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New tests corroborate light speed problem

New tests appear to confirm scientists’ initial discovery of subatomic particles moving faster than the speed of light.

This content was published on November 18, 2011 - 10:27
swissinfo.ch and agencies

Scientists working on the OPERA experiment at the Geneva headquarters of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) said on Friday they had used a new type of proton beam to propel neutrinos through the earth’s crust to a laboratory in Italy 730 kilometres away.

“With this new type of beam produced by Cern’s particle accelerators, we were able to measure with precision the time of the neutrinos’ flight one by one,” said Dario Autiero, a scientist from Lyon’s Institute of Nuclear Physics who is in charge of analysing the measurements taken by the OPERA scientists.

“The 20 neutrinos that we have observed provide an accuracy comparable to the 15,000 others on which our initial findings were based.”

Neutrinos are elementary particles similar to electrons but they do not carry an electric charge, allowing them to pass through matter over long distances without being affected.

Cern scientists announced in September that they had apparently recorded neutrinos moving at speeds faster than light.

If confirmed, the findings would challenge one of the fundamental tenets of modern physics – Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity that says nothing can travel faster than light which has a speed of 299,792,458 metres per second. 

Mr Autiero said more tests and independent measurements were needed before “the anomaly” of the neutrinos’ flight time could either be confirmed or refuted. 

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