It was Albert Einstein, no less, who proposed more than 100 years ago that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.

But yesterday it emerged that the man who laid the foundations for the laws of nature may have been wrong.

The science world was left in shock when workers at the world's largest physics lab announced they had recorded subatomic particles travelling faster than the speed of light.

Head of the neutrinos research group, Dario Auterio (left), and physicist and spokesman for the experiment, Antonio Ereditato, smile as they walk to a seminar to present the results of the speed of neutrinos. During the experiment, the tiny particles clocked at 300,006 kilometres per second, about six km/sec faster that the speed of light

If the findings are proven to be accurate, they would overturn one of the pillars of the Standard Model of physics, which explains the way the universe and everything within it works.

Einstein's theory of special relativity, proposed in 1905, states that nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

But researchers at the CERN lab near Geneva claim they have recorded neutrinos, a type of tiny particle, travelling faster than the barrier of 299,792 kilometre per second.

James Gillies, a spokesman for CERN, said the readings have so astounded researchers that they are asking others to verify them before claiming a discovery.

"The feeling that most people have is this can't be right, this can't be real," he said. "They are inviting the broader physics community to look at what they've done and really scrutinize it in great detail, and ideally for someone elsewhere in the world to repeat the measurements."

The results have so astounded researchers that American and Japanese scientists have been asked to verify the results before they are confirmed as a discovery. 

Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers, said, "We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing."

Scientists agree if the results are confirmed, that it would force a fundamental rethink of the laws of physics.
John Ellis, a theoretical physicist, said Einstein's theory underlies "pretty much everything in modern physics".

2,99,792 km/sec: The speed of light