By: Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer
Published: 06/08/2012 01:03 PM EDT on LiveScience

The final nail in the coffin may have been dealt to the idea that neutrino particles can travel faster than light.

The same lab that first reported the shocking results last September, which could have upended much of modern physics, has now reported that the subatomic particles called neutrinos "respect the cosmic speed limit."

Physicist Sergio Bertolucci, research director at Switzerland's CERN physics lab, presented the results today (June 8) at the 25th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics in Kyoto, Japan.

"Although this result isn't as exciting as some would have liked, it is what we all expected deep down," Bertolucci said in a statement.

The new findings come from four experiments that study streams of neutrinos sent from CERN in Geneva to the INFN Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. All four, including the experiment behind the first faster-than-light findings, called OPERA, found that this time around, the nearly massless neutrinos traveled quickly, but not that quickly. [10 Implications of Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos]

Last year, OPERA measured that neutrinos were making the 454-mile (730-kilometer) underground trip between the two labs more speedily than light, arriving there 60 nanoseconds earlier than a beam of light would.

At the time, the physicists were stunned because such a result seemed to break Einstein's prediction that nothing could travel faster than light. This idea is at the heart of his theory of special relativity, on which much of our modern technology and scientific understanding is based.

The OPERA researchers weren't sure what could explain their anomalous results, having checked and rechecked their work, so they released their findings to the larger community of physicists in hopes that experts around the world could help them figure it out.

"The story captured the public imagination, and has given people the opportunity to see the scientific method in action — an unexpected result was put up for scrutiny, thoroughly investigated and resolved in part thanks to collaboration between normally competing experiments," Bertolucci said. "That's how science moves forward."

Labs around the world, including the other experiments at Gran Sasso — called Borexino, ICARUS and LVD — as well as the MINOS experiment in Illinois and the T2K project in Japan, tried to recreate the OPERA findings. None were able to do so: Every time, neutrinos appeared to obey the speed limit of light.

Now, the OPERA scientists think their original measurement can be written off as owing to a faulty element of the experiment’s fiber-optic timing system.

Follow Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz or LiveScience @livescience. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Copyright 2012 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Celebrated picture dated 18 march 1951,

    Celebrated picture dated 18 march 1951, shows German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, sticking out his tongue at photographers on his 72nd birthday. AFP ARTHUR SASSE (Photo credit should read ARTHUR SASSE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Picture taken in Princeton in 19

    PRINCETON, UNITED STATES: (FILES) Picture taken in Princeton in 1931 of German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, playing the violin. Germany, the birthplace of Albert Einstein, launches 19 January 2005 a year of international celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of three of the physicist's four papers that changed the way we view the Universe. AFP PHOTO/FILES (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

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    PRINCETON, : German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein, author of the theory of relativity, declares his opposition to the 'H' bomb and to the arms race between the USA and the USSR in a conference 14 February 1950 in Princeton during a TV broadcast which created a considerable stir in the United States and all over the Western World. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Portrait taken 06 February 1938 at Princeton Unive

    PRINCETON, : Portrait taken 06 February 1938 at Princeton University of physicist Albert Einstein, author of theory of relativity. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An undated portrait of German-born Swis

    An undated portrait of German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An undated portrait of German-born Swiss

    An undated portrait of German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Picture taken 10 February 1933 in El Mirador Hotel

    UNITED STATES: Picture taken 10 February 1933 in El Mirador Hotel in a California desert resort of Albert Einstein and his wife. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Indian prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visits physicist Albert Einstein at Princeton University 8 november 1949. Einstein, author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Portrait of German-born Swiss-US physici

    Portrait of German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921, celebrating his 75th birthay at Princeton University, march 15, 1954. (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Portrait taken in 1950 of German-born Swiss-US phy

    PRINCETON, : Portrait taken in 1950 of German-born Swiss-US physicist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), author of theory of relativity, awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

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