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Faulty Equipment May Account For Faster Than Light Particles

| 23 Feb 2012 17:23
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Remember those faster-than-light neutrinos that threatened to destroy physics as we know it? That was probably a glitch.

In September of last year we brought you news that scientists working at Switzerland's CERN laboratory had seemingly discovered particles capable of travelling faster than the speed of light. While initially that may inspire thoughts of travelling through time to punch baby Hitler square in the face, it also had massive implications for the world of physics, and basically our entire understanding of existence.

Thus, it's no surprise that the discovery generated tons of controversy. Some tried to adjust their worldview to accomodate the now vulnerable speed of light, some called the scientists hacks, and others sighed and patiently explained that it was far more likely that the results came about due to some technical malfunction than a tectonic shift in how the universe works.

All these months later, it seems that third group may be right.

After extensive testing, the CERN group has found two possible culprits for the baffling discovery: A faulty oscillator, and a malfunctioning fiber optic cable.

The BBC reports:

... the team said there is a problem in the "oscillator" that provides a ticking clock to the experiment in the intervals between the synchronisations of GPS equipment.

This is used to provide start and stop times for the measurement as well as precise distance information.

That problem would increase the measured time of the neutrinos' flight, in turn reducing the surprising faster-than-light effect.

But the team also said they found a problem in the optical fibre connection between the GPS signal and the experiment's main clock.

In contrast, the team said that effect would increase the neutrinos' apparent speed.

Of course, given that the CERN team is still unsure on which of these issues to blame for their baffling findings, it is still technically possible that they did actually discover faster-than-light neutrinos.

Then again, it's also technically possible that villainous time travelers from the future popped into the CERN lab and sabotaged the equipment to prevent anyone from stopping their nefarious chronological crimes.

Crime number 1? Steal all the dinosaurs. Crime number 2? Not punching Der F├╝hrer in Der Face.

Source: BBC

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