Error May Have Caused CERN’s Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos Discovery

February 26, 2012 Updated: November 18, 2020

The laboratories that discovered neutrinos traveling faster than light now backtrack and state that they have found two possible glitches in their system that could account for this anomalous result.

In September last year, researchers from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Gran Sasso National Laboratory claimed that they had detected neutrinos traveling approximately 60 nanoseconds, or 60 billionths of a second, faster than the speed of light. Many scientists were doubtful at the time, because this would overthrow Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, which states that nothing can travel faster than light.

In a press release, CERN states that the connection of the fiber-optic cable that transfers data about neutrinos’ flight time may have been faulty. CERN now believes that this possible error may have caused the reported speed to be faster than it actually is.

However, the second error, involving an oscillator, a part of the system that time-stamps the recordings, may have caused the reported measurements to be slower, though Lucia Votano, director of the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, says the main issue is the former error.

The two laboratories are currently trying to determine the extent of the miscalculations.