Einstein was right, researchers admit
TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Einstein’s theory of special relativity has been recently threatened by researchers.
A team of scientists who last year suggested neutrinos could travel faster than light conceded June 8 that Einstein was right and the sub-atomic particles were bound by the universe’s speed limit.
Researchers working at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) caused a storm when they published experimental results showing the particles could out-pace light by some six kilometers per second.
The findings threatened to upend modern physics and smash a hole in Albert Einstein’s 1905 theory of special relativity, which described the velocity of light as the maximum speed in the cosmos.
The neutrinos were timed on the journey from CERN’s giant underground lab near Geneva to the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy, after travelling 732 kilometers through the Earth’s crust. To do the trip, the neutrinos should have taken 0.0024 seconds. Instead, the particles were recorded as hitting the detectors in Italy 0.00000006 seconds sooner than expected, the preliminary experiment had shown.
‘Earlier results were wrong’
But on June 8 the researchers told the International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics, being held in Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto, that the earlier results were wrong and faulty kit was to blame. “The previous data were revised taking into account understood instrumental effects,” the team said.
“A coherent picture has emerged with both previous and new data pointing to a neutrino velocity consistent with the speed of light.” The initial findings had been greeted with a combination of excitement and scepticism, even from those involved in the experiment, who urged other physicists to carry out their own checks to corroborate or refute what had been seen.