23 February 2012
OPERA reports anomaly in time flight of neutrinos
Researchers at OPERA have announced that there is an anomaly in the flight time of neutrinos travelling from CERN to Gran Sasso.
The team had previously reported that neutrinos appeared to travel faster than the speed of light. In a statement, the researchers identified two possible effects that could have an influence on the timing measurements. If confirmed, one would increase the size of the measured effect, while the other would diminish it. Further tests will be made using a short pulsed beam.
The first possible effect concerns an oscillator used to provide the time stamps for GPS synchronisations that could have led to an 'overestimate' of the neutrino's time of flight. The second concerns the optical fibre connector that brings the external GPS signal to the OPERA master clock, which may not have been functioning correctly when the measurements were taken. If this is the case, the researchers believe it could have led to an underestimate of the time flight of the neutrinos. The potential extent of these two effects is being studied by the OPERA collaboration; New measurements with short pulsed beams are scheduled for May 2012.
Tests originally taken in September 2011, involved 15,000 neutrino beams were fired from CERN in Switzerland to the Gran Sasso laboratory, an underground Italian laboratory near Rome, 720km away. Physicists on the OPERA experiment said that despite checking and rechecking results, they believed that the neutrinos had travelled at a velocity 20 parts per million faster than the speed of light – a theory that challenged the law of physics and put into question Einstein's theory of relativity. The findings were met which much scepticism by the scientific community, but a second test in November 2011 appeared to provide further evidence that neutrinos can indeed travel faster than the speed of light.
If the findings are correct, it would result in a complete rethink of how the cosmos works and, ultimately, could pave the way for the potential of time travel.
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