GENEVA -- Researchers have found a flaw in the technical setup of an experiment that startled the science world last year by appearing to show particles traveling faster than light.
The problem may have affected measurements that clocked subatomic neutrino particles breaking what Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein considered the ultimate speed barrier.Two separate issues were identified with the GPS system that was used to time the arrival of neutrinos at an underground lab in Italy, James Gillies, spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said Wednesday.
One could have caused the speed to be overestimated, the other could have caused it to be underestimated, he said.
"The bottom line is that we will not know until more measurements are done later this year," Gillies told The Associated Press.
The results of the experiment were received with great skepticism by scientists when they were published last September because they seemed to contradict Einstein's theory that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. That rule is fundamental to modern physics, and breaking it is seen as a step into the realms of science fiction where time travel and warp speed engines exist.
Even researchers involved in the experiment cautioned at the time that the measurements would need to be independently verified by other scientists before a genuine finding could be declared.
The experiment involved neutrinos being fired from CERN's site on the Swiss-French border to a vast underground laboratory 454 miles (730 kilometers) away at Gran Sasso in Italy.
Researchers found that the neutrinos appeared to arrive 60 nanoseconds sooner than if they had been traveling at light's speed of 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second).
The experiment's margin of error allowed for just 10 nanoseconds. A nanosecond is one-billionth of a second.
Keep clicking for more scientific milestones expected in 2012.
The Higgs Boson will be discovered—or not CERN scientists have estimated that, by the end of 2012 they will have narrowed down the range of possible masses of this elusive particle enough that they'll either find it or discover that they can't find it with the technology available. In either case, 2012 will be a huge year for particle physics and for human understanding of the universe in general.
China will ramp up its space program China will send two manned missions into space in 2012 for its Shenzhou program, which looks to flourish next year. These launches will be part of the same initiative that took Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003 and made China only the third country in the world to independently send a person into space. With NASA still soul-searching after the recent end of the Space Shuttle program, the Shenzhou program may be the beginning of a push to level the playing field, and 2012 will bring hints of how much success China can expect.
IBM will complete Sequoia supercomputer IBM expects that the device will set new records for processing rates, reaching a speed of 20 petaflops and doubling the processing speed of the current record holder. In 2009, PCWorld reported that Sequoia will be "located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and used primarily to manage the U.S.'s aging stockpile of nuclear weapons." IBM has stated that the computer, which will occupy an area slightly larger than a tennis court, will also be used to study "astronomy, energy, the human genome and climate change." Image: A similar IBM supercomputer, via Argonne National Laboratory.
Alan Turing Year Alan Turing, perhaps the single most important figure in the history of computers, would turn 100 in 2012, and an international consortium has designated 2012 as Alan Turing Year. Turning is well-known for his key contributions to British cryptography during World War II; following his death, he became an important figure in the LGBT movement, having been driven to suicide after he was persecuted for being gay.
The Mars Science Laboratory will touch down NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will become the largest Mars rover ever to touch the red planet's surface when it lands on or around August 6, 2012. According to NASA, the purpose of the mission is to assess the habitability of the planet, conducting chemical, geological and meteorological analysis of data that its advanced equipment can gather. For more details on the equipment, see the mission's website.
The Piltdown Man hoax marks its 100-year anniversary In December, 1912, an amateur archaeologist named Charles Dawson presented fragments of a skull purportedly belonging to a 'missing link' to the Geological Society of London. It took over 40 years for the specimen to be conclusively labeled a hoax, and it turned out that the 'Piltdown Man' was nothing more than a human cranium, an orangutan's jaw and chimpanzee teeth. As one of the most famous scientific hoaxes of all time, this date was a landmark in the history of the dark side of science. The above video goes into further detail.
More science anniversaries In 1912, Casimir Funk first described vitamins and Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift (pictured). In 1812, Napoleon first authorized the use of what would become the metric system, Pierre-Simon Laplace laid the groundwork for much of statistics in his 'Théorie analytique des probabilités.'
More science birthdays In 1912, science celebrates the birth of Nobelists Glenn Seaborg (pictured), Milton Friedman, George Emil Palade, Julius Axelrod, Edward Mills Purcell, Leonid Kantorovich, Konrad Emil Bloch, Herbert C. Brown and Salvador Luria, as well as rocket scientist Werner von Braun
The world won't end When December 21, 2012 comes and goes without the earth colliding into a planet or getting sucked into a black hole (as some predictions suggest) it will be a good day for science. Ever since theories of the 2012 armageddon came into public consciousness, astronomers have been hard at work dispelling the claims. The ancient Mayan calendar (a part of which is pictured above), which will complete a cycle of its longest measurement of time on that date, is used as evidence of the impending doomsday scenarios. Scholars of ancient Mayan culture (link in PDF), however, have noted the absurdity of this claim and its similarity to the panic surrounding Y2K.