CERN speed-of-light breakthrough the result of a glitch?

Summary:Scientists at CERN shocked the science world when they announced neutrinos traveling at the speed of light. But the testing equipment may have been faulty.

The surprising discovery of neutrinos traveling faster than light, which would challenge some of our core assumptions of physics, may have been the result of errors in the equipment used in the experiment.

Scientists at CERN shocked the physics establishment last September, when they said tests in the enormous Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Racking Apparatus (OPERA) experiment appeared to have shown the subatomic particles traveling slightly faster than the speed of light. According to Einstein's Theory, nothing can move faster than light.

A further test in November seemingly backed up the finding, but on Thursday CERN said it had "identified two possible effects that could have an influence on its neutrino timing measurement". More tests need to be carried out before CERN can be sure what — if anything — has gone wrong, though.

The two potential defects in the equipment would actually have the opposite effects. If the first was affecting the neutrino speed measurements, then neutrinos would in reality have been traveling even faster than claimed. Conversely, the second flaw's impact would mean they were traveling slower than thought.


The giant OPERA experiment found neutrinos traveling faster than light, but flawed kit may be to blame (Credit: CERN)

For more of this story, read CERN neutrino shock may be down to faulty connector on ZDNet UK.

Topics: Security

About

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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