Fast Little Neutrino: Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity Challenged By Test Showing Particle Traveling Faster Than Speed of Light

It turns out that Einstein was a bit slow after all. Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has made a subatomic particle go faster than the speed of light for the first time — something that shattered one assumption of Einstein’s theories. The scientists used neutrinos, which were observed smashing past the cosmic speed barrier of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second).

The scientists fired a neutrino beam from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 454 miles (730 kilometers) away in Italy traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light.

According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity – the E=mc2 equation – this should not happen but it did at CERN. Scientists at the Fermilab in Chicago are now working on the same experiment to see if they could replicate it. While the Chicago team previously showed a faster-than-light result in 2007, there was a margin of error that left questions.
Chicago’s instruments would be better in measuring the results. At issue is the most fundamental assumption of the laws of nature.

What I do not understand is how the Europeans can make a particle move faster than light in Geneva but it takes three hours to get a waiter to bring you a check in Paris.

Source: Telegraph

45 thoughts on “Fast Little Neutrino: Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity Challenged By Test Showing Particle Traveling Faster Than Speed of Light”

  1. What I do not understand is how the Europeans can make a particle move faster than light in Geneva but it takes three hours to get a waiter to bring you a check in Paris.”

    European lite … it is a gas gas gas …

  2. There was a young lady named Bright
    Whose speed was much faster than light.
    She set out one day
    In her usual way
    And returned on the previous night.

  3. I think Uncle Albert would be first in line to insist that his theories would need to be proven “a little wrong” in order for physics to make real progress. Newton had a Mercury Problem, but the rest of his work remains whole. I hope this is real. Cosmology is stuck in a rut with this whole “dark…whatever” era we’re in.

  4. Oops again. A gigahertz is 10^9 per sec, so a 3GHzg computer can execute about 180 instructions in 60 ns. Anyway that was just a comparison. The idea that we can do something as precise as that on a desktop and CERN could average 60 ns worth of error in 16,000 measurements taken over 3 years would be very surprising to me.

  5. @Elaine: Oh. No biggie, in experimentation timing is actually a very big thing, and metaphorically speaking your stopwatch comment could actually be true: Some of the criticism of this finding is precisely what you are talking about; imprecision in the timing of the neutrino origin detection. That is something that has to be inferred, and if you have an inaccurate start time you get an inaccurate trip duration. 60 ns is a LONG error (the typical desktop computer can execute over 120,000 instructions in 60 ns), but your general criticism is something to be taken seriously, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a physicist use your line in conversation.

  6. Oops. I was wrong, the report I read DID say 60 ns with a 10 ns margin of error. That means their distance measurement would have to be off by 59 feet or so. BTW, this was a three-year study involving 16,000 neutrino path timings.

  7. @Gene, Elaine: The report I read two days ago said it was 40 ns and the expected value based on equipment analysis was +/- 10 ns. They have analyzed this result six ways from Sunday for about six months; and cannot find anything wrong with the equipment or the timing; and in fact one can fire a laser over the same distance and time it, as often as one likes, to determine the speed of light.

    40 ns is not long, but in terms of light speed, their distance measurement would have to be off by more than 39 feet.

    If there is something wrong with this measurement, it isn’t anything we can speculate on from here; like an equipment malfunction, hoax, or anything else. The only thing to do now is wait for the experiment to be replicated with guest scientists in charge.

    In the meantime, neutrinos may travel 0.0012% faster than light. That would be very interesting, but I can wait for the replication and confirmation.

    I would also say that even if it is an experimental error, we at least may discover how an experiment that hundreds of world class physicists think is bulletproof is not, and that discovery would be a contribution to experimental science going forward. To me this is a wonderful thing about science, every unexpected result can produce progress, either in understanding the topic or understanding how to make more accurate experiments.

  8. Quite by accident, I ran into this quote this morning and it seemed appropriate for this thread.

    “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny ..'” – Isaac Asimov

  9. Sixty nanoseconds is an extremely short period of time. I believe one nanosecond is a billionth of a second. Maybe their stopwatch was off.

  10. But this is just proof that creationists are right & science does not know a thing.

    Whatever these poor deluded souls believe they have discovered that still are not positive & the next discovery might change everything they currently ‘know’.

    Compare that to a creationist position. What was true yesterday is true today & will be true tomorrow. No matter what these people discover it will not change creationist thinking one tiny bit (well, there was that whole ‘revolve around the sun’ thing but that can’t count because it was years ago). Ergo it MUST be true since it can’t be changed!

  11. The wonderful thing about science is that is delights in disproving its fundamental premises. This stands in sharp contrast to much of man’s other thinking which is sadly delusion-based and calicified sometimes. Bravo to the researchers. I’m waiting for that inevitable challenge to Newton. I can’t wait to see apples fall up towards the heavens!

  12. Speculations about the death of special relativity might be premature even if the experimental results are confirmed.

    Quoting Lynda Giddens over on G+ ( ) :

    CERN observes neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light

    “This is truly awesome!

    “However is anyone else disheartened by the number of news outlets screaming Einstein’s theory of special relativity is in jeopardy?

    “The existence of subatomic particles moving faster than the speed of light does not in any way conflict with Einstein’s theory, which indicates it would take infinite energy to accelerate to and surpass the speed of light.

    “A subatomic particle in constant motion faster than the speed of light is called a tachyon and currently hypothetical. It sounds like we’re well on our way to proving their existence!

    “Confirmation of this would throw a lot of wrenches into physics as we understand it, but not so much the theory of special relativity.

    “Notice all the scientists quoted say absolutely nothing about potential conflicts with Einstein’s theory. The one guy they got to give a quote about the theory of special relativity wasn’t involved in the project, nor did he seem to be referring to it.”

    I’d wait to hear from actual scientists that Einstein’s theory is in jeopardy before I start writing its obituary.

  13. Well…A theory is just as good as its premise…anhtd is a good premise until disproved….

    As nal noted..there is some skepticism…to be had….


    Don’t forget to duck/duct today as the space junk enters your orbital sphere…..

  14. Hence the word “potential” . . .

    If this proves true after further examination however, it would indeed be a physics game changer, Nal. It is more likely though that the initial results are due to an equipment malfunction. If not, all I can say is we live in exciting times.

  15. Strangely enough, some of us regulars were just talking about this potential discovery, but because we were using NeutrinoMail we actually had the discussion yesterday.

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