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Scientists: Particle Broke Cosmic Speed Limit

Globe of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, outside Geneva, Switzerland (file photo.)

Scientists have made a discovery that, if confirmed, could rewrite the laws of physics.

An international group of researchers says it has measured a sub-atomic particle, called a neutrino, moving faster than the speed of light -- something that was supposed to be impossible.

A particle accelerator blasted a beam of neutrinos 730 kilometers from the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland to a lab in Italy. Scientists say they were shocked to find the neutrinos arrived about 60 nanoseconds -- 60 billionths of a second -- faster than the speed of light.

Albert Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity, the famous equation (E=mc-squared), which says energy equals mass times the speed of light squared, is a fundamental component of modern physics. It relies on the idea that nothing moves faster than light.

If the neutrino findings prove true, it will force physicists to rethink much of what has been discovered in the past century about how the universe works. The research group says the results are hard to believe, even for the scientists who uncovered them.

The researchers are asking colleagues elsewhere to double-check, to ensure there was not an error in the methodology or the calculations.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.