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article image'Opera' experiment rerun confirms neutrinos are faster than light

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By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 18, 2011 in Science
Geneva - Physicists at CERN have rerun tests conducted in September which suggested that neutrinos travel faster than light. The latest results are consistent with those of the first received with skepticism after faults were found in the experiment design.
Digital Journal reported that Dr. Bergio Bertolucci and his team of researchers in Gran Sasso announced in September "that neutrinos sent through the ground in the Opera (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tracking Apparatus) experiment were measured as apparently traveling faster than speed of light. In the experiment, neutrinos sent from the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) laboratory in Geneva, to Gran Sasso laboratory 732 kilometers away, appeared to have made the trip faster than the speed of light, showing up in Italy a fraction of a second earlier than expected."
Digital Journal reported that the result "shocked the scientific world because, since Albert Einstein's proposal of Special Relativity, scientists have considered the speed of light the fastest speed at which anything in the physical universe may travel. This...led some scientists receiving the results of Dr. Bergio Bertolucci's experiment with skepticism, saying the experiment incorporated some errors they failed to detect."
The scientists, who conducted the September experiment, have repeated it, incorporation improvements in experiment design critics suggested. The new result from the latest tests is consistent with the first and suggests that neutrinos can travel faster than light. The new experiment design removes doubts arising from potential sources of error identified in the earlier experiment design.
The result of the latest experiment, according to The Guardian, was posted on Friday morning and submitted for review in the Journal of High Energy Physics. The scientific world is now buzzing with news of the latest result because neutrinos seem to have been shown to violate one of the most fundamental laws of Einstein's Special Relativity.
The significance of the latest result is that it opens up possibility that science fiction ideas of time travel could, after all, be technologically feasible.
The original experiment design had been faulted by critics on the grounds that the pulses of neutrinos sent from CERN were long pulses(10 microseconds per pulse) and thus precise measurement of time of arrival at Gran Sasso in Italy could have significant errors.
The ALPHA antimatter trap experiment at CERN  headquartered in Geneva  Switzerland
The ALPHA antimatter trap experiment at CERN, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland
European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
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In the new experiment design, scientists sent from CERN, pulses of neutrinos several thousands of times shorter than the previous (three nanoseconds). The pulses were sent in intervals of 524 nanoseconds. This procedure allowed scientists to measure with greater precision the time of arrival of the neutrinos at Gran Sasso.
In the latest version of the experiment using short neutrino pulses, 20 neutrino events have been measured at Gran Sasso with the same result as earlier experiments.
The Guardian quotes Dario Auterio of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) commenting on the fine-tuned accuracy of the latest measurements:
"With the new type of beam produced by Cern's accelerators we've been able to to measure with accuracy the time of flight of neutrinos one by one.The 20 neutrinos we recorded provide comparable accuracy to the 15,000 on which our original measurement was based. In addition their analysis is simpler and less dependent on the measurement of the time structure of the proton pulses and its relation to the neutrinos' production mechanism."
Fernando Ferroni, president of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics, in a statement released on Friday, said:
"A measurement so delicate and carrying a profound implication on physics requires an extraordinary level of scrutiny. The experiment at Opera, thanks to a specially adapted Cern beam, has made an important test of consistency of its result. The positive outcome of the test makes us more confident in the result, although a final word can only be said by analogous measurements performed elsewhere in the world."
Large Hadron Collider
The LHC is a particle accelerator and collider located at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland
Photo by Image Editor
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Antonio Ereditato, co-ordinator of the Opera experiment, said, in an interview with BBC:
"This is reinforcing the previous finding and ruling out some possible systematic errors which could have in principle been affecting it. We didn't think they were, and now we have the proof. This is reassuring that it's not the end of the story...This additional test we made is confirming our original finding, but still we have to be very prudent, still we have to look forward to independent confirmation. But this is a positive result."
Dario Auterio of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) also cautions that the result still needs to be subjected to intense scrutiny. The Guardian reports that physicists will continue to take measurements in their search for possible sources of error.
Director of the National Institute of Nuclear and Particle Physics Jacques Martino confirmed Dario Auterio's statement. He said that physicists will continue to scrutinize the measurements for possible errors. Physicists, according to Martino, will be checking the clocks at CERN and Gran Sasso, to make sure they were precisely synchronized.
Some physicists have suggested that using optical fiber in place of GPS system for measurement should remove potential errors arising from effects of Einsteins theory of General Relativity (the theory says "clocks go at different rates under different gravitational fields").
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