Sunday, September 25, 2011

Speedy Neutrinos

Did you read about those neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light? If this were true, it would unhinge Einstein's special theory of relativity postulating that the speed of light is a constant. The exact value is 299792458 meters per second and nothing can travel faster in the universe.

A team of physicists working at CERN, Geneva, Switzerland, now measured that neutrinos created at CERN, shot in the direction of the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy, and detected at a distance of 731.278 km (precision plus/minus 20 cm) in an underground detector travel faster than light.

The web is a fantastic source of information. I actually spent two hours watching the presentation and the discussion of the results of those measurements during a seminar at CERN. If you like listening to a strong European accent explaining complicated facts in simple English tune in to the CERN auditorium. As it stands the experimental results revealed that neutrinos starting from CERN arrive at the detector in Gran Sasso in 2.4382323 milliseconds i.e. 0.0010485 milliseconds or 0.43 per mille faster than when traveling at the speed of light.

The physicists presenting their results and the audience including me were and are still greatly disturbed. The general tendency is to suspect mistakes in those time measurements. A counter experiment confirming the results is urgently needed before one dares to throw Einstein's theory, solid up to now, overboard. Physicists at Fermilab near Chicago running a similar neutrino experiment are eagerly preparing their detectors for an independent measurement of those speedy neutrinos.

Here are some recent remarks from CERN.

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