Flaw found in startling physics experiment

GENEVA – Researchers have found a flaw in the technical setup of an experiment that startled the science world last year by appearing to show particles traveling faster than light.

The problem may have affected measurements that clocked subatomic neutrino particles breaking what Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein considered the ultimate speed barrier.

Two separate issues were identified with the GPS system that was used to time the arrival of neutrinos at an underground lab in Italy, said James Gillies, spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

One could have caused the speed to be overestimated; the other could have caused it to be underestimated, he said.

“The bottom line is that we will not know until more measurements are done later this year,” Gillies said.

The results of the experiment were received with great skepticism by scientists when they were published in September because they seemed to contradict Einstein’s theory that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

Even researchers involved in the experiment cautioned at the time that the measurements would need to be independently verified.

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