of the Universe, but none of these things would allow you to send a message faster than light.

In special relativity, a particle moving FTL in one frame of reference will be traveling back in time in another. FTL travel or communication should therefore also give the possibility of traveling back in time or sending messages into the past. If such time travel is possible, you would be able to go back in time and change the course of history by killing your own grandfather.

Let's say neutrinos went faster than light. You could, by turning the machine on and off, use Morse code to send a message backwards in time, and the message could read "Do not send the message", so if you don't send the message, then you do send it, and if you do send it, then you don't send it. Since that's a paradox. that means neutrinos could not go faster than light.

There is a difference between a statement being factually wrong, and a statement being meaningless. The statement that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a volume of three cubic inches is factually wrong. The statement that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a volume of -45 cubic feet is meaningless because the volume of an object can not be a negative number. To claim that the velocity of a neutrino could be faster than light is a similar meaningless statement.

Let's say that a boy in 8th grade was given a math homework problem where he was supposed to calculate the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza, and he arrived at an answer of -45 cubic feet. Well, he knows he must have made a mistake since the volume of an object can not be a negative number. He checks his work over and over again, and can not find his mistake. Then he shows his work to other people, and asks them to help find where he made his mistake.

Let's say that this story was then picked up by the Associated Press, and hundreds of journalists wrote articles announcing that the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza is actually -45 cubic feet, apparently unaware that the volume of an object can not be a negative number.

This is the same as what actually happened. One newspaper printed the ludicrous headline "Roll Over Einstein". The problem is that the average non-scientist does not realize that traveling faster than light in one frame is traveling backwards in time in another frame, and instead they imagine it as like you're driving down the road, and you pass a sign that says "65 mph", but despite that, you COULD put your foot on the accelerator and go faster, and hope that you are not pulled over by the cops, so they imagine that maybe sneaky neutrinos are breaking the rules. That is wrong!

It is easy to prove than faster than light communication is impossible because it would violate causality. You should not have included that in your list!
But despite your excellent analysis, it was widely reported at the time, and so should remain on the list.
 
  • #23
I'd like to include: 1. Magnetic monopoles and 2. Proton decay
 
  • #25
mfb said:
Where were the false hints?

I don't know of any hints of proton decay. But there are several claims of monopole detection.

In the '70's Price claimed the observation of a monopole in cosmic rays. Alverez proposed it was actually the decay chain of a platinum nucleus and Price retracted his claim. In the '80's Cabrera claimed the "Valentines Day Monopole." His result hasn't been reproduced.

And Sheldon Cooper claimed to have observed monopoles at the North Pole, but the "data" was his colleagues switching a can opener on and off.
 
  • #26
Ygggdrasil said:
A great historical example is the hunt for the planet Vulcan (https://news.nationalgeographic.com...ry-astronomy-theory-of-relativity-ngbooktalk/)

Essentially, astronomer's saw that Mercury's orbit did not match the predictions of Newtonian mechanics. Scientists therefore hypothesized that another undiscovered planet must be influencing the orbit of Mercury. We now know that mercury's orbit does not match the predictions of Newtonian physics because of special general relativity. Special General relativity accurately explains Mercury's orbit, "proving" that Vulcan does not exist.
That's oversimplified. Vulcan (hypothetical planet) - Wikipedia has more detail on this hypothetical intra-Mercurian planet. Over much of the nineteenth century, several astronomers claimed to have observed some intra-Mercurian planet transit across the Sun, and some astronomers claimed to have seen it in total solar eclipses. However, it was hard to get a coherent orbit out of those observations, and many astronomers were not successful in making similar observations. So by the late 19th cy., astronomers had become skeptical about its existence, and some astronomers started speculating about modifying the law of gravity.

Einstein's General Relativity was, it must be admitted, a modified-gravity theory.
 
  • #27
most notable were the hidden dimensions.. Lisa Randall RS1 AND RS2 were nowhere to be found..

also the so called subquarks (preons).. is it not LHC has cornered them to almost non-existence? since ohwilleke claimed to haved authored Preon entry in the wikipedia.. could he give us insight into the subquark side of it?
 
  • #28
Azurite said:
most notable were the hidden dimensions.. Lisa Randall RS1 AND RS2 were nowhere to be found..

also the so called subquarks (preons).. is it not LHC has cornered them to almost non-existence? since ohwilleke claimed to haved authored Preon entry in the wikipedia.. could he give us insight into the subquark side of it?

I'd chime in on that topic in another thread, but it is off topic in this one.
 
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  • #29
Some people here are misunderstanding the original question. One person said that faster than light travel should be included in a list of things physicists initially believed but were later disproved because it was "widely reported", including a newspaper headline that said "Roll Over Einstein". That should not be your criterion. A lot of crazy stuff is "widely reported". It was "widely reported" that an astronaut's DNA changed.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/03/scott-kelly-dna-fake-news/555794/

Or other silly nonsense such as you can read here.

https://gizmodo.com/the-worst-reported-science-stories-of-2017-1821271490

Other people misinterpreted the original question to mean "things predicted by current theories that have not yet been observed because they are very difficult to detect". One person included proton decay, even though if you include supersymmetry, the lifetime of the proton would be 10^23 years, so it would extremely difficult to distinguish from the background so you would not expect a five sigma discovery. Another person mentioned extra dimensions. Well obviously, extra dimensions, predicted by string theory, have not been ruled out. They would be very difficult to detect. The earliest simplest version of the Randall Sundrum Braneworld model was just a starting point for later more advanced realistic models in the same way than Alan Guth's earliest model of inflationary cosmology, which he knew could not be literally true in its earliest form, was superseded by more realistic models which are now assumed to be true. Braneworld cosmology remains an active vibrant arena for current research. The fact that we have not directly detected extra dimensions yet is not surprising because they would be very difficult to detect. There are lots of things that are predicted but have not yet been observed, but have not yet been ruled out. We have not yet detected neutrinoless double beta decay, but that's not surprising because it would very difficult to detect.

The original question was not asking for examples that were always known to be wrong, or are not yet known to be wrong, but instead examples that were initially thought to be not wrong but were later proven to be wrong.
 
  • #30
Another one, although not a very famous one: The hyperfine puzzle in Bismuth-209.

The observed hyperfine splitting in a Bismuth-209 atom stripped of all but one of its electrons was 7 sigma from the QED prediction for its hyperfine splitting (i.e. basically the gaps between different discrete energy states of the electron).

Why?

Because the QED prediction overlooked a factor that turned out to be important.

Calculating the hyperfine splitting from the experimental data requires an accurate value for the nuclear magnetic moment of bismuth-209. Nörtershäuser along with Darmstadt’s Michael Vogel and colleagues used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to measure the magnetic moment of the nucleus. This was done by placing an aqueous solution of bismuth nitrate in a powerful superconducting magnet and measuring its radio-frequency spectrum.

An important challenge in making this measurement is accounting for the effect of the bismuth nitrate solution on the local magnetic field that is felt by the bismuth nuclei. This was worked-out by Skripnikov and colleagues, who did sophisticated quantum-mechanical calculations that revealed that the effect on the local field was much greater than expected.

When the new value of the magnetic moment was used to calculate the hyperfine splitting, the result was in good agreement with the original experiment.
 
  • #31
David Neves said:
The first item on your list does not belong on the list! The reason is because any physics undergraduate with paper and pencil ca prove in five minutes than faster than light travel or communication is impossible.
This proves only that faster than light travel or communication is impossible according to existing, established theory. It cannot, even in principle, prove that the experiment was wrong. The question was about experiments which suggested new physics.

By the way, your links do not even establish that it is incompatible with established physics, but only with established metaphysics. So,
http://www.askamathematician.com/2012/07/q-how-does-instantaneous-communication-violate-causality/ writes:

"But, if you accept the basic tenet of relativity, that everything no matter how it’s moving is on equal footing, then one person’s instantaneous signal is merely traveling very fast to someone else, or even slightly backward in time to another someone else." But, sorry, this means "if you accept the metaphysics of the spacetime interpretation of SR and reject, for whatever reasons, the Lorentz ether interpretation of the same SR".

In special relativity, a particle moving FTL in one frame of reference will be traveling back in time in another. FTL travel or communication should therefore also give the possibility of traveling back in time or sending messages into the past. If such time travel is possible, you would be able to go back in time and change the course of history by killing your own grandfather.
No. It would give this possibility only if there is no preferred frame. The FTL communication would have a preferred frame, and therefore violate the equivalence principle. But so what? In the strong form - that there is no real difference - it is a metaphysical belief. In the weaker, physical form there is no observable effect which allows to distinguish them. But new physics could give new observable effects which would allow to distinguish them. The FTL communication would be simply new physics, and give us an observational possibility to identify a preferred frame which is now hidden from observation.
There is a difference between a statement being factually wrong, and a statement being meaningless. The statement that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a volume of three cubic inches is factually wrong. The statement that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a volume of -45 cubic feet is meaningless because the volume of an object can not be a negative number. To claim that the velocity of a neutrino could be faster than light is a similar meaningless statement.
The only meaningless statement would be a combination of "there exists FTL communication" and "there is nothing violating Lorentz symmetry".

So, the superluminal neutrinos have their place in the list.
 

Related to What false hints of new physics were most notable?

1. What is meant by "false hints" of new physics?

"False hints" of new physics refer to experimental or observational results that initially appear to support the existence of new or unknown physical phenomena, but are later found to be incorrect or misleading. These results can lead scientists down the wrong path and waste time and resources in the pursuit of new discoveries.

2. Can you provide an example of a false hint of new physics?

One notable example is the "faster-than-light neutrino" anomaly observed in 2011 by the OPERA experiment at CERN. The experiment initially reported that neutrinos were traveling faster than the speed of light, which would have challenged the foundations of modern physics. However, it was later discovered that the results were due to a faulty measurement caused by a loose cable, and the faster-than-light neutrinos were a false hint of new physics.

3. Why are false hints of new physics important?

False hints of new physics are important because they can lead to significant changes in our understanding of the universe and drive scientific progress. While they may ultimately turn out to be incorrect, they can spark new ideas and theories that may lead to genuine breakthroughs in our understanding of the world around us.

4. How do scientists determine if a hint of new physics is false?

Scientists use a variety of methods to determine if a hint of new physics is false. This can include performing additional experiments to confirm or refute the initial results, analyzing data more carefully, and considering alternative explanations for the observed phenomenon. Peer review and replication of results by other scientists also play a crucial role in determining the validity of potential new discoveries.

5. What are the consequences of false hints of new physics?

The consequences of false hints of new physics can vary. On one hand, they can lead to wasted time and resources as scientists pursue avenues that turn out to be incorrect. On the other hand, they can also lead to new discoveries and advancements in scientific understanding, even if the initial results were incorrect. Ultimately, false hints of new physics serve as a reminder of the importance of rigorous testing and critical thinking in the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

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