Ever since Einstein's general theory of relativity came under attack last month when physicists reported about neutrinos traveling faster than light, many researchers have been trying to figure out how to discredit or how to prove the finding.
Ronald van Elburg from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands claims that he has figured out how the neutrinos arrived at the Gran Sasso Lab seemingly faster than light. The neutrinos were 60 nanoseconds early. His argument is that the team forgot to take into account the time distortions introduced by the GPS satellites in orbit that were used to synchronize the clocks at Gran Sasso and CERN.
According to Elburg, the key bit is that the team seems to have forgotten to take into account the time it takes for the GPS signal to travel to the sensors on the Earth from the orbiting satellites. His calculations figure that the delay for the signal to reach the Earth from the satellites amounts to about 32 nanoseconds on each end of the experiment, making for a total time delay of 64 nanoseconds. That is almost the exact amount of time that Gran Sasso showed the neutrinos arriving early.
Einstein's theory of relativity encompasses two theories - special and general. Special relativity, which deals with space-time, is now being reviewed by CERN scientists. The general theory of relativity of late, however, gained more importance with the astrophysicists who proved that Einstein's theory is still correct on the cosmic scale.
According to the general theory of relativity, the gravity of any particle affects space-time deeply by warping it. The theory was validated previously by a research on the Sun and other stars.
If CERN's findings proved to be true, they would violate Einstein's theory of relativity, opening it to rigorous scientific evaluation.
A neutrino is one of the particles that, according to the theory of physics, called the standard model is elementary, that is, fundamental. Neutrinos are produced naturally in radioactive decays on the Sun and by cosmic rays. They can also be produced in reactors and accelerators.
Earlier, a team of Danish astrophysicists claimed to have validated Einstein's theory by studying the cosmos. The finding was published in Nature.
A team of astrophysicists from the Niels Bohr Institute, led by Radek Wojtak, collected data from about 8,000 galaxy clusters by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and performed a statistical analysis. The goal of the work was to detect gravitational red shift by studying the properties of the red-shift distribution of galaxies in clusters rather than by looking at red shifts of individual galaxies separately, explains Wojtak.
Their research on galaxy clusters clearly shows that the red shift of the light is proportionally offset in relation to the gravitational influence from the galaxy cluster's gravity, says Wojtak. In that way our observations confirm the theory of relativity.
All these point to the need for further tests before these results are fully confirmed and widely accepted. At the moment it can be said that if neutrinos do travel faster than the speed of light it would be a revolutionary discovery.