The scientific community was buzzing about the possibility Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity - which holds nothing travels faster than the speed of light – could be wrong.
The fuss started last year, when scientists from the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Tracking Apparatus (OPERA) fired a beam of neutrinos – elementary particles which don’t hold an electrical charge and can pass through ordinary matter with virtually no interaction – from CERN’S particle accelerator in Geneva, Switzerland, to a laboratory in Italy, about 730 kilometers away.
The OPERA scientists found the sub-atomic particles traveled to the Italian lab at a speed of 300,006 kilometers per second, or 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light, which is 299,792.458 kilometers per second.
Now the folks from OPERA have identified two things that could have influenced its neutrino timing measurement. OPERA says these two recent findings still require further tests with a short-pulsed beam.
If the technical problems are confirmed, one of the effects would actually show that the neutrinos were traveling faster than originally measured, while the other would show that the the sub-atomic particles were moving slower than measured, in other words, not faster than the speed of light.
OPERA says a problem with an oscillator used to provide the time stamps for GPS synchronizations in the experiment, could have led to an overestimate of the neutrinos’ time of flight.
The other concern has to do with the optical fiber connector that brings the external GPS signal to the OPERA master clock. If the master clock wasn’t functioning properly when the measurements were taken, it could have led to an underestimate of the time of flight of the neutrinos.
The scientists at OPERA are continuing their study of these two issues and have scheduled new measurements with short-pulsed beams for sometime in May.