Scientists see faster-than-light particles

2011-09-23 08:28

Paris - Physicists reported on Friday that sub-atomic particles called neutrinos can travel faster than light, a finding that - if verified - would be inconsistent with Einstein's theory of relativity.

In experiments conducted between the European Centre for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Switzerland and a laboratory in Italy, the tiny particles were clocked at 300 006km/s, slightly faster that the speed of light, the researchers said.

"This result comes as a complete surprise," said physicist Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the experiment, known as Opera.

  • static - 2011-09-23 08:42

    From my understanding the universe expands faster than the speed of light. Also if one particle is confirmed to travel faster than the speed of light, it may be possible that other particles may also travel faster than speed of light which would make physics very interesting for the next few decades.

      miles - 2011-09-23 09:32

      If the universe expanded faster than the speed of light then you wouldn't be able to see any stars at night...

      static - 2011-09-23 09:36

      uh if the universe didn't expand faster than light then what happens to the light when it touches the boundaries of the universe? Also I'm not sure if you know this, but the light you think is being emitted from stars that you see at night are actually mostly whole galaxies with billions of stars within them. Moreover these galaxies are moving away from our galaxy at close to the speed of light.

      Kyle Hauslaib - 2011-09-23 09:40

      Actually I think neutrinos might be a special case - to the best of my knowledge, they are massless and hence have no momentum. Thus, since momentum is the first time-derivative of force, there is no force acting on them. So I think that faster-than-light travel might not apply to particles with any sort of mass.

      JJ - 2011-09-23 09:48

      From Wikipedia: Neutrino mass: Small, but non-zero. See the mass section.

      x - 2011-09-23 10:14

      Far from it. It is the Hubble constant which is 72 (ish) km/s; whereas the speed of light is about 300 000 km/s. Not even close.

      Moersteen - 2011-09-23 10:23

      Actually I think static might be a special case...

      Analyst - 2011-09-23 10:28

      The universe doesn't expand faster than the speed of light at this point, but eventually it will and nothing will exist at that point all atoms will be ripped apart, expansion is not limited by the speed of light and neither was the initial "inflation"(expansion) shortly after the big bang.

      Badballie - 2011-09-23 10:57

      @MILES:- FAILED, go study some more, you seem to be getting your facts mixed up a little.

      Freddy - 2011-09-23 12:30

      The misinformation posted here is scary. In layman's terms: 1. According to Einstein, nothing with any mass (or that contains "information" can travel faster than the speed of light. This is because (according to him) particles that travel at the speed of light will have infinite mass and thus require infinite energy to propel them to that speed. The LHC boys know all about this. 2. The stars that you see at night are NOT other galaxies. With the naked eye in very good viewing conditions, you can indeed see our nearest neighbouring galaxies, but they are not points of light, they look more like fuzzy clouds. The stars that you can see are stars in either our arm or the next arm of our own Milkyway galaxy. 3. Whilst our universe is expanding rapidly due to the theorised forces of dark energy, we do not know if the most distant parts are indeed expanding faster than the speed of light. If they did, we would not be able to see them. In fact, some of the most distant galaxies we see today might already have crossed the lightspeed boundary, but due to them being roughly 13 billion light years away from us, the light we can see is from a REALLY long time ago. This is not due to the stars flying away from us (it is an effect though), but due to the space itself actually expanding. As empty space has no mass and contains no information, this is actually possible. The theory of inflation uses a similar concept.

      Freddy - 2011-09-23 12:40

      Oh right missed this one. The universe expanding faster than the speed of light has nothing to do with atoms being pulled apart. Some scientists believe that the expansion is speeding up because dark energy is winning the battle against dark matter. If dark energy eventually overcomes dark matter and the related gravitational forces, then we could reach a Big Rip scenario. It's not considered mainstream though. Please note that this is not a political posting and that no geeks were injured in the production thereof

      JMan - 2011-09-23 14:45

      Interesting to see all the thumbs down here for some (interesting) comments.....we must have a lot of physics professors/experts here on the forum... ;)

  • inxsive - 2011-09-23 08:44

    what if the estimation for the speed of light was incorrect. then einsteins theory will still hold up

      Scorpius - 2011-09-23 09:30

      Speed of light can be measured very accurately in physics labs. We do live in interesting times, and theories can be proven wrong

      shmangle - 2011-09-23 10:26

      The speed of light is not an estimation. It's an actual measurement.

  • TrippiZee - 2011-09-23 08:46

    Enter spaceships with FLT fiction becoming science fact

      Willie_G - 2011-09-23 09:54

      Sign me up for a lightsabre!

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-23 10:09

      The first step to being assimilated by the borg. Good Going Scientists!

      Harvey - 2011-09-23 11:20

      We haven't gone to the moon in twenty years. Science has let me down. I should have a jet pack and a flying car by now. I should be living in a bubble house under the sea with a pet, mutant, augmented dolphin. What did I get instead? A friggin ipad. This sucks.

      Glitchcs - 2011-11-18 07:55

      @Harvey, I agree. Back to the Future and Minority Report showed so much promise...I want a lightsabre!

  • Morarius - 2011-09-23 09:02

    Maybe their measuring equipment is not that correct, take it, anything that can give you an accurate reading within 1% is pretty good. maybe they should just recalibrate and test again.

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-23 10:10

      like they said, the results will be very exiting ONCE VERIFIED, which means recalibrating the equipment and doing the test again, prob around 5 or 6 times, then trying to duplicate the test somewhere else as well.

  • Herb - 2011-09-23 09:02

    Interesting . wonder what value of c they are using as some scientists now believe c not to be a constant but is in fact slowing down.. very interesting when you then look at it from Newton's 3d law..

      Kyle Hauslaib - 2011-09-23 09:42

      How does Newton's third law apply?

      Herb - 2011-09-23 09:59

      If the value of C is declining it would mean the universe is a closed system if I understand it correctly applying the 3d law just means energy was only added to this system once... not sure if I am making sense lol

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-23 10:10

      Slowing down by how much?

      Herb - 2011-09-23 10:16

      @Martin depends what readings you look at from 1950 to now about .05 km/s if you look at older readings bearing in mind they had a larger variance.. 82 km/s to the reading in 1907 with a +-30 variance...

      x - 2011-09-23 10:17

      Newton's laws are outdated and not correct. They are also 300 years old. Most of the laws were found to be wanting in 1905 with relativity theory - yet it is still taught in our schools as fact. No wonder kids are not interested in science.

      x - 2011-09-23 12:14

      Wow and people actually gave that a thumbs down. This is exactly the problem. Sigh.

      Harvey - 2011-09-23 12:46

      X. Everyone knows that Newtonian physics is a usurped system, theoretically, but would you like to explain relativity to a fourteen year old? Besides, Newtonian laws are more than sufficient for most engineering endeavors.

      x - 2011-09-23 15:57

      That is not the point. Newtonian physics is taught as a fact to kids - and because no-one actually mentions to them that it has been surpassed by newer (and more interesting) laws, kids' imagination and interest is not piqued in an area that is fascinating. I think one should also give more credit to kids in terms of understanding relativity. In my experience, adults have issues understanding relativity, and kids have more open minds and understand it easier. And it is not theoretical.. it is practical. There are many instances where relativity dictates the implementation, such as GPS.

      Harvey - 2011-09-23 17:08

      X. As I said "most" endevors and not all. Newton will always have a place in physics, it is the foundation on which relativity is based. To say the newtonian calculations are incorrect is crap. Example: newton: p = mv einstein: p = gmv g=1 (for all examples schoolkids would be considering) Therefore, Newton = Einstein

      x - 2011-09-23 17:58

      Clearly not all of them are incorrect. Irrespective, the only point I want to make is that, because the school system is still stuck at a point 300 years ago, kids are not motivated in genetal to study physics and persue such a career.

      Harvey - 2011-09-23 19:15

      X. Fair point. But if my son ever asks me about the intricacies of relativity for a school project - I'm going to be cursing you.

      richard.pitout - 2011-09-23 20:28

      x - Newton's laws are most certainly not outdated and are perfectly correct for classical mechanics. Quantum mechanics is however a different kettle of fish. Its all in the application.

  • arjenf - 2011-09-23 09:04

    e-mc2 is the best we've got today, but it is highly likely that incorrect based principles, lack of detailed understanding of variables and other unknown actors could influence the accuracy of such a perfect equation. From what I gather we are potentially walking into a new era in science, which I find very exciting.

  • spiral - 2011-09-23 09:04

    "This result comes as a complete surprise," ... um, so what the heck were you hoping for then? a boring breakthrough?

      TrippiZee - 2011-09-23 09:09


      Thabiso marumo - 2011-09-23 10:51


  • LekkerinSA - 2011-09-23 09:04

    It is simply not possibe for anything with mass to exceed the speed of light. Most college students (Matrics here in SA?) could show the math to prove this. I doubt this finding.

      Herb - 2011-09-23 09:11

      not so long ago it was simply a known fact that the earth was flat... makes one think....

      Wade Mackintosh - 2011-09-23 09:20

      Oh well maybe these scientists should have consulted you in the first place. Would save them alot of money, besides the fact that you seem to know alot more than they do

      russki_za - 2011-09-23 09:32

      You could probably prove it, provided your assumptions are correct. I.e., if you *assume* the speed of light to be the maximum attainable speed, then that is your least upper bound, and as you approach it, you must encounter more resistance to have the math work out. But what if your assumption was incorrect? ;)

      Mzungu - 2011-09-23 09:32

      I agree lekkerdominSA, it's heresy! Lets not forget that as scientists, everything is set in stone by the prophets of yonder, and anything new is blasphemous!

      Wade Mackintosh - 2011-09-23 09:35

      @mzungu - HUH? blasphemous? as a "typical" scientist, one should assume that everything is NOT set in stone.

      miles - 2011-09-23 09:38

      If millions of experiments agree with Eistein's Theory over the past hundred years and suddenly one experiment shows otherwise, what would you conclude? I doubt this finding too.

      Kyle Hauslaib - 2011-09-23 09:43

      I think Neutrinos are massless

      Mikemcc - 2011-09-23 09:52

      @miles, the fact that scientists are prepared to have their foundation pulled out from under them on the basis of new information is what sets science apart from dogma and tradition. The results will of course need to be reproduced somewhere else before they are accepted. Remember theories can be disproven at any time, and it only takes one provable instance, then a new theory needs to be put forward.

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-23 10:12

      Dude, this is science. People are mistaken about "plain simple" facts all the time, and they take the new info and better their understanding of the universe with it. And you think SA Matrics could be able to correct them? LOLOLOLOLOL

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-23 10:13

      Also Kyle: Neutrinos are very small in mass, but non-zero.

      The Patriot - 2011-09-23 10:14

      Not to mention 70 yrs ago we still had to split the atom. Tomorrow is a new world. Cool.

      Byron - 2011-09-23 10:38

      I doubt it too... Maybe they accidentally found a Higgs-Boson?

      Felix - 2011-09-23 10:55

      Helllloooo Wade, it's sarcasm ;)

  • Skabanga - 2011-09-23 09:11


  • Wade Mackintosh - 2011-09-23 09:23

    perhaps the theory of relativity still stands that there is a equal and opposing force, they just have not confirmed it yet. they have just found particles traveling faster than the speed of light, maybe, just maybe there are particles traveling slower than the speed of time.

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-09-23 10:14

      It's called stupidity, and its center mass is Africa.

      George - 2011-09-23 10:43

      Martin you are a half evolved Neantherthal Gorilla that cannot follow this scientific debate. As such you just broke into the laboratory and smashed all the fine measurement tools as you dont comprehend the complexity of the discussion. Attention seeking under achiever.

  • Werner Lubbe - 2011-09-23 09:26

    Why do people think that everything Einstien said was true or even correct? Sure, he was a very smart individual but he was still human. Heck, for all we know the guy had some really deep and dark secrets floating around in that brain of his. Most scientific theories today are being proven wrong or being corrected. No big deal. Not like we will see anything that sprung from that idea in todays day and age...

      TextOfReason - 2011-09-23 10:36

      Einstein was only brilliant at one thing... Plagiarism. Wonder why he never had ANY references? Look up Friedrich Hasenöhrl and you'll find the real genius. If special relativity is wrong in its assumptions then that would explain a lot of strange anomalies such as the altered causation of quantum physics when observed and the fact that the suns "mood" changes the rate of radioactive decay

      Werner - 2011-09-23 12:51

      Einstein got loads of poon.

  • Trapster21 - 2011-09-23 09:32

    @Static, the universe supposedly expands faster than the speed of light because it expands in every direction simultaneously. i.e. Take 2 opposing directions, the rate of expansion = v1- (-v2) = v1+v2, where v1,2 = c, hence 2c. @inxsive: Yea it could be. I really hope it's not though. It would be much more exciting. @ Morarius: 1% is actually pretty bad. most hi-tech instruments can measure to within much cmaller degrees than 1% (think lasers for instance). @LekkerinSA: You're making the assumption that e^2=m^2c^2 is actually correct (which, ofcourse, it has been for the past 100 years or so according to us humans).

      JJ - 2011-09-23 09:37

      Why: e^2=m^2c^2 ?

      Trapster21 - 2011-09-23 09:40

      sorry I meant e^2 = m^2c^4. Its the official version of Einstein's equation. The way he first worked it out to be. The maths is far too long to go through here :P

      JJ - 2011-09-23 09:46

      Seen the math before, but it's the same thing as e=mc^2 anyway.

  • johan.visser - 2011-09-23 09:33

    It might depend on what/which frequency of light is being used as the baseline... infra-red? ultra-violet?

      x - 2011-09-23 10:27

      Nope photons travel at the same speed, irrespective of the energy it has.

  • Tarux123 - 2011-09-23 09:42

    with what do you messure the speed at which the neutrinos are moving? because obviously the medium which is needed to transfer the data between the moving object and the unit that processes that data, will take some of the time off that actual figure. like a small delay. or do they factor this in automatically when they do the tests?

  • Kookie Pookie - 2011-09-23 09:49

    It has been speculated that the shape of the neutrino changes during the measurement, so when it breaks the finish line it is elongated, longer and thinner that the shape it was. This means that the front edge of this neutrino seems to have traveled slightly faster than it actually has.

  • King Solomon - 2011-09-23 10:00

    If E=mc2, then neutrinos traveling faster than c2 would have infinite mass.

      Mad Hatter - 2011-09-23 10:03

      or zero mass?

  • ElHolios - 2011-09-23 10:05

    I am saying smething about science I also do not understand just so you guys can see how cool I really am...!!

      x - 2011-09-23 10:29

      You are ice.

      TextOfReason - 2011-09-23 10:41

      You are my hero

      static - 2011-09-23 10:44

      we are not cool, we are just g33ks!

      AntonioP - 2011-09-23 14:28

      Sience is kewl and you can do stuff like mix stuff and smoke it. Or we mix stuff and blow it up. My boet has only 3 fingurs left and one eye. Sientits are kewl but you 2. Thanx

  • Ascendo Tuum - 2011-09-23 10:22

    These neutrinos didnt have 'South African taxi association' stickers on them did they? It would explain the speeding

  • Diggs - 2011-09-23 10:33

    i know something that is faster than speed of light.... Diarrhea. Before you even think about it or turn on the tiolet light it hits u...

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-23 11:03

      and the cure for a Bad Cough???? A very strong laxative! Take it and you'll be far to scared to cough!

  • NuttyZA - 2011-09-23 10:41

    Hmmm... I see a future of Neutrino Powered microchips and processors... The Intel Neutrino Oct Core.... Internet porn, at faster than light speeds!!!!

  • joe bliksem - 2011-09-23 10:41

    this is rubbish. this is what scientists do to make a name for themselves? let me guess, they dyed them a certain colour. how did they measure something so small travelling this distance when you cant see them. i suppose they had a microscope following the atoms. this sort of rubbish is what scientists do to make a name for themselves. they are some of the most egotistical people on the planet.recognition is what seek, so the whole world can know how great they are.

      static - 2011-09-23 10:46

      So why did you post this comment? I'm going to try and answer and say that you too are egotistical and wish to undermine people with bigger egos than yourself, and in so doing try to get some sort of recognition as well. Unfortunately your lack of grammar and inconsistent logic has failed you.

      TextOfReason - 2011-09-23 10:47

      Actually they built a Large Hadron Collider "microscope" that cost several billion Euros and extends 27km... and no they're not looking at atoms, their looking at stuff WAY WAY smaller... like your capacity to understand

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-23 11:01

      to quote Bugs Bunny... "What a maroon!"

      Felix - 2011-09-23 11:02

      They use stopwatches, dah :p

      joe bliksem - 2011-09-23 11:56

      @TextOfReason.i beleive they spent something like 90 billion euros to build the hadron i dont understand how much money that is but its just huge huge huge.just so that some scientist can tell us a micro sub atomic particle can travel faster than light. and i will admist that its all beyond me, but i do know that alot of scientists have huge huge huge egos. waste of money i think, especially when countries are going bankrupt. if you guys are so clever, tell me , who is paying for the hadron story??

      NuttyZA - 2011-09-23 12:56

      Joe, how can the advancement of human knowledge and the human race ever be a waste of money? why should the money spent on this be tossed into an endless pit of hand outs to third world countries, which will always need handouts! Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to build a Large Hadron Collider and he will eventually solve all of humanities problems!

      TastelessJoke - 2011-09-23 13:17

      How did your comment get here, joe bliksem? Did someone type the letters, fold them up and send them down the intertubes so that little people could stick them to the inside of our computer screens?

      AntonioP - 2011-09-23 14:30

      joe bliksem is a intellectual-hater. Lucky for us we have great guys like ElHolios on our side. He'll moer jou for us.

      richard.pitout - 2011-09-23 20:36

      Dude, scientific research (and greed) is the basis of all technological progress. Would you prefer it if we all still believed the world was flat and lived in caves?

  • mbube - 2011-09-23 11:52

    Don't get too excited yet. Wait for peer review.

  • trevb - 2011-09-23 12:06

    Einstein theory of Special relativity states objects with mass need an infinite supply of energy to ACCELERATE to the speed of light ! which is impossible but it does alow for faster than light travel

      x - 2011-09-23 12:17

      is trooo

      TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-23 12:34

      but the Lorentz factor states that an objects length contracts exponentially, and its experience of time dilates exponentially as it approaches relativistic speeds, which means that FTL travel is probably not going to happen. Never mind mass-energy equivalence.

      AntonioP - 2011-09-23 14:05

      SkepticDetective What precisely are "relativistic speeds"? It may be so that at very high velocs. the efect may be more significant, but now, as we write, our heads are getting older than our feet. Due to the differential gravitational pull, our heads being further away from the earth's centre will be subject to the relativity effect that states that time slows, as gravity strengthens. (Head is further from earth's centre.) Granted, it'll be only a few hundred nano secs. in our life time. So don't lose any sleep over it. (Especially because when you're horizontal, your head gets as old as your feet do.)

      x - 2011-09-23 16:01

      Detective - correct that is why light does not age - if you know what I mean.

  • TheSkepticDetective - 2011-09-23 12:24

    News24, is this the best you can do? On this topic! I did better.

  • AntonioP - 2011-09-23 13:03

    Does this mean that they saw it, before they even saw it?

  • Jaco Conradie - 2011-09-23 13:36

    Seriously can anyone who is not a physicist or mathematician that actually know what is going on stop commenting on the article! Seriously we don't see stars only galaxies ? What are you smoking mate ? The only galaxy we can see from the southern hemisphere is the small and large Magellanic and are dwarf galaxies ! The universe wont expand faster than the speed of light and nothing will be riped apart from each other. The interaction between atoms are stronger than the expansion or acceleration, thats why you are nor 10 cm taller when you get up the next morning !

      Freddy - 2011-09-23 13:57

      Some truth, many misconceptions. 1. With the naked eye, we can also see Andromeda, Omega Centauri, Triangulum and of course the Milky Way. All members of the local group. 2. The universe can expand faster than the speed of light, but we probably won't be ripped apart because of 3. 3. Dark energy is the energy of the vacuum and galaxies, galaxy clusters and superclusters have substantial amounts of matter and dark matter, the gravitational (or time space bending) effect of which negates the effect of dark energy to a degree. Dark energy predominantly effects the massive spaces between superclusters.

  • miles - 2011-09-23 13:53

    Apparently everyone is a physicist here. Well, it's all crap. Einstein is The King.

  • Christopher Maharaj - 2011-09-25 17:16

    i don't give anything here a second chance or believe it Einstein is the best what a wast of money

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