Scientists Did Not “Break the Speed of Light”
RESEARCHERS at the CERN lab near Geneva recently claimed they had recorded neutrinos, a type of tiny particle, travelling faster than the light speed barrier of 186,282 miles (299,792 kilometers) per second. (ILLUSTRATION: Antonio Ereditato, the Italian scientist who headed the CERN team. Ereditato subsequently resigned as a result of a no confidence vote, though he wasn’t at fault — he and the rest of the team behaved responsibly.)
Now it seems the theory of Special Relativity has been confirmed again after a source close to the experiment told the US journal Science Insider that “A bad connection between a GPS unit and a computer may be to blame.”
Scientists at CERN claimed that neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than the 2.3 milliseconds taken by light.
The report in Science Insider said the “60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer.”
“After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed,” it added.
“Since this time is subtracted from the overall time of flight, it appears to explain the early arrival of the neutrinos. New data, however, will be needed to confirm this hypothesis.”
Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, said at the time: “We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing.”
Scientists across the world agreed if the results were confirmed, that it would force a fundamental rethink of the laws of physics.
John Ellis, a theoretical physicist, said Einstein’s theory underlies “pretty much everything in modern physics.”
The first doubt was cast on the findings when a team of physicists in Italy conducting a separate study on the same beam of neutrinos at Gran Sasso claimed their findings “refute a superluminal (faster than light) interpretation.”
Rather than measuring the time it took the neutrinos to travel from CERN to Gran Sasso the second experiment, known as ICARUS, monitored how much energy they had when they arrived.
Tomasso Dorigo, a CERN physicist, wrote on the Scientific Blogging website that the ICARUS paper was “very simple and definitive.”
He said it showed “that the difference between the speed of neutrinos and the speed of light cannot be as large as that seen by OPERA, and is certainly smaller than that by three orders of magnitude, and compatible with zero.”
Prof Jim Al-Khalili, the University of Surrey, who threatened to eat his boxer shorts if the original OPERA result was proved right, said: “Usually we see this effect when particles go faster than light through transparent media like water, when light is considerably slowed down.
“So these neutrinos should have been spraying out particles like electrons and photons in a similar way if they were going superluminal — and in the process would be losing energy.
“But they seemed to have kept the energy they started from, which rules out faster-than-light travel.”
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