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Scientists Discover Particles That Travel Faster Than Light

Ankit Tyagi |
September 23, 2011 | 9:48 a.m. PDT

Associate Tech Editor


Scientists on Thursday at the CERN research institute near Geneva released a paper detailing their measurement of a sub-atomic particle that travels faster than light.

CERN Logo. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
CERN Logo. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Potentially undermining many modern physics theories, most notably Einstein's special theory of relativity, this discovery is creating a stir amongst physicists. CERN researchers have asked for critical analysis and replication of the results, hoping to get confirmation of their findings.  

The experiment involved timing neutrino particles, which were supposed to travel in a particle detector for 2.43 milliseconds. Instead, the particles were being clocked about 60 nanoseconds faster, which is statistically valid. Scientists are cautious though, because even the slightest error in distance or timing measurement could skew the results.

Reuters talked with prominent physicists on the matter:

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and this is an extraordinary claim," eminent cosmologist and astrophysicist Martin Rees told Reuters.

"It is premature to comment on this," Professor Stephen Hawking, the world's most well-known physicist, told Reuters. "Further experiments and clarifications are needed."

Professor Jenny Thomas, who works on neutrinos at CERN's friendly rival Fermilab near Chicago in the United States, commented: "The impact of this measurement, were it to be correct, would be huge."

CERN's own research director Sergio Bertolucci said if the findings were confirmed -- and at least two separate laboratories are likely to start work on this in the near future -- "it might change our view of physics".


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