November 18th, 2011
05:45 PM ET

Test confirms particles appear to travel faster than the speed of light

(CNN) – Travel faster than the speed of light? Really?

Back in September, scientists found that tiny particles called neutrinos appeared to do just that, defying Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

It could be a fluke, but now the same experiment has replicated the result. It’s not hard proof yet, though; other groups still need to confirm these findings.

Physicists with the OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) experiment said in September that neutrinos sent about 454 miles (730 kilometers) from CERN in Switzerland arrived at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory a fraction of a second sooner than they should have according to Einstein’s theory.

Other scientists were skeptical, raising questions about possible flaws in the study.

So OPERA scientists rechecked parts of the experiment to take into account suggestions from their critics. They announced Friday that the new test confirms the initial findings.

“This result confirms that neutrinos arrived at Gran Sasso lab 62.1 nanoseconds in advance with respect to the time computed assuming the speed of light in vacuum,” according to Lucia Votano, director of INFN-Gran Sasso Laboratory.

The OPERA team's initial result was based on observing more than 15,000 bunches of neutrinos, or electrically neutral subatomic particles. But the scientists did not track any one specific neutrino. Instead, the neutrinos were produced in long pulses that lasted about 10 millionths of a second.

“Although this sounds short, it is hundreds of times longer than the 60 nanoseconds early arrival time of the neutrinos at the Gran Sasso in Italy,” said Andy Cohen, a professor of physics at Boston University, who is not involved in OPERA.

This means that when a neutrino arrived at Gran Sasso there was no way to know exactly when it was produced during the pulse, preventing an accurate measurement of its speed.

The new study used shorter pulses making it easier to know more precisely when an individual neutrino was generated.

“They did this for only 20 neutrinos,” Cohen said, “but since the speed of each one is known, this leads to a very precise result, confirming that the neutrinos appear to be arriving 60 nanoseconds earlier than expected.”

But don’t throw your physics book just yet. Cohen said there are other potential issues with the experiment that haven’t been addressed yet. “While this result is a very significant improvement over the previous measurement, many of the concerns that have been raised about possible sources of uncertainty remain.

“We should probably remain skeptical until we have confirmation from other experiments,” he said.

Votana agrees and said the OPERA measurement needs to be confirmed by independent scientists. Even if the results are confirmed, we won’t toss out all of Einstein’s theory. A broader theory would be generated that would include Einstein’s theory, Votana said.

Scientists at Fermilab in Illinois and in Japan are expected to try to replicate the findings.

“If the neutrinos are truly traveling faster than light this would require profound changes in the way we understand space and time,” Cohen said.

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Filed under: Discoveries • News • Science Education
soundoff (549 Responses)
  1. AmosGraber

    Does anyone read anymore....this is old news........they new about tachyons like what 30 years ago?

    December 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  2. John

    This is a good reminder that despite what Al Gore tells you, "the science" is almost never settled.

    December 8, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  3. Bob Hamilton

    Just because the editors at CNN do not understand physics, does it mean that anyone else should be confused. There were no faster than light neutrinos. All these scientists did was confirm their errors. All the uneducated news media did was confuse the rest of the world.

    December 6, 2011 at 1:04 am |
  4. Michael Klein

    So is the Starship Enterprise just around the corner?

    December 5, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
  5. Pancho

    Again, if the speeds as calculated are correct, (I'm not saying they're wrong) then the neutrinos that arrived after the 1987 supernove explosion in the Magellan clouds would have arrived months if not years sooner than the observed light. That the difference in arrival time was much smaller indicates a fundamental flaw in either the recording of the arrival of the 1987 neutrinos or in the current tests.

    The neutrinos may in fact be faster but dang it they better always be the same speed, in or out of the laboratory!

    December 5, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
  6. andyst

    You have to remember you can only measure what you can detect. I will be very surprised if in the next 2 decades we dont find numerous particles that travel faster than light. I always found it funny that we arbitrarily set light as the standard for the limit of speed. Even if Einstein's theory is proven wrong, we have him and others like him to thank for setting us on this path.

    December 5, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
  7. Supremo Lagarto

    Neutrinos were discovered after Einstien died. You people at CNN can look this up.

    December 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  8. Mai Suhprize

    Well, surprise, surprise...Science is wrong again. Figures.

    November 30, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Supremo Lagarto

      It isn't wrong. It is a work in progress. Witchcraft and magic are wrong.

      December 5, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  9. Stokes

    Pardon my lack of expertise and knowledge in Cosmology, but theoretically, wouldn't this mean that the universe is expanding faster than the speed of light? Therefore altering our calculations on approximately how old the universe is?

    November 30, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Supremo Lagarto

      Neutrinos could be considered normal particles of matter in the same way that monkeys on hang gliders could be considered a type of formula 1 race car. So, that would be "no".

      December 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
  10. Obama in Space

    If I went to Mars and never came back, what would improve: 1. the Ecomony 2.. Healthcare 3. Unemployement 4. Stockmarket 5. Everything....

    How do Chelle and I book our tics on the next flight out of this world..... ob

    November 26, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  11. Rudi

    I do not understand all the brouhaha about this. "faster than lightspeed" has been known a long time: It is called "Cerenkov effect" and causes a bluish light in "swimming pool" type nuclear reactors. It is possible because light speed depends on the medium's refractory index.The neutrinos in question did not move in vacuum.

    November 26, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  12. Frank Garrett

    If a flash light is moving at the speed of light, the beam would we going twice as fast as the speed of light.

    November 26, 2011 at 6:58 am |
    • JimDandy

      Thats not true. The speed of light is the same for all observers. If you riding a flashlight at the speed of light – at close to the speed of light – you would see the beam leave the flashlight at the speed of light (300,000 Kilometers per second). But an observer watching the whole affair would ALSO see the the beam traveling at the speed of light. It's a bit of paradox – and why time slows down for an observer moving at high speed.

      November 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Whybs

    IF it could be proven that particles could travel faster than light, mass/time could be only relevant for any speed that is < the speed of light. For sheep, this also means there is no beginning/ending & god doesn't exist! 🙂

    November 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  14. LJB

    Not exactly (back to the drawing board):

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8905322/Speed-of-light-experiment-was-wrong-after-all.html

    November 23, 2011 at 2:47 am |
  15. wildmaven

    You all keep debating and such, but don't mind me. I'm just going to sit here and Squeeee more than a little bit after reading everyone's (mostly) intelligent responses to this article. Thanks everyone, you made this science nerd's day.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  16. Tim (who is in MENSA)

    Einstein was the smartest man to ever live. The scientists that conducted this experiment, while intelligent, do not comprehend the logic behind Einstein's theory...This test was not done in a vacuum, it was done on Earth, which is moving RAPIDLY through the solar system. Neutrinos move at the speed of light regardless of if there is mass in the way or not. Since the Earth is moving...it is decreasing the distance that the neutrinos are moving, giving an expected variance of a few nanoseconds. Articles like this are the reason I wish I had gotten a Physics degree as opposed to a Business degree (which is actually worth something in today's society)

    November 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • HarshReality

      Um, the "gun" was moving at the same speed as the earth, hence the movement of the earth relative to the ejected particle is moot.

      November 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
      • Tim (who is in MENSA)

        Neutrinos do not act like bullets...they go the speed of light....they don't go the speed of light minus the movement of the gun...

        November 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
      • Tim (who is in MENSA)

        After all is said and done, this will be disproved. No matter the amount of energy you put behind something, nothing can move faster than the speed of light. It is like terminal velocity while skydiving, except it is the calculation of infinite power pushing something against zero resistance, this is the apex of speed. I've got a harsh reality for you...time travel isn't possible by going faster than the speed of light. Going faster than the speed of light is impossible.

        November 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Rudi

      Hi Tim,
      Wrong. Even if two light beams meet each other coming from opposite directions their "relative" speed is still only equal to c.
      There is an explanation: It is similar to cerenkov effect (in nuclear reactors), where particles have been known for a long time are known to travel faster than the speed of light "in that medium"

      November 26, 2011 at 9:23 am |
      • Chris

        Cerenkov radiation has been ruled out as a cause. The neutrinos did not lose any energy during their travel, as they would have if they had initiated any such radiation.

        December 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  17. HarshReality

    The only thing that's sure is we DON'T KNOW. We believe, until we can measure. And just because we haven't "seen" it yet, or can't measure it with todays instruments, doesn't mean it can't happen.

    Today's magic is tommorrow's tech.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  18. lMNOP

    "I'm as dope as two rappers, you better be scared 'cause that means Albert E = MC squared!!!!"

    Albert E.

    November 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • John

      Epic rap battles of history. Lulz.

      December 8, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  19. Davidr

    In Victorian England it was believed that although all levels of cosmic speed were possble, the speed limit for man was 30 miles an hour: doctors proclaimed that any speed faster than that would cause "jellification of the blood." Our 20th-century world-picture tells us otherwise, but let's not let our current beliefs slow us down! That's all they are: beliefs, based on what we currently view as the ultimate limits of mathematics. Scientists who are also religious would have to say that God can travel faster than light! But...see how stupid that sounds? Any time any scientist tells me that something is immutable, I automatically disbelieve that. We have come a log way since Victorian times, and we still have a long way to go. All we need is scientists with vision instead of blinders.

    November 21, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  20. Davidr

    It seems to me that physicists are as unwilling as politicians to stick their necks out over something that might damage their credibility. Besides, think of all that quantum mechanics, nano-physics etc gone to waste if the cosmic speed limit should change!

    November 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • HarshReality

      Oh, I don't know. I think it may re-enforce a lot of the math involved with those branches of physics.

      November 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  21. useerr

    they're neutrinos from the past

    November 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  22. Joe

    So in theory, if matter reaches the speed of light, it turns into pure energy. What are neutrinos then? Super Energy?

    November 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  23. Zanny the Nanny

    Of course Einstein is wrong. Eintein theory fails not only on this but in many other things. What can a man that couldn't comb his hair know about the speed of light. There are so many things that we cannot see and know that their exist becasue we don't see an effect in our human world they don't reveal they presense.

    November 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  24. Osiris

    Speed of light is really only a 'terminal velocity' like a falling body through our atmosphere does not really go over a hundred and twenty miles per hour. Same viscous resistance forces exist in space, as space is NOT a vacuum as is popularly believed. Gas, micrometeors, plasma are all mundane residents of space. Hit it at speed and the momentum transfer will slow you down. I still think that somewhere in his calculations Dr Einstein violated some math principle, like divided by zero or some other simple to overlook error. In higher math you are more a clerk than a mathematician anyway. Could happen to anybody, but this one promised humanity a slow death by starvation eventually by confinement to our system in the face of malthusian growth. Some religious would like to hasten an Easter Island scenario for our world by confining us to this planet. God created everything for us, and for us to utilize to further his work. He did not tell us that the place was only 6000 years old or that dinosaurs never existed. All those rocks out there in the solar system are for us to use as well and not to abuse or waste, as he created the forces that created them as well. So we need to get busy and utilize this nice new communications medium. And to coax a warp drive out of the quantum vacuum discovery vs photons found a bit ago......that quantum vacuum may well BE the hyperspace written about in many many books.

    November 21, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  25. The_Mick

    Joe Here in Colorado wrote: "Speed of light being some kind of artificial barrier has always been a silly notion to me. If I can speed up the interior of a circular disc to the speed of light, the exterior would necessarily be moving faster than that." First of all, MOST scientists do not consider the experiment to have proven faster-than-light travel. Secondly: NO, it's not silly! For your disk, time would slow down as you moved toward the exterior from the interior, and nothing would move faster than the speed of light. It's the same for someone driving a car near the speed of light and turning the headlights on. The driver would see the light from the headlights moving away from him at the speed of light. An observer standing on the side would see the sum of the car's plus the light's speeds equal the speed of light because time would move slower for the observer than the driver. It's difficult to explain why because standard observations in the large-particle relatively slow world we normally observe often don't apply at very small sizes or very high speeds. Study Multivariable Calculus, Hamiltonian and Hermetian vectors, then take calculus-based courses in special and general relativity and then get back to us and claim it's a "silly" notion.

    November 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • HarshReality

      Good point.

      November 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  26. lovemesomepancakes

    Great....new material for Sheldon from "Big Bang theory".

    November 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  27. astro boy

    neutrinos are made of photons. What's the problem here?

    November 21, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  28. Andy

    Einstein's theories do not say objects cannot travel faster than the speed of light. They say an object with mass cannot travel AT the speed of light. Therefore an object cannot accelerate faster than the speed of light because for a split second it would travel at the speed of light. However a particle which comes into existence already traveling faster than the speed of light is perfectly feasible and doesn't violate the laws of physics. This is a typical example of the mainstream media completely misunderstanding a scientific story.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  29. TylerJonny3

    U AMERICANS ARE IDIOTS.
    U dont even screen the comments.
    Sorry guys CANADIANS RULE U.
    Must be your Indian President.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  30. TylerJonny3

    U know us Canadians got his info last month.
    U Americans are a little on the slow side.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  31. Argle Bargle

    Of course he was wrong. Man is a remarkably arrogant species. There are levels of the universe that he cannot fathom because he is simply too coarse and primitive to do so.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  32. Higgs

    I think the cat has died.

    November 21, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  33. DrDiomedes

    I love the scientific method! It forces us to note take things for granted .... corroborate, baby! corroborate. Any way, SR says speed of light in vacuum is constant. It doesnt say things cannot exceed light speed. if particle has an imaginary component, then it can, but will have its own speed-limit based on this component.

    November 21, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • DrDiomedes

      addendum: imaginary mass component: E^2 = p^2 + m^2 ... p = momentum, m=mass

      November 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
  34. steve

    entertaining snapshot of understanding.
    I hope for:
    Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it – in a decade, a century, or a millennium – we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid?
    John Archibald Wheeler

    but I stongly suspect:
    "taken completely out of context, but ...."
    A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton

    November 21, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  35. Future Review

    hmmm, imagine that...Einstein's "Theory" on relativity may be in question...welcome to the Future People!!!

    November 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
  36. dick weed

    PArticles cannot travel faster than the speed of light. Oh, wait, this just in...
    The Euro has exceeded the speed of light in its downhill slide to negative value, and the US dollar APPEARS TO be following behind closely...

    November 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  37. E=Mc**2

    French neutrinos do not belong in Italy.

    November 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • lMNOP

      Penicillin will clear up those French neutrinos real quick.

      November 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  38. engineer long time

    Why did I bother learning all that math and science. It looks as if some of the people making the posts have solved all the puzzles about particles and the speed of light. Wow!

    November 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  39. Cajun Bob

    Those nutrinos are running amok in 'Nawlins, and something needs done!

    November 21, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  40. michael 440 9-30

    Really should take a look at the interaction between the neutrinos and the medium they pass through.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
  41. james

    I was taught that space is an empty vacuum, but today we know it's full of all sorts of radiation, as you can see by Haleys comet tail being blown by solar winds. And that the universe is expanding. The universe is expanding into empty space which acts like a vacuum, and over comes gravity. and if you could stand at the edge of the unverse you could probably see stars in the distance that are other universes. Life may exist as tiny aparticles threw out the unverse just looking for a hospitable place to land and start life over.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  42. jj

    Well, he was wrong about Demi and Ashton, too. And his signature line of hair gel...

    November 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  43. james

    E=MC2 , where as C squared is just a constant that Eienstien threw in, I doubt if he knew exactly how much C2 should be. for all he knew it could have been C2.2 . But just the same his wife is the one who helped discover relativity.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • E=Mc**2

      What is C2?

      November 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Chris

      Einstein's theories are not dependent upon the actual value of c. And there is no reason to suppose that the speed of light in a vacuum is anything other than c.

      December 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  44. Moose

    Alright, I am in no way a physicist, nor do I pretend to know much of anything about relativity, but maybe somebody here can answer a question for me. I was taught in school that in space, if you were to throw a baseball, you and the baseball would travel at the same speed in opposite directions. This makes me believe that in space, mass doesn't seem to matter. If that is the case, then why can't we build a space ship with a particle accelerator instead of huge thrusters that take tons of fuel and just shoot neutrinos out the back and we can travel at the speed of light? I guess we could use them in the front to stop us, too.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • Chris

      You and the baseball will not have the same speed in opposite directions. You will have the same MOMENTUM in opposite directions. Your mass is greater, so your velocity will be less.

      December 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
  45. james

    Light slows down when passing threw a glass prism, but gravity which has no mass, can travel faster than light, and can be across the galaxy at the same time.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  46. Norm

    According to my wife, our sex life has always violated Einstein's law. I always "arrive" right before she does.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  47. evaneng

    The results prove nothing. All that it proves is that neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light, which does make sense, considering that neutrinos have such a small mass and were released at the beginning of the Big Bang. Remember, Einstien never said it was impossible to travel faster than light. He just postulated two things in his theory
    1)Objects travelling faster than light will have an imaginery mass (Do the math and you'll see the answer) and
    2) It is impossible for an object to travel at lightspeed.
    It is possible to also mave an object FTL, by using wormholes or an alcubierre warp drive. The results must be understood in their proper context.

    November 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Chris

      The scientists released the neutrinos, not the Big Bang. And even the small rest mass of a neutrino should approach infinity as its velocity approaches that of light.

      December 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  48. Anon

    Why the particle to particle focus when the main subject is "faster than light" which would seem to be indicative toward speed relative to any constant phenomenon occurring around us.
    Particle entanglement itself proves that there is a measurement between two objects travelling faster than the speed of light. Whether or not this proves to be a different kind of wave function or something out of a Multiverse (parallel or branched) concept of direct relevance – is fascinating.
    It's almost metaphorically like conventional science looks for the answer while some quantum mechanics seems to take the entire flow process out of time.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  49. Patti

    It's like if we are going to Thanksgiving at my parents house, my husband will travel the speed of the slowest car on the road. If we are traveling to his parents house, our velocity exceeds the speed of traffic. Perhaps the neutrinos are simply male and going home to mama.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  50. TR

    If this is true, then most of the big bang could still be back in the big bang time and we are slowely gaining energy from it as it is catching up to us. Would explain why the universe is expanding faster.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • TR

      It could also explain dark energy.

      November 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
  51. madeinusa76

    The neutrinos in Gran Sasso were already there. They were excited by the anticipation of light particles and became "visible" only upon arrival of the light. This phenomena has occurred previously in more simple experiments and in lesser controlled environments.

    November 21, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  52. simple

    did anyone ever stop to conder that what is being measured(nutrino) is the result of radio active decay, and proof that there are only three kinds of neutrinos is an elusive goal of particle physics. So in my pea brain, it seems possible that something in varying states of decay cannot act in supreme uniformity – thus why even try to measure something which is not fully understood????

    November 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  53. Interested

    Have the effects of General Relativity been factored in the calculation?

    November 21, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
  54. Usher73

    Maybe the speed of light has changed, with the expanding universe. Has anybody checked it lately?

    November 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • palintwit

      Sarah Palin University is researching this right now. In fact, they've devoted the rest of the afternoon to this project.

      November 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  55. Interested

    Have the measurements been adjusted for any corrections from General Theory of Relativity?

    November 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
  56. Scones

    Didn't Einstein say something along the lines of using the best mathematical methods of his day to prove Newton wrong, and had hopes that in the future someone would prove HIM wrong and further advance our understanding of the universe? Maybe... just maybe this is happening now.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:57 pm |
    • Norm

      Even if he didn't any good scientist (or his followers) should humbly accept being wrong. It is, at that end of the day, what separates science from religion.

      November 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  57. humtake

    No, Einstein is not wrong. Einstein's theory is based on mathematical constraints that all math is based on. You can take a lot of theorems and prove them wrong by using micro-math. Unfortunately, we are not at a level of truly being able to understand math at a particle physics level. It is already well known that Einstein's math falls apart when it comes to particle physics. When dealing with amounts that are too small or too large for our minds to comprehend, our mathematical formulas seem to break down as well.

    This is a limit produced by our own minds. It will get better as time goes by, just as all science and math has.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • Chris

      The math of relativity doesn't "fall apart" at microscopic scales. Its results become unclear, due to unrenormalizable infinities. There is a difference.

      December 5, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  58. dinak

    Well, well. The nothing can go faster than the speed of light "deniers" were wrong after all. U numb nuts who say that the discussion is closed on just how man can affect the weather are obviously anti-science – not the other way around. If scientists had been forced to by into the speed of light barrier that was so widely accepted, than this new finding would not have happened. How about now actually looking at fetal development in the womb so u can see there really is LIFE in there – that's science, too, right? Funny how u libs decry conservatives for being anti-science, yet on the very basic question of the life of a fetus, you have your eyes closed and your ears stuffed with cotton. Get out of our faces with your carbon footprint bull s h i t, too.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm |
    • dinak

      I meant the deniers were correct – not wrong.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
      • palintwit

        Doesn't matter. Your post is still nothing but hot air.

        November 21, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Chris

      No one has ever said a fetus is not alive, but LIFE itself is not considered sacred. (Cheeseburger, anyone?) What is considered sacred is HUMAN LIFE, and the HUMAN part cannot be presumed on the basis of the LIFE part, or even on the basis of human genetics (since those are related to the LIFE part). The HUMAN part is based on the conscious mind, and fetuses are not conscious. If you think they are, I challenge you to find ANYONE who remembers their own birth.

      December 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  59. Tim

    Further evidence that science is just theory. We are still too small to fully understand everything.

    That's why I always compare those who say, "the science is in" and "don't' be a denier" to those who once declared the world to be flat.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  60. MOJerry

    Say 2 particles are travelling tangentially to a 3rd particle ( like the apex of an equilateral triangle), the force vectors will accelerate the 3rd particle above the speed of either of the other 2 particles. I've seen this when playing pool. Since all 3 particles are only energy, with no mass, then the 3rd particle will go faster than the speed of light if both other particles are travelling at the speed of light. Perhaps this would account for the red shift in the universe, where distant objects are travelling faster than the nearer objects.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Chris

      1. Define "tangential" to a point such as a particle.
      2. You state that the particles have no mass, when both neutrinos and pool balls do.
      3. You are attempting to ignore relativity, and apply classical mechanics to the particles. It simply doesn't work, which is why relativity is needed.

      December 5, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  61. NoobScienceQuestion

    I'm curious if they fired it in both directions. If gravity, as it relates to elevation from the center of Earth, can impact a measure, couldn't the direction cause the same diversion? (Since the Earth is not a true sphere.)

    November 21, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  62. Jim Emerson

    Do the neutrinos in the pulse have zero rest mass?
    If so, this result does not create a problem for SR.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  63. Thom Ripley

    Despite science's impressive and invaluable achievements, when you hear physicists talk about "dark matter" and the like, you realize that we still have a lot to learn, and that theories now seen as absolute will be probably be refined and qualified over time. My guess is that, like heavier-than-air flying machines, interstellar flight will one day be practical.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  64. palintwit

    Here are the top 4 universities if you want a career in physics:
    MIT ( Cambridge, Maine )
    Stanford ( Stanford, CA. )
    Sarah Palin University ( Floyd County, Ark. )
    Cornell ( Ithyca, N. Y. )

    November 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • John

      You left off ITT Technical Institute.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
  65. beubanks7507

    Okay, religion has nothing to do with this article, so lay off.

    Second, the results of this experiment are significant but, far from concrete. There could still be some kind of unknown systematic error in their system. It happens more often than you might think. Given that all of Einstein's other predictions have been repeatedly verified, I am not ready to throw his calculation of the speed of light out the window yet. By the way, if you ignore Einstein and calculate the speed of light from the electromagnetic laws, you come up with the same answer. When this result has been verified by completely independent experiment, we can really talk.

    Another thing to consider is that neutrinos may not be traveling the entirety of the distance in our space-time. There is a theory, unproven of course, that neutrinos can flit between dimensions. If so, that pretty much makes this experiment useless for measuring the speed of light. However, that result is far more interesting and potentially useful.

    Before everyone starts losing their mind, Einstein's speed of light is the basis for 99% of all modern technology at the base level and it seems to be working out pretty well. Even if a flaw is found, it will more than likely be a tweak to Einstein's laws instead of a complete rewrite.

    And, for the inevitable comments that will follow; I do hold a Bachelor of Science in Physics. So I do know what I am talking about. If you choose not to believe me, that is on you.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  66. Mike

    They must have used a flux capacitor in their experiments then. Only way you'll get anything to move faster than the speed of light. Didn't Dr. Emmett Brown teach us that?

    November 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • John

      1.21 Gigawatts!!!??

      November 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  67. Indy Jim

    And to think that I get the same mileage today from my car that I did 25 years ago. Crazy!

    November 21, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • John

      Well, maybe you should look into buying a new car?

      November 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
  68. alpg49

    Let's get this straight, Michelson and Morley http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelson%E2%80%93Morley_experiment observed that the speed of light was constant, regardless of the observer. Einstein merely constructed a theory which accounted for their observation.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • John

      I know when I want to get "something straight," I click on over to wikipedia too!

      November 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
  69. Mark

    What if the space ahead of it compressed and allowed for the illusion of faster-than-light travel? The real question would be why and how...

    November 21, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
  70. david

    Einstein never said things could not travel faster than the speed of light He said they could not travel AT the speed of light Big difference

    November 21, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
  71. Canadian Rider

    If the neutrinos are truly traveling faster than light this would require profound changes in the way we understand space and time,” Cohen said.

    Change the way we understand space and time, are the optimum words here. The laws of physics only go to the point of OUR understanding of them. The sound barrier was broken, why not the light barrier? In my opinion, I really don't think you can get a true understanding of space and time while seated in a laboratory on planet earth. I don't believe you can achieve light speed or beyond on earth because earth based physics don't allow it.

    But, if you were in space, I believe the laws change. Any physist or mathematician will argue that the laws of physics are finite. I disagree. I"m no scietist but I honestly think the possibility is there for so much more, as long as we don't close our minds and read the signs.

    Someone once said man can't fly, someone once said, the automobile will never replace the horse, someone once said we'll never achieve the speed of sound, someone once said we'll never travel to space, someone once we will never walk on the moon, I could keep going, but you get the point. Go beyond the point of our understanding and you might find the answer.
    If someone says we can't exceed the speed of light, I ask them WHY NOT? If he says the laws of physics don't allow it, I say, prove it beyond a doubt.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:31 pm |
    • Neeneko

      You are correct, you are no scientist.

      Every single one of those examples you site were issues of engineering or economics, NOT physics. To date we have no reason to believe the physics on earth are any different then the physics off world outside 'wouldn't that be cool?'

      November 21, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
      • John

        Sheldon is right.

        November 21, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  72. Mance Lotter

    i think i heard this in a movie, so someone else will have to confirm this splitting of hairs, but didn't einstein say no particles could ACCELERATE beyond the speed of light. he said nothing of particles already moving faster than the speed of light...i think it was K-PAX (that movie is as bad a$$ as the honey badger)

    November 21, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  73. Bob

    I never saw the justification that lightspeed was the limit only because "things got weird" as they approached the speed of light.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  74. outawork

    Maybe for their next trick they could find God's secret message hidden in the digits of PI.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  75. outawork

    There was a young lady named Bright, Whose speed was far faster than light. She went out one day, In a relative way, And returned the previous night.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  76. Billy Dieckhaus

    I take my pants off about .006 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light when my wife wants to have fun. Just sayin'.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • outawork

      Then your a minuteman? ;>)

      November 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  77. brian

    2.5 ten thousandths of a percent faster? (1.0000025 times?)

    Come on guys, realign your beams and keep testing for a few years before you claim to have discovered something.

    November 21, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • MOJerry

      That's only 8 places: very significant. Our national debt is 14 places! That would mean $100,000 is insignificant.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  78. us1776

    Don't believe it. The energies are all wrong.

    If this discovery holds then throw out all your physics textbooks.

    .

    November 21, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • palintwit

      Teabaggers use physics text books to level their trailers.

      November 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
      • Norm

        And flea baggers (OWS) use their physics books.... oh, heck. They've never even seen a physics book. If they did, they might have jobs.

        November 21, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
      • lMNOP

        they use the pages of their physics books as rolling paper for their joints

        November 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  79. Dave

    What does Dr. Sheldon Cooper say about this?

    November 21, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  80. Borat

    Greaat SUCCESS, Does this the mean, that I can have sexy time with Pamela, faster than the speed of Light and I wont get destryd, its Very Nice, HIGH FIVE

    November 21, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  81. Barry

    There once was a girl named Bright. Whose speed was much faster than light. She set out one day, In a relative way, and returned on the previous night.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • palintwit

      Did you know that your post is "required reading" for all freshmen at Sarah Palin University?

      November 21, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  82. somebody

    You know, science isn't supposed to come as quickly as you idiots dish out thousands for some new iCrap. Let's wait and let the scientists do what they are supposed to do and hope they are right here. It would mean a new understanding of many things.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  83. Hitechyman

    In both the String Theory and the book 'Grand Design' the information suggest a possible multi-dimenonial universe and eluded to the fact that Gravity may be created by some kind of warping of time-space. Even Einstein looked into this just a bit. Could indeed this warp be real and is causing a "shorter" distance between the two point than we humans can measure with laser beam or GPS equipment. I mean nano seconds is a very short time internal and should be very closely studied and measured before Speed of Light is questioned. Yep, indeed this experiment , if accurate, may have found that time-space warp and we just don't see it yet.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  84. Lee

    Important to keep an open mind!!! Science has become too much of a religion. Einstein's GTR & STR and Quantum Mechanics are mathematical models that successfully describe SOME phenomena. But they are just mathematical models, they do not describe WHAT it is, just how it behaves. We are groping the dark and there is a lot of room for new theories and doubts on old.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  85. Thanosone

    The basis for it yet has to be revealed, but I am sure that ultimately large masses will regularly cross the vast distances in the universe speeds far exceeding light. The one(s) who has the solution likely has not yet been born. Would be great to be around this place 500 years from now to experience the wonders to come. No challange in existance is too great for the mind of man and woman to unravel or overcome.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  86. Glades2

    That might be true, but light still travels at 186,000 miles per second – particles are not light, right?

    November 21, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • E=Mc**2

      wrong.

      November 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • E=Mc**2

      wrongy

      November 21, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
  87. ahatfl

    Nikola Tesla explained the flaws in this assumption back in the 1920's. His experiment with global power distribution worked at speeds above light. He was ridiculed at the time.

    November 21, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  88. cpc65

    Was Wesley Crusher involved with these tests? If so, I'm not buying it.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  89. LifeLongWestern NYer

    All pretty interesting, but most comments are far beyond me. As a practical matter, can any of this get me out of the speeding ticket that I got from a trooper who was using radar?

    November 21, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  90. SouthernCelt

    In addition to his theories on general relativity, he also postulated one of the first Unified Field Theories. Emphasis on the word "Theories". He would be one of the first to welcome proof. His theories have been the basis of physics for over 50 years. What have you done in comparison?

    November 21, 2011 at 10:47 am |
  91. Josh

    I don't seem to recall that Einstein in either of his Relativity theories actually gave an exact value for C; just how time and space related to C. It could be that we simply now have a better grasp on the value of C; and that it might be bounded by neutrinos rather than photons.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  92. Borat

    Doest this mean , I can have sexy time with Pamela more than the speed of light, and I wont get destroyed, VERY NAAIICEE, HIGH FIVE!!

    November 21, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  93. palintwit

    Here at Sarah Palin University we maintain that the speed of light is entirely dependent on how fast someone can flick the light switch up or down.

    November 21, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • John

      I thought they were running down the theory that light bulbs actually work through light absorption in the off position.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
      • palintwit

        If that theory could be proven, then we would not need electricity. Light bulbs wouldn't require wires, but simply a valve to turn the light on or off. Just like a kitchen faucet.

        November 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
  94. American Citizen

    "If the neutrinos are truly traveling faster than light this would require profound changes in the way we understand space and time"

    Why?

    Neutrinos pass through us. They do not linger about. So, what's your point, here? Specificity works to help explain why we make passing statements on a hunch.

    Einstein was brilliant, no doubt – but still he used a fallible human brain to arrive at his conclusions with, as all humans do.

    And...

    God still rules.

    November 21, 2011 at 9:33 am |
    • American Citizen

      In fact, I'm afraid that man is on a collision course with his own fate where one day he'll realize that none of his theories or assumptions or presumptions matter. Because at the end of the day, he must sleep and he's still only a fallible human, unable to create a solar system, never mind a single living cell.

      Let God be God, shall we?

      November 21, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  95. AhhPures

    Albert Einstein was a personal friend of mine, and I told him he was wrong about the speed of light, and he said he didn't care.

    November 21, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • mattski

      I told you you shouldn't have dissed his hair. See what happened?

      November 21, 2011 at 9:32 am |
      • Joe Here in Colorado

        Speed of light being some kind of artificial barrier has always been a silly notion to me.

        If I can speed up the interior of a circular disc to the speed of light, the exterior would necessarily be moving faster than that.

        Personally, I think the speed of gravity is faster.

        November 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
      • JimDandy

        Joe – you could not speed the center of a disc up to the speed of light – because on the way the edge of the disc would approach the speed of light and as it approached c the discs mass would increase exponentially. As it got close, its mass would approach infinite and thus the energy required to accelerate it any further would also be infinite – and you never get there.

        November 26, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
      • Chris

        Joe: Don't think of the speed of light as an arbitrary speed limit. Think of it as a conversion coefficient between space and time. One second EQUALS 186,282 miles. E=mc^2 because everything is moving at the speed of light - but for massive particles, some of that motion is in those additional dimensions predicted by M Theory.

        December 5, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
      • Robyn

        That is the cool thing about the speed of light in a vacuum being the ultimate speed limit in the universe is that there is nothing at all artificial about the limit. If our understanding is correct, it comes baked in to the very existence of time and space, mass and energy.

        . . . . and if our understanding is not correct?

        I suspect that would be even cooler.

        December 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Mr. Myxlptlyxk

      Zu haben scheissen essen...

      November 21, 2011 at 10:21 am |
      • albus

        Und ich lieber das.

        November 21, 2011 at 10:33 am |
      • Olaf Big

        Tja, Deutches Sprach – schweres Sprach

        November 21, 2011 at 11:43 am |
      • snooki sneeks

        Das ist nicht gut!

        November 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
      • o-no

        Ich habe ein hummer gestohlen!

        November 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      Unless you are over 80, you would have been a kid when he died (1955) and why should he listen to a kid about theoretical physics?

      November 21, 2011 at 10:42 am |
      • af090391

        You are just but a few who need to be reminded: Not everything on the internet is true. People lie just for giggles on the internet, and that is why you have to fact check everything that is on here, and use some self reasoning. That includes his statement, AND media/news outlets.

        November 21, 2011 at 10:51 am |
      • John

        If he was over 80 his Caps Lock would have been on. . .

        November 21, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
      • Craig

        you must be an engineer

        November 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
      • atroy

        Well it's quite obvious that he traveled faster than the speed of light allowing him to travel backwards through time to befriend Einstein and let him know that he was wrong about the speed of light. C'mon, use the good brain that evolution gave you!

        November 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
      • asgardshill

        Aha – I just KNEW that was Einstein driving in the slow lane that fine day back in 1951. The light from his turn signal was red-shifted.

        November 21, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
      • sambo

        this guy is a high school physics teacher

        November 21, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
      • ummm

        LOL at everything Southerners say and do...

        November 21, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
      • Chae

        atroy: near light speed travel does allow time travel, but to the future, as time within the object travelling at near light speed slows down comparative to time outside it.

        November 21, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
      • going back in time

        If humans can travel back in time to alter history, then all the supper committee needs to do is continue to sit on their asses and sooner or later, someone from the future will come back to give them a push.
        I wish I could go back in time to not just witness history but actually participate in it process, well like telling Bush it would be a mistake to cut income tax. But then, being human, I could change my mind the next day, and go back to see Bush again telling him to go ahead with the tax cut. But then, this guy down the hall in my office decided to pre-empt my effort, buy going to talk to Bush senior when he was still in office. Should I tie up this guy to his chair?

        November 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • Higgs

      Telling someone they are wrong is one thing, proving it is another thing. Therefore prove it.

      November 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • JT

      Shut up you loser, you would know how fast light traveled anyway without looking it up. People in this country are becoming more stupid everyday, no wonder other countires are catching up.

      November 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
      • ummm

        lol @ coherent sentences....

        November 21, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  96. mattski

    Einstein's laws of physics, including general relativity, should be renamed the laws of "compound-object physics" or perhaps something even more appropriate. It's pretty clear that items with mass can travel faster than the speed of light in certain circumstances. And in the physics of quantum mechanics, objects can be in two places at the same time, and some objects aren't even objects until they are measured. Try to run *that* through Einstein's formulae...

    November 21, 2011 at 9:20 am |
    • JeramieH

      > It's pretty clear that items with mass can travel faster than the speed of light

      I must have missed all those journal articles about it. Source?

      November 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Neeneko

      Actually, all of those cases fit into relativity just fine and have been known for years.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Thom Ripley

      Despite science's impressive and invaluable achievements, when you hear physicists talk about "dark matter" and the like you realize that we still have a lot to learn, and that theories now seen as absolute will be probably be refined and qualified over time. My guess is that, like heavier-than-air flying machines, interstellar travel will one day be practical.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
      • LPowers

        Einstein's original equations took into account dark matter so it isn't that new of a concept.

        November 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
      • John

        To LPowers, Einstein thought he was wrong about Dark Matter (Cosmological Constant) calling it the biggest blunder of his life.

        It would be nice to see a little humility with so called "Climate Scientists" who say the science is settled. No true scientist would say that.

        December 8, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • wildagreen

      seems that is a rather broad statement...i too would be interested in some sourses...

      November 21, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • sdp

      I assume you are referring to the electron slit experiment and quantum entanglement. A number of your claims are neither implied nor proven by either of those scientifically accurate data points. I would suggest a deeper understanding of the theories before making such sweeping claims.

      What we do know is that sub-Planck scale particles behave differently than those which are explained by Newtonian physics, though before now the maximum speed of energy/particles was not in doubt. That is what makes this so interesting, as well as ripe for further scientific study.

      November 21, 2011 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jamal Brown

      Star Trek has proven that time travel is alreay possible. Why would I believe some guy who couldn't run a comb through his hair.

      November 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  97. helenecha

    If scientists really want to get us know there're particles which can travel faster than the speed of light, Ok, just turn it into something and let us see. For example, our spacecrafts can travel faster than the speed of light to go to any other planets at Space because of this discovery.

    November 19, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
    • o dear god

      arent you just an overflowing pot of smarts

      November 21, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • sksk

      I think this article may be a little too advanced for you to fully understand. Marty McFly isn't going back to 1955 any time soon.

      November 21, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • get educated

      i think this topic might be a little out of your league

      November 21, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
      • charles duncan

        i think assumption travels faster then intelligence...."use the force harry...-gandalf"

        November 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • What?

      You need a super rocket to drive to close to the speed of light, and the rocket itself with all its casing and fuel must have to travel at that speed then give you a further push. Remember, when you travel at that speed, tiny matters in space are coming at you at that speed and no radar can forewarn you.
      As to having matter occupying two spaces at the same time, this is not possible, never in the past, not now, and not in the future. It will always take time (a process that doesn't exist except when we compare two separate processes) to move a matter no matter how small from spot A to Spot B.

      November 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
      • BobfromNY

        Ever heard of a Boson? Probably not...

        November 21, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
      • Dan

        Research the concept of the quantum leap.

        November 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
      • Whisper

        Is there nothing Scott Bakula can't fix?

        November 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
      • Nad

        The comment about something being in two places at once comes form the quantum field theory...it states that particles exist at every point in space (a field) until they are observed at a perticular point. It does not mean that something can go from A to B instantly. Quantum entaglement is the term used when two particles share the same properties (spin, velocity, position, etc). When one entangled particle is messed with (say, the spin axis changed) the spin access will also change on the other particle instantly no matter how far apart they are. The 'information transfer' does happen faster than light. Einstein called this 'spooky action from a distance."

        November 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
      • Jason K

        Also factor that just to reach Proxima Centauri, it would take approximately 1 Earth year travelling at C. Even if one of our scopes could detect life on another world, the distance from it would be showing us images from long ago. Send an expedition there travelling at "light speed" and when it gets there in 50 years or whatever, the civilization might all be dead.

        Developing a technology like "warp drive" is infact very impractical as we have nothing sturdy enough to survive slamming into space dust at that velocity.

        Rather, principles of folding space, dimensional travel, or moving at the speed of thought (true teleportation) would be more practical avenues to explore. However, with our current understanding, such a thing could imagined but would always be dismissed at science fiction because of our inability to apply it at this time.

        November 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
      • speed can do wonders

        I see now. we can see our own self cooking, reading, or even taking a shower. All we have to do is to travel faster than light so we can turn our eyes back, slow down our speed, and watch ourselves. This is the closest thing two matters can occupy the same space or field.

        November 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • ummm

      AHAHAHA-This whole comment section is making my night-I love when the clueless come out to play with the grown-ups-makes for an amusing look into human insight-sometimes it is best to just give it up and not even try.. 😀

      November 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
      • anon

        i totally agree with you. i'm lmao at the perfect microcosm of our society represented by this "discussion". dunces vs propeller-heads vs comedians vs the humorously senseless. the comment entertainment is better than the article...

        December 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Freygunnr

      OMG Mom! You're totally embarrassing yourself. Totally.

      December 16, 2011 at 10:21 am |
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