Faster than light neutrino puzzle solved?

Oct 14, 2011

Last month we wrote about something that the researchers at the CERN particle research facility and the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy had stumbled across that rocked the physics world. The team of scientists though they had observed neutrinos that traveled faster than the speed of light. If true this would undermine the long-standing theory of special relativity Einstein came up with decades ago. Since the announcement, there have been lots of researchers trying to figure out how to debunk or how to prove that the neutrinos did travel faster than light.

Another scientist thinks that he has figured out how the neutrinos arrived to the Gran Sasso Lab seemingly before light should have been able to get there. The neutrinos were 60 nanoseconds early. The new argument comes from Ronald van Elburg from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. His argument is that the team forgot to take into account the time distortions introduced by the GPS satellites in orbit that were used to synchronize the clocks at Gran Sasso and CERN.

The key bit according to van Elburg is that the team seems to have forgot to take into account the time it takes for the GPS signal to travel to the sensors on earth from the orbiting satellites. The calculations of van Elburg figure that the delay it took the signal to reach earth from the satellites amounts to about 32 nanoseconds on each end of the experiment making for a total time delay of 64 nanoseconds. That is almost the exact amount of time that Gran Sasso showed the neutrinos arriving early. This is a very convincing argument that if proven correct will put Einstein's theory back in play.

[via Technology Review]

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