Scientists measure particles moving faster than light

Scientists at the world's largest physics lab say they have measured subatomic particles called neutrinos that travel faster than light. If true, it would put into question Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

According to the laws of physics, nothing can go faster than the speed of light. But leading physicists have measured particles that don't exactly obey that law.

Researchers at CERN laboratory in Switzerland have measured particles traveling faster than light, putting into question Albert Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity.

According to the famous equation, E equals mc2. Theoretically, particles traveling in a vacuum shouldn't move any faster than the speed of light. The concept is central to our understanding of physics and time.

The particles were measured during the OPERA experiment. The experiment involved neutrinos that were sent from CERN in Geneva to a laboratory hundreds of miles away in Italy. Let's just say, the particles showed up a tad earlier than they should have.

Neutrinos are elementary particles that usually travel close to the speed of light. The particles are electrically neutral and interact gravitationally with other particles. They also switch types spontaneously.

The BBC reported that CERN scientists observed a particular type called muon neutrinos, and tracked the particles to see how many traveled to the lab in Italy and turned into tau neutrinos.

In the experiment, a neutrino beam was fired from a particle accelerator in Geneva to a remote laboratory in Italy. That's when the researchers couldn't help but notice that the particles traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light.

However, CERN researchers are still waiting on others to confirm the findings. Scientists at T2K in Japan and MINOS near Chicago in the United States are on the case. If the results are confirmed, the laws of nature will certainly be refined to reflect this discovery.

It could be a discovery or be a systematic error. It's too soon to tell at this point.

"This is ridiculous what they're putting out," Drew Baden, chairman of the physics department at the University of Maryland, told the Associated Press. "Until this is verified by another group, it's flying carpets. It's cool, but ..."

Via the BBC

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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