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Particles found to break speed of light

 
 
Reply Thu 22 Sep, 2011 05:33 pm
Source: Reuters

By Robert Evans

GENEVA | Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:26pm EDT

(Reuters) - An international team of scientists said on Thursday they had recorded sub-atomic particles traveling faster than light -- a finding that could overturn one of Einstein's long-accepted fundamental laws of the universe.

Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, told Reuters that measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done.

"We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing," he said. "We now want colleagues to check them independently."

If confirmed, the discovery would undermine Albert Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity, which says that the speed of light is a "cosmic constant" and that nothing in the universe can travel faster.

That assertion, which has withstood over a century of testing, is one of the key elements of the so-called Standard Model of physics, which attempts to describe the way the universe and everything in it works.

The totally unexpected finding emerged from research by a physicists working on an experiment dubbed OPERA run jointly by the CERN particle research center near Geneva and the Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy.

A total of 15,000 beams of neutrinos -- tiny particles that pervade the cosmos -- were fired over a period of 3 years from CERN toward Gran Sasso 730 (500 miles) km away, where they were picked up by giant detectors.

Light would have covered the distance in around 2.4 thousandths of a second, but the neutrinos took 60 nanoseconds -- or 60 billionths of a second -- less than light beams would have taken.

"It is a tiny difference," said Ereditato, who also works at Berne University in Switzerland, "but conceptually it is incredibly important. The finding is so startling that, for the moment, everybody should be very prudent."

Ereditato declined to speculate on what it might mean if other physicists, who will be officially informed of the discovery at a meeting in CERN on Friday, found that OPERA's measurements were correct.

"I just don't want to think of the implications," he told Reuters. "We are scientists and work with what we know."

Much science-fiction literature is based on the idea that, if the light-speed barrier can be overcome, time travel might theoretically become possible.

The existence of the neutrino, an elementary sub-atomic particle with a tiny amount of mass created in radioactive decay or in nuclear reactions such as those in the Sun, was first confirmed in 1934, but it still mystifies researchers.

It can pass through most matter undetected, even over long distances, and without being affected. Millions pass through the human body every day, scientists say.

To reach Gran Sasso, the neutrinos pushed out from a special installation at CERN -- also home to the Large Hadron Collider probing the origins of the universe -- have to pass through water, air and rock.

The underground Italian laboratory, some 120 km (75 miles) to the south of Rome, is the largest of its type in the world for particle physics and cosmic research.

Around 750 scientists from 22 different countries work there, attracted by the possibility of staging experiments in its three massive halls, protected from cosmic rays by some 1,400 metres (4,200 feet) of rock overhead.

(Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Tom Miles and Kevin Liffey)
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Type: Discussion • Score: 6 • Views: 3,686 • Replies: 17

 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Sep, 2011 07:23 pm
@hingehead,
I continue to believe that nothing with mass can be accelerated to the speed of light (or beyond), for reasons inherent in the principles of special relativity.

However, I'm open to the idea that a distance between two points can be traversed faster than the speed of light if the intervening space is changed in some way, or if the mass of the particle is changed in some way (although I don't know how either of these things could be done).

I suspect that as they study the details of their experiment they will find that the laws of special relativity have not been broken, but that some other (perhaps as yet unknown) effect is in play.
hingehead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 22 Sep, 2011 07:49 pm
@rosborne979,
Quote:
I suspect that as they study the details of their experiment they will find that the laws of special relativity have not been broken, but that some other (perhaps as yet unknown) effect is in play.


I think that's most likely although it's a fun mental game to think what would happen if special relativity was debunked.

My alternate theory (in jest) is that the large hadron collider has created a new localised universe with different rules of physics Smile
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 07:27 am
@hingehead,
hingehead wrote:
I think that's most likely although it's a fun mental game to think what would happen if special relativity was debunked.

Special Relativity is pervasive in more ways than just the speed of light. It pretty much defines reality as we know it. If it were to be broken at the macro level (up where we live) I suspect a lot of results would appear like magic to us. Things could "pop" in/out of reality without warning, distance might become irrelevant, time could be distorted and past, present and future might become indistinguishable.

I don't think Special Relativity will ever be invalidated, but I do think that as our understanding of the details of physics improves, we may find different ways of accomplishing things that are restrictive within our present understanding.

I suspect that there are other dimensions of which we are unaware at present, and unable to access. And I think that we may eventually be able to use them in various ways to move across distances without "pushing" things. Or we may be able to move information alone through other dimensions. I believe that quantum entanglement is giving us some hint of a possible way to access another dimension.
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 07:34 am
@hingehead,
It's an interesting and important topic, hopefully both threads will keep getting responses. (Though my earlier has only CERN's press release as source Wink )
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 07:37 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:

It's an interesting and important topic, hopefully both threads will keep getting responses. (Though my earlier has only CERN's press release as source Wink )

There actually seem to be three threads revolving around this topic at the moment. Don't want you to miss out on one Wink
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 10:03 am
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
Special Relativity is pervasive in more ways than just the speed of light. It pretty much defines reality as we know it.

No, it describes reality as we know it. If reality doesn't conform to our understanding, then we adjust our understanding.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 10:05 am
Interesting discussion.

Marking for ease of following along.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 10:17 am
@hingehead,
The results have to be replicated before any real stock can be put in this.
DrewDad
 
  2  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 10:35 am
@sozobe,
http://notasenator.tumblr.com/

Quote:
They report that their error is within 10 nanoseconds, so it’s a significant result. But there are a couple of problems. Not problems that for sure disprove it, but certainly give reason for caution.

*It’s very hard to know exactly when neutrinos are created in whatever source you are shooting them from. So the “start” point is a little fuzzy.

*As noted at Bad Astronomy, a supernova called 1987a throws some more cold water on this. See, that supernova was 160,000 light years away. So if neutrinos traveled faster than light by the same ratio as above, we would have seen the 1987a neutrinos about four years before the light. And that didn’t happen.

*Neutrinos are pesky little things, and very hard to control and measure, being as they flow right through planets and the like.

The scientists had a webcast from CERN today, and they are being very careful to say that this needs to be checked and über-checked, and then repeated again after that. They also claim no theoretical re-writes of history. The problem is that the press is not being nearly so cautious.

So take a deep breath, relax, let their fellow scientists and the skeptics have at it for a while, and don’t be sad if this turns out to not be as big a deal as thought. Of course, it might be true, but when it comes to extraordinary claims, you have to provide extraordinary proof.
Fido
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 11:10 am
@hingehead,
In no sense of the word can neutrinos be called matter, or even a particle... I doubt that anyone can say if a moving neutrino, as one having some energy attached does not simple hand off the energy to another and another much as a falling domino transmits energy to another... Has anyone ever tagged on of those things: because my bet is that neutrinos are everywhere, outside of matter and in, and are excluded from matter as the matter loses energy, like a graviton... They are the element, if the word may be applied to them that cause the mass of a moving object to rise, and the only reason light can move at the speed of light is that it can negotiate a path through neutrinos without absorbing them...Most objects moving through space move through neutrinos that are absorbed at the same rate they are emitted, but fast objects meet the resistence of neutrinos, and for that reason do not emit light faster than light even when moving in the same direction at a high rate as the light they emit... And don't ask me for the math... I simply have this from reading physics, and from speculation...
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 11:18 am
@DrewDad,
Quote:
So take a deep breath, relax, let their fellow scientists and the skeptics have at it for a while, and don’t be sad if this turns out to not be as big a deal as thought. Of course, it might be true, but when it comes to extraordinary claims, you have to provide extraordinary proof.


Yep. That looks about right.
tsarstepan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 11:24 am
@sozobe,
Quote:
Of course, it might be true, but when it comes to extraordinary claims, you have to provide extraordinary proof.

Unless your making claims about WMD in some faroff Southwestern Asian country of course.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 11:56 am
@DrewDad,
DrewDad wrote:

rosborne979 wrote:
Special Relativity is pervasive in more ways than just the speed of light. It pretty much defines reality as we know it.

No, it describes reality as we know it. If reality doesn't conform to our understanding, then we adjust our understanding.

Obviously.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 23 Sep, 2011 03:04 pm
I have decided to wait a few months or even years before getting too excited.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  3  
Reply Thu 29 Sep, 2011 04:23 am
Redsoxium particle discovered tonight that broke the speed of light.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2012 04:51 pm
@hingehead,
Faster-than-light neutrino result reportedly a mistake caused by loose cable
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 22 Feb, 2012 04:55 pm
@DrewDad,

Reporting ground-breaking discoveries is a good way to get your hardware upgraded at least. Smile
Quote:
It's somewhat ironic that ScienceInsider, which is part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, broke the news now. Over the weekend, the AAAS held its annual meeting, which included a discussion of the biggest news in physics, where the neutrino results were highlighted. The session indicated that five different neutrino experiments were upgrading their hardware in order to check timing, and some would have data before the year is out. So even if this report doesn't pan out, we should know more soon.
0 Replies
 
 

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