News / Science & Technology

Fermilab Scientists Testing Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Claims

Kane Farabaugh

Scientists at the CERN physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, claimed recently to have clocked a subatomic particle, known as a neutrino, traveling faster than the speed of light.  If true, the event would violate a central tenet of physics and undermine Albert Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity.  But ascientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, Illinois, also known as Fermilab, are not convinced.

Fermilab Scientists, Faster-Than-Light Neutrino Claims, CERN, Einstein, physics, particle accelerator lab

Einstein’s special theory of relativity is basic physics to scientist Patrick Fox.  “I have been studying that for years.  It is something you use day-to-day," he said.  “And it basically boils down to the statement that physics should be independent of how fast you are moving.”

That includes traveling at the speed of light.  “The only objects that can travel at the speed of light are massless things, like light," he said.

Scientist Robert Plunkett explains the prevailing wisdom about subatomic particles like neutrinos is that they can accelerate to nearly the speed of light, but never faster.  “The speed of light is the absolute cosmic speed limit for the travel of particles," he said.

But scientists in Europe claim they have recorded a neutrino particle that broke that “cosmic speed limit.”  If true, the discovery would upend almost a century of research, and force scientists to rethink the laws governing mass and movement.

Plunkett is not convinced. Not yet. “Skepticism is something we always bring to the table anytime there is a revolutionary claim like this," he said.

“Before we throw away a cherished principle we have to, of course, check that this result, which is a very interesting result, is confirmed by other sources," said Fox.

One of the “other sources” is the MINOS experiment at Fermilab.  Located in a massive underground tunnel, MINOS shoots a particle beam through the earth to another, offsite location.  Scientists at the lab clock how fast the particles travel.

“It is likely that the MINOS experiment is one of the best checks that can be done on this measurement," said Plunkett.

But Plunkett says it is easy to make a mistake when trying to measure something as small as a neutrino.  He believes the MINOS facility, with an upgrade, can provide a more precise measure of the CERN results. “Our plans are to upgrade this equipment using a system of atomic clocks, much like what they had in the European experiment, to in fact do a measurement that is more precise than theirs, in many ways," he said.

But if MINOS, too, clocks a neutrino traveling faster than the speed of light, theorists like Patrick Fox will have their work cut out for them, designing a new foundation for future physics research.

You May Like

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, even music are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. Faith Lapidus narrates a report from VOA’s June Soh.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid