Science

OPERA confirms earlier claims of faster-than-light neutrinos

OPERA confirms earlier claims ...
Scientists from the OPERA project are reporting that new experiments confirm their earlier claim that faster-than-light travel is possible ... for neutrinos (Photo: Andres Rueda)
Scientists from the OPERA project are reporting that new experiments confirm their earlier claim that faster-than-light travel is possible ... for neutrinos (Photo: Andres Rueda)
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Scientists from the OPERA project are reporting that new experiments confirm their earlier claim that faster-than-light travel is possible ... for neutrinos (Photo: Andres Rueda)
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Scientists from the OPERA project are reporting that new experiments confirm their earlier claim that faster-than-light travel is possible ... for neutrinos (Photo: Andres Rueda)

On September 23rd, researchers from the European OPERA project made the now-famous announcement that they had observed neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. Given that Einstein's special theory of relativity states that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, their proclamation was naturally met with some skepticism - various physicists stated that there was likely a flaw in the design, implementation or calculations involved the experiment. To their credit, the OPERA collaborative made a point of inviting other scientists to try to replicate their results. In the meantime, however, they've replicated those results themselves, and announced today that neutrinos still appear to be the speediest particles in the universe.

The original set of experiments consisted of generating a neutrino beam at the Geneva-based CERN particle accelerator, and shooting it 730 kilometers (454 miles) south to an underground laboratory in Gran Sasso, Italy. While photons (light particles) had been repeatedly detected at Gran Sasso 2.4 milliseconds after leaving CERN, the neutrinos reportedly made the same trip in 60 nanoseconds less time.

In the more recent experiments, very short neutrino beam pulses were used in order to ensure precise measurements. Those pulses were just 3 nanoseconds long, separated by gaps of up to 524 nanoseconds. Twenty "clean neutrino events" were detected at Gran Sasso, which the researchers claim were precisely associated with pulses leaving CERN. In all cases, the measurements confirmed the findings that were originally presented.

As before, however, OPERA has stated that an outside party must independently verify the measurements before they can be officially confirmed.

A paper on the latest findings is available on the Inspire website.

Update May 27, 2014: Claims of faster than light neutrinos have been debunked according to this CERN press release – thanks to commenter Dan Linder for the heads-up.

28 comments
Tommygun
Photons were detected 2.4 milliseconds after leaving CERN (730km away). How exactly did that do THAT! Regardless, it clearly wasn\'t through the medium of empty space ( ie a vacuum) where light really does travel at the speed of light. I\'d assume that photons therefore, would have to arrive somewhat sooner that if they were travelling at exactly C and that neutrinos wouldn\'t. Plus, have they actually taken relativity into account with their measurements? I\'m sure the CERN scientists have explanations for everything though, except for the actual result. This is certainly an interesting experimental result and I\'ll be interested in the final outcome of it all.
Vincent Proxy
Well, come on somebody educated in these things enlighten us as to the potential impact this may have on humanity?? Can we at least take out marketing departments with neutrino\'s?
hourglass
does this change everything? anything?
Facebook User
This doesn\'t change everything. It merely destroys the foundations of about 100 years of physics if it\'s true. And if we join it with the possibility that CERN can\'t find Higgs\' boson, our entire physics model can be wrong. Ok, I\'m being a little dramatic. Only quantum physics and everything that depends on Einstein\'s relativity can be wrong. Newton\'s physics is still right (where it can be applied), fluid mechanics and those \"simple\" things are not being questioned with this experiments.
Bill Kelsey
Actually it does change everything considering modern physics is based on Einstiens theory of relativity.
5wiglets
This experiment does not fit with other neutrino observations over a larger distance. There was a supernova event where the neutrinos reached earth 3 hours before the protons. They arrived 3 hours earlier because they don\'t have a charge. Protons interact with other particles along the way and are slowed down a bit. If the observations of this experiment were correct, the neutrinos should have arrived 4 days earlier, not 3 hours. It is most probable that there is something they are over looking. One report stated that the distance between the two points of the experiment was being measured by satellite and that the relativity of the satellite had not been taken in to account.
Jason Woods
The particle arrived sooner but do so with out traveling faster than light. How is this possible you ask? Well Time dilation is a well known phenomenon where (per special relativity) as an object travels faster it experience time more slowly. GPS satellites have to constantly reset their clocks to match ours here on earth. The piece we are missing is frame of reference we are \"at rest\" (for argument sake) measuring its speed. Now as the particle approaches the speed of light it experiences time slower so that it appears to us to have traveled the distance faster. The implication? Well for starters how about we keep these particles in a high state of energy C+ and you would be able to send encoded information back in time. Mind you only back to the time when the machine was built but world changing just the same. They should start looking for particles being sent back now, if it will ever be possible we would be able to tell.
Marco Pang
I feel as though it is merely human error that is causing all this fuss.... + Somehow I\'m doubting the sensors are synced properly (As nothing is ever in sync)
Satviewer2000
@Tommygun: Well the point is, (as I understand it) according to Einstein NOTHING can travel faster than the speed of light, no matter what the circumstances. In this case, neutrinos would have been travelling in the same medium as photons, so the mere fact that the neutrinos arrived earlier than the photons means that they were travelling \"faster than light\", which should not happen whether it\'s in a vacuum or not.
NoResponse
First, the results do not upset Einstein\'s Relativity Theory. Second, Einstein never said nothing could travel faster than light. He postulated that anything traveling faster than the speed of light would never travel less than it. Third, Einstein\'s theory is based on the dependence of the concept of time on the concept of space. We perceive the existence of time as a direct consequence of our perception of space; more specifically changes in perception of space. Other postulated that if one exceeded the speed of light then time would run in reverse. Reality is that time in the context of perceived space would cease to exist. The problem is with the notion of limit. Eistein-Rosen Bridges in fact make it possible to transit perceived space faster than the speed of light; by effectively exiting perceived space and re-entering it. The critical factor in all of it is the notion of perceived, or observable. The only thing the results upset is quantum theory and quantum mechanics. The observed arrival obviously did not precede the observed departure, so the classical notion of causality remains intact. The result supports an alternative multi-dimensional model that subsumes Einstein\'s Relativity Theory, where in E=MC^2 defines a surface within which our existential notion of space-time exists. Exiting the contained subspace and re-entering later provides a path for perceived faster than light travel in the subspace (effectively an Einstein-Rosen Bridge as such would exist in the context of the model).