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Head of 'faster-than-light' neutrinos team resigns

Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics said Friday that Antonio Ereditato had stepped down from the leadership of the OPERA experiment, whose measurements on the speed of neutrinos were widely questioned when they were announced in September.

By Associated Press / March 30, 2012

In this photo, technicians check the magnets that will direct protons towards the target for the CERN Neutrinos to the Gran Sasso (CNGS) project in Geneva, an experiment thought by some to prove that neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light, but that was later disproved.

CERN/AP/File

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The scientist who headed a European research team that last year measured particles traveling faster than light has resigned, weeks after a rival team cast doubt on the accuracy of those readings.

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Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics said Friday that Antonio Ereditato had stepped down from the leadership of the OPERA experiment, whose measurements on the speed of neutrinos were widely questioned when they were announced in September.

Ereditato confirmed his resignation to The Associated Press in an email but declined to comment further.

The OPERA team itself had cautioned in September that the measurements needed to be checked by independent researchers because they appeared to go against a key tenet of modern physics — that nothing can travel faster than light.

Breaking that rule, which underlies Albert Einstein's famous special theory of relativity, could have opened the door to a new kind of physics in which time travel and warp speeds might be possible.

In February, the OPERA team acknowledged that it had found a flaw in the technical setup of its experiment that could have affected the measurements, but held off on calling them wrong.

Then, earlier this month, a rival team called ICARUS clocked neutrino speeds using a different experiment and found they behaved just as expected. They traveled at, but no faster than, light speed.

OPERA, ICARUS and two other teams will try to settle the issue once and for all by conducting further tests at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in May.

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