Albert Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity Broken
The science world was left in shock when workers at the world’s largest physics lab announced they had recorded subatomic particles travelling faster than the speed of light.
European scientists claimed on Thursday that they have found particles traveling faster than light. If the results of their findings prove to be true this can overturn one of Einstein’s fundamental laws of the universe. It was Albert Einstein, no less, who proposed more than 100 years ago that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.
But last night it emerged that the man who laid the foundations for the laws of nature may have been wrong.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire), known as CERN, is the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the franco-Swiss border. The organisation is currently the workplace of approximately 2600 full-time employees. Some 7931 scientists and engineers (representing 500 universities and 80 nationalities), about half of the world’s particle physics community, work on experiments conducted at CERN.
If the findings are proven to be accurate, they would overturn one of the pillars of the Standard Model of physics, which explains the way the universe and everything within it works.
Einstein’s theory of special relativity, proposed in 1905, states that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. But researchers at the CERN lab near Geneva claim they have recorded neutrinos, a type of tiny particle, travelling faster than the barrier of 186,282 miles (299,792 kilometers) per second.
The results have so astounded researchers that American and Japanese scientists have been asked to verify the results before they are confirmed as a discovery.
Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, said: “We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing. Measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done.”
Scientists agree if the results are confirmed, that it would force a fundamental rethink of the laws of physics.
CERN reported that a neutrino beam fired 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. Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds. (A nanosecond is one-billionth of a second).
European researchers at the CERN lab near Geneva said they clocked an oddball type of subatomic particle called a neutrino going faster than the 186,282 miles per second that has long been considered the cosmic speed limit.
Fermilab team spokeswoman Jenny Thomas, a physics professor at the University College of London, said there must be a “more mundane explanation” for the European findings. She said Fermilab’s experience showed how hard it is to measure accurately the distance, time and angles required for such a claim.
Nevertheless, Fermilab, which shoots neutrinos from Chicago to Minnesota, has already begun working to try to verify or knock down the new findings.
Gillies told The Associated Press that the readings have so astounded researchers that “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.”
Light would have covered the distance in around 2.4 thousandths of a second, but the neutrinos took 60 nanoseconds – or 60 billionths of a second – less than light beams would have taken.
“It is a tiny difference,” said Ereditato, who also works at Berne University in Switzerland, “but conceptually it is incredibly important. The finding is so startling that, for the moment, everybody should be very prudent.”
The existence of the neutrino, an elementary sub-atomic particle with a tiny amount of mass created in radioactive decay or in nuclear reactions such as those in the Sun, was first confirmed in 1934, but it still mystifies researchers.
It can pass through most matter undetected, even over long distances, and without being affected. Millions pass through the human body every day, scientists say.
Stephen Parke, who is head theoretician at the Fermilab near Chicago and was not part of the research, said: “It’s a shock. It’s going to cause us problems, no doubt about that – if it’s true.”
Even if these results are confirmed, they won’t change at all the way we live or the way the world works. After all, these particles have presumably been speed demons for billions of years. But the finding will fundamentally alter our understanding of how the universe operates, physicists said.
If the European findings are correct, “this would change the idea of how the universe is put together,” Columbia University physicist Brian Greene, author of the book “Fabric of the Cosmos,” said. But he added: “I would bet just about everything I hold dear that this won’t hold up to scrutiny.”