Particles Faster Than Light Speed Called Neutrinos

09/23/2011 12:32 PM ET

SScientists say they have found particles faster than light called neutrinos from the CERN accelerator in Switzerland. Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity states that light has the maximum speed. It’s one of the fundamental laws of physics, and it’s at risk if the particles are real.

The neutrinos had to travel through soil, rock, air and water to reach its destination. Scientists involved in the study say light covers 500 miles in about 2.4 thousandths of a second. The new particles covered the distance in 60 nanoseconds, or 60 billionths of a second.

These findings would call into question the laws of physics famously written by Albert Einstien with his E = mc2 equation, that says that there is nothing faster than the speed of light.

“I just don’t want to think of the implications,” Antonio Ereditato, the spokesman for the research effort, said in a statement. “We are scientists and work with what we know.”

The experiment is called the OPERA experiment. Using advanced GPS systems and atomic clocks, the researchers determined this speed to an accuracy of less than 10 nanoseconds

“It’s thought to be an absolute speed limit,” said Michael Peskin, a theoretical physicist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif. “Quantum filed theory, the mathematical theory on which basically, all results in particle physics are based, has the property that signals cannot travel faster than the speed of light through a vacuum. It’s really an absolute prohibition.”

Realizing full well how scandalous the results will be if they are borne out, the scientists behind OPERA, led by Antonio Ereditato of the University of Bern, have decided to make their data public, in hopes of inviting scrutiny that could make sense of such radical findings.

The scientists also intend to gather more data and further analyze their measurements of the particles and light in order to establish them more fully, or refute them.

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