Neil deGrasse Tyson on faster-than-light particles (live streamed event starts at 7:30 pm Eastern)

Video streaming by Ustream

Tonight, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts a roundtable debate on Einstein's Theory of Relativity, its discontents, and how likely the theory is to stand the test of time.

You're all familiar with the recent drama in this department—data from the OPERA experiment in Italy that purported to find neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light. That has since turned out to be the result of a faulty GPS system, but it's not the only challenge to Einstein, and some of those questions can't be discounted nearly as easily.

The debate—which features scientists from UCLA, CERN, Boston University, the MITRE Center, the University of Bologna, and Louisiana State University—starts at 7:30 pm Eastern. You can watch the whole thing in the live stream embedded above.

You can also participate in the debate by tweeting questions to deGrasse Tyson and the panel. You can do that by tagging your question with the hashtag #AsimovDebate. Read the rest

Faster-than-light neutrino update: What's going on behind the scenes?

The publication process for a research paper about physics works a little differently than other subjects. That's because of arXiv. Funded by Cornell University, this site posts research papers, before they're formally published in a scientific journal. Unlike most scientific journals, which charge big fees for subscriptions or even to view a single paper, arXiv is free and open to the public. You can read everything published there—more than 700,000 papers about physics, math, computer science, and more. The other big difference: arXiv isn't peer reviewed. At least, not ahead of time.

A lot of the time, when you read a newspaper article about a new study in one of those fields, the study hasn't actually yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It's just been posted to arXiv, which sort of becomes a crowd-sourced peer review peer review of its own. Especially for headline-grabbing research making big, bold claims.

That's the background you need to understand what's going on right now with the study that claimed to find neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. That announcement was made in an arXiv paper. Putting those results on arXiv was as much a way of saying, "Woah, we just found something crazy, please tell us if you see something we've done wrong," as it was a formal declaration of scientific discovery.

Since that paper was published in September, there have been more than 80 follow-up papers, also published on arXiv, offering criticism of the original research or proposing theoretical explanations of how that seemingly crazy finding could fit into physics as we know it. Read the rest