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Did CERN's neutrinos break the cosmic speed limit? Faulty wiring could be more likely.

Last year CERN researchers clocked neutrinos moving faster than light, in an apparent violation of the laws of physics. Now it seems that it was actually a bad measurement caused by a loose fiber optic cable. 


In this 2007 photo, engineers works to assemble one of the layers of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet at the CERN's Large Hadron Collider particule accelerator, in Geneva, Switzerland. Last year, CERN scientists measured neutrinos apparently moving faster than light, a measurement that they now say could be due to a faulty cable.

Martial Trezzini/KEYSTONE/AP/File

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You can shelf your designs for a warp drive engine (for now) and put the DeLorean back in the garage; it turns out neutrinos may not have broken any cosmic speed limits after all.

Ever since the news came out on September 22 of last year that a team of researchers in Italy had clocked neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, the physics world has been resounding with the potential implications of such a discovery — that is, if it were true. The speed of light has been a key component of the standard model of physics for over a century, an Einstein-established limit that particles (even tricky neutrinos) weren’t supposed to be able to break, not even a little.

Now, according to a breaking news article by Edwin Cartlidge on AAAS’ ScienceInsider, the neutrinos may be cleared of any speed violations.

“According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos’ flight and an electronic card in a computer,” Cartlidge reported.


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