A pillar of physics — that nothing can go faster than the speed of light — appears to be smashed by an oddball subatomic particle that has apparently made a giant end run around Albert Einstein’s theories. Scientists at the world’s largest physics lab said Thursday they have clocked neutrinos travelling faster than light. That’s something that according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity — the famous E (equals) mc2 equation — just doesn’t happen.
“The feeling that most people have is this can’t be right, this can’t be real,” said James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The organization, known as CERN, hosted part of the experiment, which is unrelated to the massive $10 billion Large Hadron Collider also located at the site. Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to independently verify the measurements before claiming an actual discovery.
“They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they’ve done and really scrutinize it in great detail, and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements,” he said Thursday. Scientists at the competing Fermilab in Chicago have promised to start such work immediately. “It’s a shock,” said Fermilab head theoretician Stephen Parke, who was not part of the research in Geneva. “It’s going to cause us problems, no doubt about that — if it’s true.”
Update – The measurement amounts to the neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light by a fraction of 20 parts per million. Since the speed of light is 299,792,458 metres per second, the neutrinos were evidently travelling at 299,798,454 metres per second.