by Kate Bannan on Tue, September 27, 2011
According to Einstein's theory of relativity, it is not possible for matter to travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. The speed of light (186,282 miles per second) has long been considered a cosmic speed limit, and much of modern physics is based on Einstein's work. Now there is a possibility that Einstein was wrong -- and physics may have to rethink the concept of matter and energy.
The science world was surprised when workers at CERN, the world's largest physics lab, recently announced that they had recorded subatomic particles travelling faster than the speed of light. If their findings are proven to be correct, they would overturn one of the pillars of the Standard Model of physics, which attempts to explain the way the universe and everything within it works.
Neutrinos have long been suspected of being able to travel beyond light speed but the ability to measure their speed accurately has only recently been possible thanks to the CERN lab. This may be one of those moments in science history that opens the door to new discoveries, and could change the way we understand the universe and ourselves. However, given the potential far-reaching consequences of such a result, independent measurements are needed before the effect can either be refuted or firmly established.
To find out more about neutrinos and modern physics research results, go to Science Accelerator, a gateway to science that includes R&D results, project descriptions, accomplishments and more. For international results – from over 70 countries and in 10 languages, go to WorldWideScience and for video results (from DOE and CERN), go to ScienceCinema, All resources are made available to the public for free from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), U.S. Department of Energy within the Office of Science.