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Lab heads wary on neutrino but see beyond Einstein
GENEVA (AP) - The heads of three major physics labs said Thursday they’re skeptical a subatomic particle traveled faster than the speed of light.
The three lab directors spoke two weeks after European scientists said they clocked a neutrino going faster than the 186,282 miles per second _ thought to be nature’s speed limit under Einstein’s 1905 special theory of relativity.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, on the Swiss-French border, provided the particle accelerator that sent neutrinos on their 454-mile (730-kilometer) trip underground from Geneva to Italy.
There’s a good chance the research won’t hold up, said Rolf Heuer of CERN, Pier Oddone of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in the U.S., and Atsuto Suzuki of High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, or KEK, in Japan.
“I’m a complete skeptic,” Oddone said.
They also shared a growing conviction the elusive Higgs boson _ a theoretical particle that would explain why matter has mass, an enormous scientific breakthrough _ will be found or ruled out within 12 months.
“I think by this time next year I will be able to bring you either the Higgs boson or the message that it doesn’t exist,” Heuer said, confident because of the reams of new data being generated at CERN’s $10-billion Large Hadron Collider near Geneva.
Scientists theorize as part of the Standard Model of how the universe works that the Higgs boson gives mass to other particles, and thus to other objects and creatures in the universe.
The collider also may lead scientists to other discoveries such as seeing dark matter, the strange stuff that makes up more of the universe than normal matter but has not been seen on Earth.
European researchers reported Sept. 22 that a neutrino beam fired from a particle accelerator near Geneva to a lab in Italy traveled 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light. The margin of error was 10 nanoseconds, each of which is equal to one-billionth of a second.
France’s National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics Research collaborated with Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory on the neutrino experiment at CERN.
If the work can be replicated, they said, scientists would have to fundamentally alter their explanations of how the universe operates.
Oddone said Fermilab hoped to accomplish it by next May.
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