Oct 01, 2011 6:47 PM GMT
http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/09/neutrinosPhysicists from OPERA, one of the experiments at CERN, send beams of neutrinos from the organisation's headquarters on the outskirts of Geneva, through the Earth's crust to an underground laboratory 730km away underneath Gran Sasso, a mountain in the Apennines. They use fancy kit like high-precision GPS and atomic clocks to measure the distance the neutrinos travel to within 20cm and their time of flight to within ten nanoseconds (billionths of a second). The neutrinos in question appear to be reaching the detector 60 nanoseconds faster than light would take to cover the same distance. That translates to a speed 0.002% higher than the 299,792,458 metres per second at which light zaps through a vacuum.
The result, published in arXiv, an online database, is based on data from 15,000 neutrinos detected at Gran Sasso over three years. If it holds up it would be the first chink in what has until now been the impenetrable armour of special relativity, a theory which has been tested—and confirmed—time and again since its publication in 1905. The theory states that as an object speeds up, time slows down until it stops altogether on hitting the speed of light. Anything going faster than light would, in other words, be moving backwards in time.
...[details on MINOS+ and T2K in the US and Japan]
If the Japanese and American experiments do see the same strange result, it would be the greatest revolution in physics since, well, special relativity burst onto the scene. And it would be fair to say of a neutrino what a wag once quipped about a lady named Bright: that it went away, in a relative way, and came back on the previous night.