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Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Finding May Be In Error

Tunnel at CERN laboratory used in OPERA's neutrino experiments.
Image © CERN 2005. Used for educational purposes.

You might have heard news of the OPERA collaboration’s CERN experiment recording neutrinos traveling faster than light, a finding that would call Einstein’s theory of relativity into question. However, a new update from ScienceInsider (a news blog by Science magazine) identifies a technical error that appears to negate the results. CERN, in a press release, announced yesterday that it has “identified two possible effects that could have an influence on its neutrino timing measurement.”

Were the results a fluke? We won’t know for sure until CERN repeats the experiment while controlling for these effects, which is scheduled to happen in May. Until then, we can read up on the original experiment and its implications.

Read the original paper here: The OPERA, C., Adam, T. T., Agafonova, N. N., Aleksandrov, A. A., Altinok, O. O., Sanchez, P., & … Zghiche, A. A. (2011). Measurement of the neutrino velocity with the OPERA detector in the CNGS beam.

Check out some commentary on the paper in our Discover search.

Or read these books for some background on special relativity, the speed of light, and the consequences of exceeding it:

Carmeli, M. (2008). Relativity: Modern large-scale spacetime structure of the cosmos. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific.

Gott, J. R., III. (2001). Time travel in Einstein’s universe: The physical possibilities of travel through time. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Grandy, D. (2009). The speed of light: Constancy + cosmos. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hawking, S. W. (1996). The illustrated A brief history of time (Updated and expanded ed.). New York: Bantam Books.