Physicists from CERN, Swiss, ran again the test that had proved the theory of relativity was wrong – and broke the speed of light for a second time.
Scientists of the Large Hadron Collider sent another beam of subatomic particles over 450 miles to a laboratory in Gran Sasso in the Italian Alps.
And after running the modified follow-up test 20 times, the scientists recorded exactly the same results as before.
According to Albert Einstein’s 106-year-old theory of special relativity, nothing can travel faster than light in a vacuum because its particles have no mass.
By contrast, neutrinos – said to be “ghostly” because they can travel through anything – have a very small mass.
Physicists from CERN, Swiss, ran again the test that had proved the theory of relativity was wrong – and broke the speed of light for a second time
The Cern researchers apparently record-breaking speed raises a host of possibilities straight out of science fiction stories.
Critics of the first test said that running all 15,000 neutrinos at once meant there could be errors in the measurement that said they had beaten the speed of light by 60 nanoseconds (or billionths of a second).
The scientists claim to have used a more accurate method for the second trial, by sending shorter bunches of the tiny neutrinos with larger gaps in between.
Nuclear Physics at Gran Sasso said the researchers were now “more confident” about the result, but urged other laboratories to join his in repeating the test.
“A measurement so delicate and carrying a profound implication on physics requires an extraordinary level of scrutiny.”
Many experts still remain unconvinced.
Jim Al-Khalili, of the University of Surrey’s physics department, who has offered to eat his boxer shorts on live television if neutrinos really can travel faster than light, said:
“I am not yet ready to get out my knife and fork.
“The results have only dealt with some possible errors.
“There are still a number of other possible errors and uncertainties that they are working on ruling out.
“Ideally, the experiment would have to be done somewhere else entirely to try to verify the controversial result that these tiny particles really are going faster than light, in case there is still a systemic problem with this particular experiment at Cern.”
Only two other labs in the world have the equipment to take up Professor Jim Al-Khalili’s suggestion.
Scientists working on the Minos experiment in the U.S. and Japan’s T2K study will both try the same test and reveal their results next year.
Physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the international nuclear research facility near Geneva, Switzerland, are saying that an experiment in which a beam of neutrinos were sent 500 miles from CERN to a laboratory in Italy has thrown up a quite staggering result.
Specifically, the specialists found that the particles got there 60 billionths of a second quicker than the light speed limit allowed.
This was not a one-off; 15,000 neutrinos were detected and the results collated over three years.
The scientists at CERN found that neutrinos are travelling 60 billionths of a second quicker than the light speed limit allowed
The physicists say the result is so extraordinary that it may well be a mistake but they also say they cannot see where they might have gone wrong and have thrown open the doors to the international scientific community to check, double-check and triple-check what is going on.
If these neutrinos really are travelling faster than light, this will overturn everything we think we know about the basic physics that underpins the way we think the Universe works.
In 1905, Albert Einstein, in his Special Theory of Relativity, demonstrated that the speed of light which is equal to 186,000 miles/second or around six hundred million mph, is a universal constant. Albert Einstein’s genius was to weave together space, time, velocity, energy and mass into a fundamental interconnected whole.
CERN research findings could break a fundamental pillar of science and Einstein's theory of relativity
Breaking the light speed limit is not just some piece of awkward physics bureaucracy. The limit is actually a fundamental reflection of the way space and time are put together.
One outcome of travelling faster than light is that the mass and energy of the object travelling this fast become infinite. This is clearly absurd.
Another consequence is that anything travelling faster than light also goes backwards in time. This would violate another basic tenet, not only of physics but of our basic philosophical comprehension of how the world works. If we go back in time, we violate the principle of causality which says cause must precede effect.
It is possible, as the scientists freely admit, that they’ve made a mistake. After all, these neutrinos only broke the light speed barrier by about 12,000 mph, a tiny fraction of light speed. But intriguingly, the result of the “opera” (oscillation project with emulsion tracking apparatus) seems to have been mirrored in a couple of other experiments in the US.
If the result is correct, we have to assume that specialists have discovered something truly extraordinary, perhaps as significant as Albert Einstein’s original findings.
If things can travel faster than light, the Universe cannot be as physics assumed it to be for 106 years. Rule books will be torn up, hair will be torn out and new careers will be forged, explaining what on earth is going on.