Geneva: Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the most fundamental pillars of physics. But now scientists say his conclusion that nothing can travel faster than light could be proven wrong.
Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, the world’s largest physics laboratory say they have recorded sub-atomic particles, known as neutrinos, travelling faster than the speed of light.
According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, known by the equation E=mc2, that feat is impossible.
CERN says as part of its ‘OPERA’ experiment, a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab 730 kilometres away in Italy travelled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. It revealed that neutrinos travel at a velocity of 20 parts per million above the speed of light.
Scientists calculated the margin of error at just 10 nanoseconds, making the difference statistically significant.
If the findings are correct, it would force a major rethink of the fundamental laws of nature, including how the universe works.
Given the potential far-reaching consequences of such a result, CERN has decided to hold an open house shortly in which scientists can refute or confirm the results based on their measurements.
“When an experiment finds an apparently unbelievable result and can find no artifact of the measurement to account for it, it is normal procedure to invite broader scrutiny, and this is exactly what the OPERA collaboration is doing, it’s good scientific practice,” said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci.