Faster Than Light Travel

The world of particle physics is agog with recent news of an experiment that shows a very unexpected result – sub-atomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light. If verified and independently replicated the results would violate one of the universe’s fundamental properties described by Einstein in the Special Theory of Relativity. The speed of light — 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) — has long been considered an absolute cosmic speed limit.

Stranger still, over the last couple of days news of this anomalous result has even been broadcast on many cable news shows.

The experiment known as OPERA is a collaboration between France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research and Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory. Over the course of three years scientists fired a neutrino beam 454 miles (730 kilometers) underground from Geneva to a receiver in Italy. Their measurements show that neutrinos arrived an average of 60 nanoseconds sooner than light would have done. This doesn’t seem like a great amount, after all is only 60 billionths of a second, however the small difference could nonetheless undermine a hundred years of physics.

Understandably most physicists remain skeptical of the result, until further independent experiments are used to confirm the measurements or not. However, all seem to agree that if the result is confirmed this would be a monumental finding and would likely reshape modern physics and our understanding of the universe.

[div class=attrib]More on this intriguing story here courtesy of ARs Technica, which also offers a detailed explanation of several possible sources of error that may have contributed to the faster-than-light measurements.[end-div]