Nobel laureates skeptical about faster-than-light neutrino

Nobel laureates skeptical about faster-than-light neutrino

"I'm willing to bet money that it's not correct," Professor George Smoot III, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics and a professor at University of California, Berkeley said referring to an experiment result claiming that particles apparently travel faster than light.

He was speaking ahead of the meeting of a forum for Nobel laureates in Beijing, Xinhua news agency reported. The experiment reported an anomaly in the flight time of neutrinos, or electrically neutral subatomic particles, from the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland to a laboratory located 730 kilometres away in Italy.

Particles were clocked transmitting at a speed of 300,006 kilometres per second, about 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. Smoot said that the claims "did not make sense" and should be verified by other scientists first.

"There are many distortions in physics. You have to have a very high standard to see if something is truly correct," he said. European researchers working in a team called OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Racking Apparatus) projected masses of neutrinos from CERN and then collected the particles using a massive detector in Gran Sasso, south of Rome.

Other scientists, as well as the OPERA team themselves, have voiced doubts regarding the experiment's results. The findings, CERN claims, could pose far-reaching potential consequences once verified.

If correct, the results would bring Einstein's theory of special relativity into question. Under this theory, a physical object cannot travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

"If really it is right, we have to rethink everything we know," Chris Llewellyn Smith, former director of CERN said. Smith claimed the unprecedented discovery was too exceptional to find proof.

"If somebody makes a very exceptional claim, then very exceptional proof would need to come from another experiment, saying the same thing. But we don't have the other thing," Smith said.

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