There was a lot of excitement when research coming out of CERN suggested neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light.
The news was, of course, met with a lot of quirked eyebrows; you don’t just overthrow one of the greatest pillars of physics with a cloud of neutrinos and a difference of 64 nanoseconds.
Well, no, probably not.
Ronald A.J. van Elburg has published a paper stating that relativity itself may be the reason the neutrino measurements were incorrect. And really, what better to represent Einstein in the case against faster-than-light neutrinos than his own theory? It always seems to jump at the opportunity to prove naysayers wrong.
Here’s the deal: The physicists working on the experiment were using GPS satellites to perform their measurements.
However, like I mentioned in an earlier post on this experiment, it’s only because of relativity that we’re able to use GPS satellites at all.
The explanation is a bit complicated, but in general, the satellite’s perspective of the time it took the neutrinos to get from Geneva, Switzerland to Gran Sasso, Italy is different than it would appear here on Earth, at least when comparing the two. It’s possible that when the physicists on Earth received the data from the satellite, they neglected to take that difference into account.
Coincidentally, Elburg states the discrepancy would end up being just about 64 nanoseconds, which would account for the neutrinos’ seemingly faster-than-light travel. In other words, his suggestion would destroy the possibility outright.
This isn’t confirmed, of course, and the physicists working on the experiment claim they’d accounted for such discrepancies. But you can be sure scientists won’t rest until we know definitively.