This could be it, folks. Last September, physicists watching neutrinos travel from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland to Italy's Gran Sasso laboratory announced that they had detected the subatomic particles making the trip 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light dictates is possible. Now, rumors are flying that faster than light neutrinos may not be so fast, after all.
So what's the fatal flaw behind the FTL findings? A loose fiber optic cable. Yes, really.
The physicists behind the original results checked and rechecked their findings extensively before announcing their puzzling observations to the world last September, knowing perfectly well that many in the scientific community would be quick to chalk up their results to some kind of error. Two months later, they checked their results again, showing with more certainty than ever that their measurements were accurate. But they may have been checking in the wrong places.
An unnamed source, which ScienceInsider claims to be "familiar with the experiment" has made it known that the 60-nanosecond discrepancy can be attributed to a loose connection between a GPS receiver (used to correct for neutrino flight time) and a computer. After tightening the fiber optic cable connecting them, the discrepancy all but vanished.
There appears to have been no official announcement yet from either CERN or the OPERA Collaborative speaking to these claims, and either way, new data will have to be collected before confirming that this is, in fact, the cause of last year's findings. Be that as it may, this may well be case closed for the FTL neutrinos — we'll keep you posted. [ScienceInsider]