This is extremely shocking: CERN scientists using a 1180-tonne particle detector have measured particles travelling faster than the speed of light. If confirmed, this discovery could invalidate Albert Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity and revolutionise physics.
Einstein's theory says that there's nothing in the universe that could travel faster than light. Now, CERN scientists believe this could be wrong according to their latest experiment.
The experiment timed about 16,000 neutrinos launched from CERN facilities in Geneva, travelling through Earth and arriving 2.43 milliseconds later to the subterranean facilities of Italy's Gran Sasso National Laboratory. There, the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (the OPERA particle detector) recorded the hits.
When scientists discovered that the particles were arriving 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light, with only a 10 millisecond error margin — they freaked out. I don't blame them. This is similar to someone coming to you to tell you that a new observation shows that the Earth is actually flat.
But University of Bern's Antonio Ereditato — spokesperson for the 160-member OPERA collaboration — says that the experiment is "a straightforward time-of-flight measurement" and it was repeatable, so they couldn't ignore it because that would be dishonest: "We are forced to say something [...]We have high confidence in our results. But we need other colleagues to do their tests and confirm them."
The news are so extraordinary that other physicists are already saying that this is impossible. Chang Kee Jung — a neutrino physicist at Stony Brook University in New York — believes it's a systematic error. Jung's is the spokesperson for a similar project in Japan. Indiana University's physicist Alan Kostelecky believes that, while it may be possible that neutrinos can travel faster than light, the experiment needs to be repeated "by at least one and preferably several experiments." [Sciencemag, Reuters]