Einstein was right, neutrino experts say

2012-06-08 14:13

Geneva - Scientists on Friday said that an experiment which challenged Einstein's theory on the speed of light had been flawed and that sub-atomic particles - like everything else - are indeed bound by the universe's speed limit.

Researchers working at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) caused a storm last year when they published experimental results showing that neutrinos could out-pace light by some 6km/s.
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.

But CERN now says that the earlier results were wrong and faulty kit was to blame.

"Although this result isn't as exciting as some would have liked, it is what we all expected deep down," said the centre's research director Sergio Bertolucci.

"The story captured the public imagination, and has given people the opportunity to see the scientific method in action.

"An unexpected result was put up for scrutiny, thoroughly investigated and resolved in part thanks to collaboration between normally competing experiments. That's how science moves forward."

The neutrinos were timed on the journey from CERN's giant underground lab near Geneva to the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy, after travelling 732km 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.

New picture

Researchers updated the science community on Friday at the International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics, being held in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto.

"The previous data taken up to 2011 with the neutrino beam from CERN to Gran Sasso 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.

"If this result at CERN is proved to be right, and particles are found to travel faster than the speed of light, then I am prepared to eat my shorts, live on TV," Jim Al-Khalili, a professor of theoretical physics at Britain's University of Surrey, declared at the time.

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-06-08 14:31

    Well done lads

  • Tawizee - 2012-06-08 14:47

    This would have been a leap in Science. Time travel etc...but only if it was true

      zaatheist - 2012-06-08 15:05

      There is so much still to learn and discover that, who knows, we might well find means of exploring outside of our solar system.

      Matthew - 2012-06-08 15:13

      No pun intended,but in time,we will.its enevitable

      goyougoodthing - 2012-06-08 16:57

      Matthew, surely if time travel were possible, someone would have come back and told us? :-)

  • louwhan.hoffmann - 2012-06-08 14:52

    and for this very reason we refer to extremely clever people as Einsteins

      ben.louw.5 - 2012-06-08 15:52

      True, but nothing wrong with trying new ideas and challenging theories.

  • Sagin - 2012-06-08 14:53

    ....and well done Einstein! We are as advanced as what we are, because of great humans like Einstein and Al-Kalili. Many of these, super humans, names have been lost in the passage of time, and many who are around right now, are not recognised or revered enough.

  • Ted - 2012-06-08 15:13

    The usual confusion in Sciencesphere! Now you see me, now you don't type of existence. We will have another press conference where these people will again say this announcement was flawed. We as human beings are too shallow-minded to understand the workings of the universe and God!

      jody.beggs - 2012-06-08 15:22

      Speak for yourself. God goddit might work for narrow minded sheeple but does not come close to understanding anything.... You need to abandon all sciences Technology , Medicine and just pray! Do you think you will get what you need ? Damn the man - 2012-06-08 15:26

      Oh I understand God. According to the "good" people - God wants money. And lots of it. Like we all do. Us. People.

      ben.louw.5 - 2012-06-08 15:57

      Urgh...All I'm hearing is.... "I'm to scared to learn. I'm to scared to find out how stuff work. I hope you fail so I don't look like a pansy"

      philip.venter1 - 2012-06-08 16:13

      You can't be serious? We human beings have uncovered more knowledge about the universe in the last hundred years than any did before us and we are uncovering more and more as time progresses and at a faster pace than ever. In 11 years time from now we are going to colonize Mars. You will only be able to adapt and change your religion to fit in with science for so long until it will be pushed into the mythology section just like all others religions before it. The age of superstition is at an end and the age of knowledge is dawning. It's only a matter of time until science will be able to explain EVERYTHING, just wait and see.

      Paul - 2012-06-08 16:46

      @philip.venter1 If what you say is true ... and it is true , I agree, then why if we "evolved" did it take mankind 40 000 000 to come up with the wheel? Just asking!

      Paul - 2012-06-08 16:52

      @philip.venter1 If what you say is true, about the last 100 years... and it is true , I agree, then why if we "evolved" did it take mankind 40 000 000 to come up with the wheel? To my ignorant mind it makes more sense that we've developed to where we are now over the last 7000 years. Just asking!

      philip.venter1 - 2012-06-08 17:00

      @Paul Homo Sapiens have only been around for an estimated 200 000 years and we only reached full modernity 50 000 years ago so the discovery of the wheel is not that long ago if you use the right data.

      QuantumDM - 2012-06-08 18:43

      @Paul - finally you said something worthwhile (and all in lower case) - you indeed are "ignorant".

      Thato Okonkwo Fakudze - 2012-06-08 19:43

      You can keep your heaven, when I die I wanna go to Middle Earth! Damn the man

  • renesongs - 2012-06-08 15:15

    I wonder if Jim Al-Khalili is going to make his BBC colleague Marcus Du Sautoy eat his short

  • - 2012-06-08 15:18

    Of course he was right!

  • clifton.andrews - 2012-06-08 15:25

    Chalk up another one for Science!

  • Tony - 2012-06-08 15:29

    Propeller-heads rule!

  • CaptainGaza - 2012-06-08 15:30

    The scientific method in action, isn't it great!!!!

      ben.louw.5 - 2012-06-08 16:00

      Wonder who the tool is that keeps thumbs downing

  • Glyn - 2012-06-08 15:38

    This is old news!

  • Stirrer - 2012-06-08 16:05

    Question: Speed is defined as distance/time. If in theory, time and space is relative, how can speed be absolute?

      goyougoodthing - 2012-06-08 17:00

      It's not, it's relative to the rate of time... So, the faster you go, the slower time goes, or the slower time goes the faster you go...

  • Juan - 2012-06-08 16:08

    Many have tried to prove Einstein's theories wrong, and 97 years on modern scientists still can't, amazing.......

  • faannagel - 2012-06-08 16:53

    The old man was clever, very interisting..

  • janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-06-08 18:46

    ... and sanity prevails :-)

  • QuantumDM - 2012-06-08 18:47

    Einstein Rocks - for even if he got some ideas wrong, he is a trailblazer - him and his peers set the tone and pace for contemporary science to go forward. He does this by being familiar face of science and rationality to the layman.

  • Pieter - 2012-06-08 20:47

    Wow $10 billion machine to figure out that an old man was right. You all must feel like you deserve your qualifications right now! Whats next? Test if all apples fall at the same speed?

      alfred.karius - 2012-06-09 07:14

      Isn't it amazing that scientist are able to shoot a particle less than a hundred millionth of a millimeter in diameter at a speed of +- 300 000km per second, over a distance of 732km, detect that same particle and measure the time it took to an accuracy of more than (bar some technical snafus) one hundred millionth of a second. Isn't it amazing that the spectrum of human intelligence spans from the likes of Einstein to Pieter. And Pieter while the experiment was done by scientists at CERN they did not use the Large Hadron Collider.

      Pieter - 2012-06-09 10:21

      @alfred. Agh no now everybody knows that Einstein is way smarter than me! Ill never be able to show my face at another book club. Did you and your 6 friends at CERN gave each other a congratulatory secret handshake after that comment. P.s I shoot particles daily and don't need to measure them to know they smell!

      Pieter - 2012-06-09 11:50

      @delusion First I'm not a religiot. Second I don't think these guys are doing test to prove the likes of news24 readers or any other religiots wrong (just nice if they do). Third Yes I think big science like this is important, fun and good for humankind!

  • Mumlo - 2012-06-09 00:40

    Einstein never wrong? Einstein said the universe was finite. Therefore the theory of the Big Bang was not possible as the universe would not be finite but expanding. Hubble looked though his telescope and said 'Er, the universe IS expanding'. Einstein said: 'Whoops'. Einstein said the atom was the smallest thing in the universe. After Einsteins death, scientists cut the atom open, and EIGHTY SEVEN smaller things fell out of the smallest thing in the universe. Einsteins children said: 'Whoops'. Scientists in Italy told us that light is not the fastest thing in the universe. Now scientists in Italy are saying light is the fastest thing in the universe. How do you say 'Whoops' in Italian?

  • sipho.mbulawa - 2012-06-09 07:52

    Eisntein the Chuck Norris of science

  • Mandy Casey - 2012-06-09 09:47

    They only thing faster is the speed of darkness. Its there even before the light.

      philip.venter1 - 2012-06-12 12:29

      Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. It is not a force nor a form of energy therefore it can not have speed. As soon as light starts moving back to it's source, darkness is left behind and it then creates the illusion that darkness is taking the place of light. With that stated, it is safe to conclude that there is no such thing as the "speed of darkness".

  • Zion - 2012-06-09 09:48


  • Practice - 2012-06-10 12:44

    So all the stuff in the universe came out of the same singularity. Also, there is an observable universe, which is the limit of how far light could have travelled since the event of the big bang. Yet, some of the stuff, that originated in the same singularity, lie outside of that boundary, meaning it had to move faster than the speed of light to get there. Some one please help me here...

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