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UPDATE: Last week's news of a second experiment that appeared to again show neutrino particles traveling faster than light hasn't convinced the scientific community at large to give up on Einstein's special theory of relatively just yet.
A different team of international scientists—operating out of the same lab complex as the team that conducted the faster-than-light experiments—published a paper over the weekend saying that their own findings show that neutrino particles could not have traveled as fast as the original team concluded.
Reuters walks us through the team's argument against the existence of the so-called "faster-than-light" particles. (FYI: Because science is awesome, the team is known as ICARUS):
They argue, on the basis of recently published studies by two top U.S. physicists, that the neutrinos pumped down from CERN, near Geneva, should have lost most of their energy if they had travelled at even a tiny fraction faster than light.
But in fact, the ICARUS scientists say, the neutrino beam as tested in their equipment registered an energy spectrum fully corresponding with what it should be for particles traveling at the speed of light and no more.
Friday, Nov. 18: A team of scientists have repeated the results of a controversial experiment that appeared to capture a subatomic particle known as a neutrino moving faster than the speed of light. That unexpected result, if accurate, should be impossible according to Einstein’s special theory of relativity.
Fernando Ferroni, president of the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics and one of the 160 physicists involved in the experiment, said the repeat performance made him "more confident" that the results of the first experiment might have been accurate, the Washington Post reports.
The initial experiment made headlines in September, and was widely criticized by the scientific community at the time. One physicist even promised to eat his boxer shorts on live TV if the results turn out to be true. But don’t get too excited, yet. The repeat experiment merely ruled out one possible source of error out of many.
The second experiment took place in the same facility as the first, using the CERN particle accelerator. But this time, the packets of neutrinos traveling 454 miles were sent in shorter bursts of 3 nanoseconds each, "more than 3,000 times briefer than the earlier test," as Nature explains. That minimized the possibility that the results were due to the uncertainty of when an individual neutrino particle was actually fired. In both experiments, the neutrinos arrived at their destination 60 nanoseconds faster than a beam of light.
Nature explains that the second round of experiments does not address the other major criticism of the initial experiments: the more or less unestablished use of GPS to synchronize clocks on either end of the beam.
And because the repeat results are from the same team as the first experiment, there’s been no independent check of the results. MINOS, the research facility in Illinois best suited to test the results of the CERN experiment, says it might be able to perform a "preliminary check" by early 2012.