Faster than light measurement shocks physicists; experts wary of junking light speed limit just yet

“Physicists on the team that measured particles traveling faster than light said Friday they were as surprised as their skeptics about the results, which appear to violate the laws of nature as we know them,” Rank Jordans reports for The Associated Press.

“Going faster than light is something that is just not supposed to happen, according to Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity,” Jordans reports. “The speed of light – 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) – has long been considered a cosmic speed limit.”

“The team – a collaboration between France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research and Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory – fired a neutrino beam 454 miles (730 kilometers) underground from Geneva to Italy,” Jordans reports. “They found it traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than light. That’s sixty billionth of a second, a time no human brain could register. ‘You could say it’s peanuts, but it’s not. It’s something that we can measure rather accurately with a small uncertainty,’ said Antonio Ereditato, who participated in the experiment and speaks on behalf of the team.”

Jordans reports, “If the experiment is independently repeated – most likely by teams in the United States or Japan – then it would require a fundamental rethink of modern physics. Physicists not involved in the experiment have been understandably skeptical. Alvaro De Rujula, a theoretical physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research outside Geneva from where the neutron beam was fired, said he blamed the readings on a so-far undetected human error. If not, and it’s a big if, the door would be opened to some wild possibilities.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Introducing the Apple iNeutrino. Featuring a whole new Time Machine. Free shipping.

We’d go back and snatch that pen out of the sugared water bozo’s hand before he signed over the company jewels to Microsoft. Better yet, we’d go back a bit more and tell the young Steve Jobs what was about to transpire and… Presto! The Dark Ages of Personal Computing never happened!


  1. Just to address the obvious questions:

    1. No, this wasn’t normal GPS measurement. Yes, 1ns resolutions is quite doable with specialized systems.

    2. No, it was not some obvious, stupid mistake. I just got done watching the webcast with the rest of my high-energy physics group. The consensus is that the experiment was very well done, and that something subtle is going on.

    3. It’s probably some aspect of the experiment or the measurement, not a breakdown in Einstein. Existing supernova results are VERY good, and will be hard to contradict.

    4. This is an MDN article because more than half of the laptops in the auditorium during the presentation were Macs. 🙂

    1. This sounds like they don’t have all the facts, to make up the 50ns they believe are missing.

      The speed of light is different depending on the environment it’s traveling through. It’s possible we haven’t actually pinned down the theoretical maximum limit of the speed of light. It’s possible that neutrinos, which are not interactive with most of the universe is a better measure of the actual speed of light we need to be working with. The end result, we have to recalculate everything, such as the actual size of the universe.

      Hey, GPS based on neutrinos will get better!!! ID the location for a grain of sand on the whole of Earth.

      I say there is more to come. We have’t discovered sub space yet and that’s were all the aliens communicate, Hmm?

            1. My apologies. Jeff is absolutely right: it’s a Bob Shaw short story. My memory playing tricks on me! (It would fit well into the Bradbury canon though, no?)

      1. Ummm… no.

        Neutrinos have mass. They are not a better yardstick for the speed of light.

        The measurement of C, by the way, is really, really good. One of the best measurements we have.

        And unless you want your GPS chip to include a 50,000-metric-ton receiver, it’s probably best to stick to radio for GPS at the moment. 🙂

        1. Maybe mass isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

          A neutrino can pass through the Earth with little to no interactivity, whereas a photo is very interactive with matter.

          I say there as a lot more to learn and maybe things are not as they seem, at first.

      2. See how easy it is for human error to creep in? 50ns is actually 60ns

        Yes, neutrinos don’t interact with anything. Just proving their existence needed millions of litres of perchlorethylene in deep underground caves, hoping for one to register by impact.

        So, on the one hand, it shouldn’t matter what, if anything, the 730km tube was filled with, a neutrino will just zip conveniently past any atom inside the tube as if the tube were a total vacuum.

        But, if that is so, how do they measure the arrival of the neutrino?

        1. The error rate is 10ns, therefore the missing time is 50 ns or the significant portion. The actual time was 50 or 70ns faster than light, whereas the recoded rate was 60ns.

          I still think there maybe an error before mesurment began that will better explain the observation and not blow out E=mc(sq). I think one of the constants are wrong, as hard as that my be to believe.

    2. I’m thinking this has less to do with the speed of light, and more to do with how we’re still discovering fundamental aspects of what neutrinos are and how they work. Some links from Ars Technica for the curious:

      Detector finally catches neutrinos in act of flavor changing

      Unexpected antineutrino masses a puzzler for Standard Model

      Extra neutrino flavor could be bitter end to Standard Model

      Ars photo essay: standing in the beam line of a neutrino detector

      Neutrino oscillations observed until earthquake shut down detector

    3. Has the movement of the earth and solar system as the neutrinos are flying, been factored or even diffinitively quantified? The /- 20ns of accuracy in the test equipment, is not helping those 60ns.

      My bet is that it’s debunked by Monday. Though if it were true I’m one step closer to hyperdrive & teaming up with Darth Vader’s Death Star for some Pandora blasting fun!

      1. Unfortunately, the cable is sold separately. The iNeutrino will go for a small $499 in the 32 GeV model. The full 64 TeV iNeutrino will cost $1199. But batteries and accelerator are a bit pricy: $4.1 billion. On the other hand, the accelerator has gone beyond linear, Apple’s new one is cubicly splined! What a company! It’s a quantum leap forward!

  2. @ MDN How can you appreciate the light without having the dark as well? It’s possible that Steve Jobs would not have achieved as much if he didn’t have to deal with the personal turmoil that getting kicked out of Apple provided. New ideas forged in the process of picking up the pieces of a failed idea or plan.

      1. If we skipped the Dark Ages of Personal Computing we’d miss out on the greatest comeback story in history.

        But then we might have holographic storage and be exploring Jupiter by now …

  3. 60 nanoseconds less for a light-speed flight of 730 kilometers means the measurement showed the neutrinos traveled at 100.0025% the speed of light.

    Or it showed that there measurement of the distance to the lab in Italy was underestimated by 18 meters.

    My guess is they goofed.

  4. Samsung has filed a lawsuit against unnamed physicists at France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research because one or more of them, because they may have advanced the world into a new era of knowledge and wealth.
    Android has asked the courts to throw them a bone.

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