PRESS ASSOCIATION -- British scientists are to investigate astounding results which suggest Einstein was wrong when he said nothing could travel faster than light.
Teams in the US and Japan are expected to re-run an Italian experiment that has left physicists shaking their heads in disbelief - the results suggest that sub-atomic particles called neutrinos can break the light barrier.
Scientists measured the time it took for neutrinos to travel 453 miles from the European nuclear research facility at Cern, near Geneva, to a detector at Gran Sasso in Italy.
It would take a light beam 2.4 milliseconds to make the journey. But more than 15,000 observations over a period of three years indicated that the neutrinos covered the distance 60 billionths of a second more quickly. If this were true, they would be breaking one of the most fundamental rules of physics.
In 1905, Albert Einstein stated in his theory of special relativity that nothing can travel faster than a light beam in a vacuum - 186,282 miles per second.
According to the theory, it would take an infinite amount of energy to exceed light speed. It would also violate the laws of causation. To an outside observer, a faster-than-light object would arrive at its destination before starting on its journey.
Scientists agree that if the findings of the experiment are confirmed, physics would be shaken to its foundations.
However, despite months of careful analysis and cross-checking, there is still a possibility that it could all turn out to be a mistake. For this reason, scientists in different locations in the world will now try to verify the results.
They include British experts involved in the international Minos neutrino experiment at the Fermilab facility near Chicago in the US. Similar studies are also expected to take place at the T2K neutrino experiment in Japan, where British scientists also play a leading role.
Professor Jenny Thomas, from University College London, a leading member of the Minos team, said: "The impact of this measurement, were it to be correct, would be huge. In fact it would overturn everything we thought we understood about relativity and the speed of light."