SCIENTISTS were at war last night over claims Albert Einstein was WRONG.
His special theory of relativity "proved" nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But boffins at the Swiss CERN research centre, home of the Large Hadron Collider, say they have measured sub-atomic particles breaking Einstein's law. They calculate that their neutrinos beat the speed of light by mere nano-seconds.
But other scientists said similar results last year by America's Fermilab were found to be within normal margins of error, meaning the speed of light may not have been broken.
Physicist Stephen Hawking called for further experiments.
Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Surrey University, scoffed: "If this result is proved to be right I am prepared to eat my shorts live on Newsnight."
Even CERN's experts were cautious. Theory relative
until it's proved
By BRIAN COX, Sun Professor
DO we need a new theory of space and time? This is what new results from CERN suggest if they turn out to be correct.
Einstein's theory of relativity underpins all of modern physics and the most famous equation in science — E=mc2 — is a consequence of it.
His theory says space and time are mixed up together so we really can't speak of space as a vast arena within which we live as time ticks by.
Time passes more slowly for people travelling fast relative to people standing still. If you get in a car and drive from London to Manchester and back, you'll have aged slightly less than your friend who stayed in London.
It's a tiny effect but it has been tested using ultra-precise atomic clocks and it's true; time really does pass more slowly for moving things, as Einstein said.His theory does impose some rules, and one is fundamental.
Although time can be slowed and even stopped if you are a beam of light, it is not possible to travel backwards in time.
There is a universal speed limit beyond which nothing can travel — the speed of light. If you could build a machine that travels faster than light, then according to Einstein, you'd have a time machine.
The result from CERN, while not quite opening a can of temporal worms, is a can-opener. It seems a beam of sub-atomic particles called neutrinos travelled 453 miles from CERN in Geneva to an underground lab in Italy faster than the speed of light.
Neutrinos are very difficult to detect. They are produced in huge numbers in the sun, and well over a hundred billion stream through your head a second.
Despite this, CERN scientists and engineers managed to make a beam of them and fire them through the earth into a detector in Italy — and measure how long they took to get there.
The result; the neutrinos arrived around 60,000 millionths of a second earlier than a beam of light would have. That's a lot!
If the results are confirmed, it will be the first evidence that Einstein's theory needs a rethink. It would be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time.
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