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Particles may move faster than light, scientists say

by Jorge Hernandez on September 23, 2011

There's been a long-held belief that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, but scientists in Switzerland may found evidence to the contrary. Researchers say they have found sub-atomic particles that they believe are travelling faster than the speed of light, Reuters reports, which could cause a major shift in scientific thinking.

The scientists claim that particles sent from the CERN research institute near Geneva arrived at another lab in Italy about 60 nanoseconds faster than light, a small difference that could shoot holes in Albert Einstein's famous theory of relativity.

Despite the interesting find, some members of the scientific world are skeptical of the discovery. In particular, Stephen Hawking says that it is still too early to say what the impact of the claims could be and that much further study is necessary.

"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 scrutiny … it is good scientific practice," the institutes research director Sergio Bertolucci told Reuters.

What exactly these findings mean for the general public is still unknown, however, but according to the Associated Press if they are confirmed it could cause a fundamental re-thinking of how the world, and the cosmos, works.

"We'd be thrilled if it's right because we love something that shakes the foundation of what we believe," Columbia University physicist Brian Greene told the AP. "That's what we live for."

The particles in question, called neutrinos, have a long history of baffling scientists. In addition to potentially breaking the lightspeed barrier, neutrinos have almost no mass and have been known to switch between one of three forms while traveling through space.

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