Remember that experiment from last fall that appeared to show neutrinos can travel faster than light? It turns out the whole thing is probably a mistake, brought on by a bad connection between GPS satellites and the computer that calculated the speed of the tiny particles.
To recap, last year some lab coats at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, performed an experiment where they created neutrinos, some of the smallest particles in existence, then measured how long it took them to reach a detector about 450 miles away. It turns out the neutrinos arrived at the detector 60 nanoseconds before light would have arrived.
According to Einstein, nothing can travel faster than light, so the results received worldwide attention. If the experiment were verified and duplicated, it would have overthrown scientists’ view of the universe. Entirely new physics would be needed to explain the impossibly fast neutrinos.SEE ALSO: NASA’s IBEX Finds New Alien Particles in Deep Corners of Space
While the finding fueled dreams of Star Trek-like ships able to travel at superluminal velocities, the physics community was concerned that the result would upend decades of scientific law. The thought that Einstein’s theory of relativity was somehow wrong about the speed of light being an absolute limit, according to physics, simply makes no sense.
It now appears relativity is safe after all. Science Insider reports that people familiar with the original experiment say the the 60-nanosecond jump is fully accounted for by a faulty fiber-optic cable that connects the GPS receiver to an “electronic card” in a computer. Once they fixed the cable, the discrepancy disappeared.
More results will need to verify the correction, so keep those starship dreams on standby. However, it appears that some earlier theories explaining the error, some of which cited the time dilation experienced by GPS satellites due to relativity, aren’t necessary after all. In the end, all the researchers needed to do was visit their local RadioShack.
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