Antonio Ereditato, physicist at the University of Bern, and head of Opera, the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Tracking Apparatus, recently led his group to make what might just be one of the biggest discoveries in physics since Albert Einstein’s time. Using the machine pictured at the right, a particle accelerator, at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, outside of Geneva, Switzerland, Opera propelled neutrinos a distance of 450 miles to Gran Sasso, Italy. The one problem was, these particles were traveling faster than the speed of light! In fact, they were traveling precisely 0.0025% faster than a beam of light, and got to Gran Sasso sixty nanoseconds before the beam of light would have. How is this possible? The only particles that, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity, can go faster than light are tachyons, which can’t slow below the speed of light! Well, the experimenters agree. They believe some sort of mistake occurred. Many of the critics that posted papers to the same archive as Opera believe three main theories. The first is that there was something wrong with the GPS tracking system the scientists used. Second is that if these particles actually traveled faster than light, they would have emitted huge amounts of energy that weren’t, but should have been observed by the scientists. Similarly, the final theory is that if neutrinos travel faster than light, electrons should, too. Once again, this is not something that has been observed. While all these criticisms may seem like these scientists are all wasting their time arguing, they may present critical ideas that lead to even more amazing future discoveries. After all, the one thing Ereditato says he wants is for other people to confirm his results. If the results are confirmed, perhaps this group of European scientists has made the biggest physics discovery of the century!
While you’re at it, have some fun with this by taking a look at the video below, and reading this article!