The Frisch-Smith Time-Dilation Experiment
Debate Rounds (5)
I will show the Frisch-Smith experiment does not offer scientific confirmation of time-dilation.
I welcome Ramshutu to this debate. First round is just for acceptance and pleasantries; I will post my opening argument in the next.
I'm looking forward to this as I have no real detailed knowledge of either Muons or the experiment itself; but hopefully this means I may learn something!
First, a brief overview of the experiment. I will be doing some serious rounding of numbers to keep things simple.
The experimenters counted 600 muons decay at 6,000 ft. Muons decay very fast, so they predicted only 30 muons would survive the fall to decay at 0 ft. if time-dilation isn't true. However, they figured that, since the muons are falling at near the speed of light, they should experience time-dilation that would slow their decay-rate so much that 400 muons would survive to decay at 0 ft (sea level). Instead of only 30. 400 muon decays were, in fact, detected at 0 ft., and this was considered proof of time-dilation. To be precise, it was considered as proof that the muons' time was slowed to ten times slower than normal.
The experiment suffered from circular logic on a fundamental level. We can agree that if the experiment is based on the premise that Special Relativity is true, then it is circular to try to prove time-dilation, since time-dilation is a necessary consequence of the truth of Special Relativity. In other words, if the experiment assumes Special Relativity, it is not very useful to try to prove time-dilation, since by assuming Special Relativity, time-dilation is virtually assumed.
Special Relativity was assumed by employing the Relativistic velocity formula. The experimenters predicted only 30 muons would decay at sea level if they were traveling near light speed without time-dilation. However, there is another option. The muons are not travelling near light speed, but much faster than that. If the muons are traveling much faster than the experiments thought, there is no need to invoke time-dilation as an explanation for why so many reached the ground!
So how was the speed of the muons determined? They measured how deeply they penetrated a thickness of iron. The mass of the muons was already known. These values were then plugged into a Relativistic formula which, when solved for v, calculates the speed of the muons.
But this formula is contructed in such a way that v can never exceed c! So no matter how fast the muons were actually falling, even if it were a billion times faster than light, this formula would calculate that they were not traveling faster than light! Thus, Special Relativity's assumption that nothing travels faster than light was assumed, and protected from falsification. This is why the experiment was not a bona-fide test of Special Relativity, and largely an exercise in circular logic.
Here is the formula:
For my burden of proof I will summarize the the Frish-Smith experiment; and how it supports time dilation. This experiment is set up to measure time dilation by analyzing atmospheric muons. As these particles can be travelling at relativistic speeds AND have a known mean decay lifetime and can be shown using seperate mechanisms NOT to travel faster than the speed of light ; it should be possible to detect these muons living longer than the amount of time they should when travelling at high speeds (as their clocks will tick slower relative to a stationary observer); this additional time should be predictable based on calculations of time dilation.
The experiment works by measuring atmospheric muons at two locations at high and low altitude. While many of these muons are travelling very fast, they would still require many "decay lifetimes" to travel the additional distance between the high and low location and as such with no time dilation, are unlikely to make it to the second detector (and indeed the number that should make it is calculable).
The speed of detected muons can be gaurenteed to be relativistic by placing iron (and indeed air above the detector so that in both detectors slow moving muons are removed), and only muons with a specific energy and therefore speed are detected in the measurement device. This means that if measured muons at upper and lower detector have the same energy, the number of muons detected at the lower detector should be more than can be accounted for by decay alone, and should be proportional to the decay rate based upon the relativistic speed of the muon factoring in time dilation.
This experiment was successful, and the number of muons detected was approximately the same as would be expected taking into account time dilation and margins for error; and far, far higher than what is expected without time dilation. The understood physics of muons and their atmospheric generation validates the method, as there are no practicable means by which a greater number of muons could be measured at lower altitudes. Potential explanations that spontaneous generation of more muons at lower altitudes, or because they are travelling faster than the speed of light can be shown to be wrong via independant means . As a result, the only explanation for the increase in numbers is that the clocks for those muons are slowed.
As such, it provides conclusive predictive validation of time dilation, as no other reasonable explanation can be given to explain the close match with relativity; therefore affirming the resolution of this debate.
My opponents contention is that this circular reasoning; which is fairly easy to deal with. The nature of the experiment as explained is pretty simple:
1.) Muons have a measured mean decay rate of 2.2us.
2.) The two detectors are placed 1907m appart, and with a speed of light of approximately 300,000,000 m/s the time it would take muons travelling at the maximum possible speed would take 1907/3e9 = 6.36us to travel from the top detector to the bottom; this is just shy of 3 mean decay times.
The experiment leads to two numbers; one where time dilation occurs, and one where it doesnt.
To explain this, my opponent uses the argument that the speed of life may not be unviolateable and thus the muons maybe travelling faster than the speed of light. While this is valid to posit, it is contradicted by the experimental evidence. Muons in the atmosphere can and have be measured using basic speed measurements (distance travelled / time taken) and have been shown not to exceed the speed of light.
Moreover, Particle accelerators such as the LHC and indeed much smaller powered accelerators regularly implicitly test the conclusions of relativistic momentum, and "speed limits" continually test and see whether "giving more energy" to particles follows the principles of relativity; in many the technical operation and specific timing of the accelerator only being possible if these particles do not travel faster than the speed of light . As such the statement that matter cannot travel faster than the speed of light is seperately validated and thus the key assumption of the Frish-Smith experiment can be confirmed.
So while my opponent is correct that this experiment requires Muons not to travel faster than the speed of light; this requirement is supported by at least two independant types of experiment cited here. Because of this, the experiment cannot be thought to use circular reasoning; the mathematics and requirements used to calculate how much time dilation is not assumed to be true prior to the experiment as he implies.
As a result the same conclusion holds, that the nature of the measurements being made demonstrate that Muons are subject to time dilation, the resolution of this debate.
My opponent's entire argument depends on his claim that muons have been independently measured to travel slower than the speed of light. To back up this assertion, he cites a few sources (#1, #3, & #4).
#1 doesn't even prove muons travel slower than c.
#3 is simply the Frisch-Smith experiment, which asserted muons have been confirmed to travel less than c but provides no citations or evidence aside from their Relativistic calculation which I proved to be circular in the previous round.
#4 actually proves that I'm right, and muons do travel faster than c. From page 3 of my opponent's own source:
I will point out that my opponents contention:
Firstly, #3, the Frisch-Smith experiment explains measurements of speed and how they were determined. Once the maximum speed of mass is measured through other means, this shows as valid. However, I purposefully did not include only sources that infer speed from momentum calculations but was careful to point out sources that show seperate validation of this premise, including my fourth source, which you contend:
#4 actually proves that I'm right, and muons do travel faster than c. From page 3 of my opponent's own source:
The result obtained from this trial was an average speed[...] greater than the speed of light c.
While this does seem to imply an overturning of Einstienian principles, before rushing to conclusions it is worth reading the rest of the source to examine it's conclusion. Fortunatley, you do not have to look that far as the line directly after this one states:
"This is greater than the speed of light c. Have we really found a particle that travels
faster than light? It is believed there are perhaps some systematics at play?"
The section that follows immediately after this quote is entitled: 3.4.1 With Systematic Error Correction which concludes:
The average speed obtained in the reverse trials was 2 cm/ns, slightly smaller than the speed of light. Thus, we obtain our result for the average speed of cosmic ray muons [of 99.4% c]
As a result it is clear this quote is taken out of context; one where the scientist saw that there was probably a systematic error in measurement, and corrects for it. This correction then produces results consistent with an upper limit of speed for mass as c. This is often the case with scientific papers; with incorrect results that can subsequently be explained often appearing in the papers only to be systematically and scientifically corrected for.
As oulined however, the equations for relativistic momentum are tested in particle accelerors. Recently there was big stir when it was thought that Neutrinos could travel faster than speed of light as discovered from pulses from the the LHC; this was found to also be an incorrect systematic measurement error.
If the individual tests summarised and outlined in the previous argument; including a test that shows his primarily contention of muons NOT travelling faster than the speed of light in the same conditions as the experiment are not sufficient to determine that the speed of light is not violatable, I will add the following ones:
Electron speed tests. 
Measurements of Neutrino speed 
Another electron speed test (a different type!)
Relativity, specifically the speed of light is not assumed to be true, but is indeed regularly tested (as shown by  which was conducted recently).
I am perfectly willing to accept the possibility that there are some conditions in which the speed of light could be violated if they are presented, but the ones cited do present my opponent with several issues:
1.) The cited examples show the muons being measured in the same conditions as the Frisch-Smith experiment itself are not moving faster than the speed of light.
2.) Even were we to take the original calculation of speed my opponent quotes, this "slightly greater than the speed of light" would still not be able to account for the adtional muons; which have to be travelling much greater than the speed of light to overcome the 3 mean decay lifetimes distance between the two detectors and so could not account for the difference
3.) Thus far every experiment has shown the speed of light to be the cosmic speed limit.
The primary premise of my opponents argument is that the speed of light could be violated by muons. As the FS experiment assumes the speed of light not to be exceeded, measurements of muon density could be skewed by assuming the conclusion.
However, as shown, relativistic effects are seperately measured and not assumed without reason. In many examples, the specific limiting factor of the speed of light, and indeed the muons being measure themselves are seperately verifiable and measurable and therefore are not simply assumed.
As the conclusion is not assumed, this experiment simply validates that when taking into account physical effects that have been measured, this experiment does not rely on circular logic and so therefore succesfully measures that time dilation exists as predicted by Einstein.
This isn't science. When you perform experiments to test whether muons can exceed c, and find they do, you don't resort to assuming systematic error. The experiment that suggested, "perhaps there are some systematics at play" should have redone the entire experiment from the ground up. Instead, they neglected to even fully describe the source of the error, being content to say "it need not be characterized".
Voters, Frisch & Smith detected muons traveling a distance they could not possibly have if they were traveling less than c, giving their rapid rate of decay. Anyone with common sense would infer this is simply because the muons are moving faster than the experimenters thought. Or maybe, muons from the sky have a different rate of decay than the muons at rest in the laboratory.
It's patently absurd to resort to the explanation that they were experiencing time-dilation.
The experiment that suggested, "perhaps there are some systematics at play" should have redone the entire experiment from the ground up. Instead, they neglected to even fully describe the source of the error, being content to say "it need not be characterized".
While one could conclude from this that there is some massive flaw with the experiment as a result of "not characterizing the error"; it may be wortwhile to read on to see if there is some explanation of why this error was not characterised.
It turns out, again, one does not have to read very far, as immediately the quote my opponent cited, the writer explained just that:
" If the original effect was a lengthening of the average time interval, by switching the START and STOP nodes on the TAC, we will now measure an interval shortened by the same amount, their average representative of a more accurate value free of this particular systematic error. 
This a topic dear to my heart, as characterization and calibration is a large part of what I do for a living.
If there is an error in the system, it is either fixed or variable. A variable error is one where the value of error changes depending on things you are changing in the system. In telecoms for example, a cable used to transfer a radio signal without an antenna has a variable loss depending on the frequency of he signal; if you are measuring the power at various frequencies, you have to characterise the loss of the cable against the frequencies you are measuring so the error can be systematically removed.
However, if you are measuring at a single frequency; you do not need to characterize the error in the cable, as the change in error vs other frequencies is irrelevant. The only error that needs to be considered is the absolute error of that cable.
However, it gets better; in that sometimes you do not even have to do that, when you can make measurements in such a way that you can get the error to cancel itself out. This is what the experiment did, as it states. They found that there was an error which was the always the same, but one that was difficult to measure exactly. Rather than attempting to measure it, they ran a second set of measurements where the error was negative. Thus leading to measurements of speed with an error of +x, and speed with an error of -x.
Averaging the two ((speed+x) + (speed-x) )/ 2 = (2* speed / 2) = speed.
Now, my opponent seems to delight at the fact that the scientists found results not consistent with theory, and as such would overturn Einsteinian physics; and instead of rushing to publish decided that it may be prudent to check whether they had made some form of error before assuming that they had overturned several decades years of validated experimentation. My opponent may well think this is somehow a bad thing as he implies that the scientists some how "fudged the numbers" because they found an error and corrected for it.
In cases where there is an established theory, results that contradict it must always be assumed to be wrong and then re-checked and validated until no error can be found. This is for two reasons:
1.) Errors are made by scientists more often than well established theories are overturned.
2.) If you don't look for an the error, and publish; someone else will, if there is an error the result can be damanging to the person making a claim for not being meticulous enough to detect the error.
This skepticism when facing results that do not agree with theory is healthy. It means the popular press isn't riddled with examples equivalent to cold fusion , or faster than light neutrino's most days.
More appropriately however, not immediately jumping to conclusions about what you have seen when it does not match established theory; and assuming first that you made have made an error rather than the theory is wrong, can easily be demonstrated to be beneficial: Had such a philosophy been employed by my opponent, he would have easily caught the three major errors in interpretation in his three argument rounds thus far before I had.
Finally, my opponent argues:
"Voters, Frisch & Smith detected muons traveling a distance they could not possibly have if they were traveling less than c, giving their rapid rate of decay. Anyone with common sense would infer this is simply because the muons are moving faster than the experimenters thought. Or maybe, muons from the sky have a different rate of decay than the muons at rest in the laboratory."
As pointed out in the previous posts (to which my opponent has not contested) ; the speed of light as an ultimate speed barrier has been seperately validated and confirmed. The speed of the muons measured in a seperate experiment my opponent has cited twice, ALSO validated that the muons in the sky do not move faster than light.
Even more critically, even if the muons in the atmosphere in the same conditions; even if the measurement error was included, where still travelling too slowly to have moved the distance without mostly decaying
In this regard anyone with common sense would infer muons may travel faster than the speed of light. However, anyone drawing this conclusion on the grounds of common sense is drawing it against the observed and measured facts.
My opponent implies common sense is better than evidence and measurement. That if a measurement is somehow at odds with common sense it should be discarded. This is a trivially refuted position; at it's basic level the asssertion that the way the universe works at every possible level and circumstance should adhere to how a collection of apes who wear clothes think it should work, itself defies common sense. One has no legitimate reason to expect the universe to comform to a way of operating that either you or I believe is reasonable.
Secondly, a significant proportion of facts about how the universe works, determined by experimental data defies common sense. Wave particle duality, for example utterly defies common sense as we all "know" that it's not possible to be two completely different things at once; speed of light measurements showing the speed of light never changes regardless of how fast you are going relative to the source  or quantumn superposition defies common sense too, yet they are all repeatedly confirmed by experiment.
While it is highly uncomfortable to appreciate that the world doesn't work in a way that appears reasonable to us; it must be accepted that when an overwhelming amount experimental data in many different branches of science and physics shows that the world does not work the way we think it should or want it to; we should reasses the validity of our own common sense, rather than that of the facts that have been consistently demonstrated.
Because of this, one must accept that Time dilation, Relativistic Momentum, Lorentz contraction and the invariance of the speed of light which have all been repeatedly tested and confirmed in a number of different ways, including the handful I cited previously, must be true.
In this regard, special relativity is the best description of the universe, including time dilation of which the Frisch-Smith Time dilation experiment forms part. While it may not be "true", as further scientific discoveries are yet to be made (indeed I sincerely hope it is not "true" in many respects); challenging special relativity, and this experiments must be done on the grounds of what can be shown to be true or false with experiments and facts.
Thus far, I have established that the assumptions of the experiment are all supported by evidence, and that working under the principles that the muons are not travelling faster than the speed of light is corroberated by a number of different experiments. I have also explained why the experiment demonstrates time dilation in that context as the experiment has no failure in assumption or method.
My opponent has tried to contest this by assuming that a major scientific work that has been repeatedly validated in experiment is wrong. While I am perfectly willing to accept it could be, the arguments he uses range from accusations of impropiety on account of science, and his own applications of common sense and incredulity. These are arguments opinion based speculation that are not just unsupported by detailed evidence and experiment, but contradicted by them.
As a result, it is clear that burden of proof has been met in regards to the Frisch-Smith experiment demonstrating time dilation.
I do not have much to add. I'd just like to thank my opponent for debating me on this topic, and I'd like to advise the voters that, although common sense might not always be correct, there is not sufficient reason for abandoning it in this case.
My Opponent has claimed that the experiment is invalid because it relies on the particles in question traveling slower than the speed of light, and this cannot be validated.
As pointed out, numerous experiments have been conducted that validate that particles cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Most appropriately the same particles, in the same conditions as measured by the experiment.
My opponent offers no positive evidence for his claims, whereas I have cited numerous examples that validate that the speed of light is not violated by particles; the majority of which he did not contest. In this respect, the burden of proof has more than been met to show that his argument is incorrect.
The two aguments my opponent cites with regards to the single experiment he contests; are based not on rigorous examination of the evidence, maths and interpretation; but simply quoting a portion of the scientific paper, without care that the subsequent lines in both cases completely refute the point he is making.
As my opponents unevidenced hypothesis has been shown to be wrong; the premise of the experiment is now sound, and this experiment does indeed validate time dilation.
My opponent summarise his argument thusly:
"Although common sense might not always be correct, there is not sufficient reason for abandoning it in this case."
I will let the voters be the judge here. From my side; I have shown that all the evidence shows that common sense should be abandoned with consistent measurements in a number of different methodologies all showing common sense is wrong. My opponent has offered not a single reference, source, or citation that shows any evidential basis for his opinion.
It is clear to me that the burden of proof has been met both in terms of validating that the experiment does indeed validate time dilation exists; and also in terms of demonstrating the only premise my opponent puts forth is wrong.
I would, however, like to thank my opponent for this opportunity to learn about an experiment I had no knowledge of it; I have learned a lot about muons, time dilation and experimental measurements for relativity, and without this debate I probably would have never stumbled on them.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Paleophyte 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro made a good argument for his case and backed it up well. Con tried to argue FTL muons and failed to support it with more than appeal to "common sense".
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