Neutrinos travelling faster than light?!

Scientists at CERN have performed an experiment which suggests that neutrinos might have been travelling FASTER than the speed of light in a vacumn. You might remember that the speed of light in a vacumn, or approximately 3*10^8 m/s, is a constant and that nothing can go faster than it. So what the hell is going on here?

Well, the scientist themselves suspect an experimental error of some sort – I haven’t run the maths yet, but some of the comments I’ve seen on the web are that they might have slightly miscalculated the distance between Gran Paradiso (in Italy) and CERN, as they are talking about a billionth of a second’s difference. So it was probably a measuring error, but part of me wants this to be in fact true. If Einstein’s postulate that nothing* can exceed the speed of light isn’t true, then we’re in for some interesting times.

*This is purely hypothetical, but there are supposedly particles that are already travelling faster than the speed of light, known as tachyons. But wait! I just said that nothing can go faster than the speed of light! Well, what physicists mean is that as you approach 3*10^8 m/s, you start to get heavier and require more energy to accelerate. Eventually, you’ll require infinite energy to do so because you will be infinitely heavy. However, the same applies hypothetically if you’re already going faster than c, i.e. you would require more energy to slow down to c. At least, if I’ve understood this correctly.

UPDATE 25/09/2011: Brian Cox talking about this on BBC 6 radio

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About Philip

I'm a physics graduate, sci-fi writer, budding game designer, and amateur human.

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