Friday, 30 March 2012 10:53
March 30, 2012
The head of the team of researchers whose findings appeared to show neutrinos outpacing light photons has resigned, according to published reports.
The scientific community throughout the globe was highly skeptical when scientists in Italy announced last September that they had observed ghostly neutrino particles traveling faster than the speed of light. The findings violated Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, which has withstood repeated challenges over the past century, and researchers were highly critical of the team's results.
The Italian scientists, who were part of a group called OPERA, said that they had routinely measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light between their facility in Italy and CERN in Switzerland. They presented their results to highly skeptical colleagues last year amid a flurry of press.
Engineering research conducted by other groups of scientists following the announcement determined that the OPERA experiment was likely flawed, resulting in the seemingly impossible results. The BBC reports that Antonio Ereditato, who oversaw the OPERA experiment, resigned from his post this week.
There is speculation within the scientific community that some members of his engineering research team had pushed for his ouster, according to the news provider. Earlier in the month, a team of scientists said they had definitively proven that neutrinos are not, in fact, capable of traveling faster than the speed of light.
Nevertheless, when he announced the OPERA team's results last year, Ereditato cautioned scientists that they could be flawed. He said that because of the "potentially great impact on physics," it was essential that researchers elsewhere in the world worked to confirm or refute the results. Skeptics, however, chided the scientist for holding a press conference and publicizing the findings, arguing that he should have instead simply published the results in a scientific journal.
"We tried to find all possible explanations of this," Ereditato said when announcing the results in 2011. "We wanted to find a mistake - trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects - and we didn't. When you don't find anything, then you say 'well, now I'm forced to go out and ask the community to scrutinize this.' "
Ereditato has yet to comment on his decision to retire, according to the BBC.
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