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Was Einstein wrong? CERN’s particles 'travel faster than light'

Neutrinos at CERN in Geneva have been showing faster than the speed of light – leaving the world’s physicists baffled.

Image: jonathan.rockway via Flickr

SCIENTISTS AT THE world’s largest supercollider in Switzerland have discovered sub-atomic particles which appear to travel faster than the speed of light – an observation which may undermine a well-established theory laid down by Albert Einstein.

A paper issued by researchers at CERN said measurements taken by scientists over the last three years have consistently shown that muon neutrinos fired from its HQ near Geneva to another facility in Italy had travelled quicker than anything ever known.

Though the increased speed is minute and barely recognisable – the neutrinos arrived in Italy around 60 billionths of a second quicker than light would have travelled – it poses a major challenge to one of the major laws of physics.

Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, proposed in 1905, decreed that the speed of light was a constant, beyond which faster travel was simply impossible.

One researcher explained to Reuters that the results had been consistent across 15,000 experiments performed over three years – and that they had spent several months checking and rechecking their work to ensure that the increase was not down to a computational error.

They are so perplexed by the findings that their research is now to be published online for a virtual cross-examination by other researchers.

“The feeling that most people have is, ‘This can’t be right’,” another spokesman for CERN told AP.

“They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they’ve done and really scrutinise it in great detail and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements.”

A separate researcher told the BBC that the researchers were reluctant to make any formal declaration about their findings just yet, given the massive ramifications that a disproval of Einstein’s theory would bring.

“We are not claiming things, we want just to be helped by the community in understanding our crazy result – because it is crazy”, he said.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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