Physicists explain controversial finding of faster-than-light particles

Yesterday, CERN physicists shocked the world with news of a scientific finding that could revolutionize the field of physics. The researchers claim to have observed what many had believed to be impossible: subatomic particles called neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light.


This morning, lead researcher Dario Autiero addressed a standing-room-only auditorium in Geneva to explain the team's findings. Here's what happened.

Featured up top is an interview with Autiero and OPERA spokesperson Antonio Ereditato, released by CERN just a few hours ago.

Autiero hosted a seminar at CERN this morning to formally present the OPERA Collaboration's puzzling faster-than-light results. The physicist provided this morning's sizable audience with an in-depth overview of the facilities that were used to generate, detect, and observe the neutrinos, and the OPERA research team's extensive collaboration with CERN metrologists (experts in the study of measurement) in verifying its results.

In a separate announcement, CERN's research director, Sergio Bertolucci, called attention to the reasoning behind the OPERA research team's decision to release their findings, noting that "when an experiment finds an apparently unbelievable result and can find no artifact of the measurement to account for it, it is normal to invite broader is good scientific practice."


High systematic accuracy, good statistics, and the rigorous nature of the involved facilities' calibration and cross-check methods were recurring themes throughout the presentation, and for good reason. The measurements obtained by the OPERA Collaboration conflict with one of the most well-established and unifying scientific paradigms of the last century. This morning's seminar acknowledged the gravity of the announcement by making it explicitly clear that the OPERA Collaboration has, in fact, gone to great lengths to confirm the accuracy of its findings.


"Therefore we present to you today this discrepancy, this anomaly," concluded Autiero.


Several members of the audience, which included some of the world's foremost particle physicists, commended the OPERA researchers on the comprehensiveness of their research efforts.

"I want to congratulate you on a beautiful experiment," said Samuel C.C. Ting, a Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist from MIT. "The experiment is very carefully done, the systematic error very carefully checked."


And while the researchers' results have been well-received thus far, the scrutiny of the team's findings is only just beginning. Fermilab scientists here in the States will soon re-analyze the OPERA team's data in a process that should take six to eight months, at which point further investigations will almost certainly follow.

Autiero, for one, welcomes the waves of reassessment, re-experimentation, and re-analysis still to come:

Although our measurements have low systematic uncertainty and high statistical accuracy, and we place great confidence in our results, we're looking forward to comparing them with those from other experiments.


You can read the research paper detailing the OPERA Collaboration's findings via ArXiv.
You can watch a recorded version of this morning's seminar here.

Images via CERN Document Server
Interview via CERN video productions

Top image by robodread via Shutterstock


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