Last September, research scientists in Italy published unusual results from an experiment which was showing that some subatomic particles, called neutrinos, were breaking what Einstein described as the utlimate speed limit of the universe, the speed of light. The neutiros were created at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in Switzerland and travelled to Gran Sasso in Italy where they were detected bythe OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment. The neutrios were consistently being measured to travel just a tiny fraction faster than the speed of light. This wasn’t just a single result, but rather many measurements taken over a period of months.
The scientists involved were puzzled by these remarkable results; remarkable because something travelling faster than the speed of light would cause a re-examination of fundamental laws of physics which had alredy been proven to hold true in dozens of experiments over many decades. So the scientists followed the scientific process and did what any good scientists should do – initially assumed that they made a mistake. They looked and looked for anywhere they could have made a mistake, they checked and re-checked, for six months, before finally giving up and admitting that they couldn’t find a potential source of error that could account for the strange result.
When the Italian researchers published and announced their findings last September they were very cautious and were at pains to point out how unusual these results were. They nasked the international scientific community to examine the experiment (the design and the results) to help them find a problem with the experiment, something overlooked, anything to explain the problem. The Italian scientists knew that a remarkable result like this would have to be independently replicated, more than once, before it could be accepted as true. But if it was true then they knew they’d be in line for a Nobel Prize.
The scientific community were, of course, very skeptical about the results and immediately set about finding fault with the experiment. Unfortunately mainstream media wasn’t quite so skeptical with headlines such as “Particles found to break speed of light, challenging laws of physics“.
Stay tuned for Part Two to find out what’s happened since. Can neutrinos travel faster than light? What do you think?