x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sorry Einstein

Scientists in Italy are on the verge of disproving a basic tenet of physics, leading some to ponder the once unthinkable.

Maybe Marty McFly was on to something. Sure his shoes were a little odd but the basic premise of his escapades in Back the Future was that he could, well, travel back to the future. Crazy? Maybe not.

Scientists at the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy have been scrambling since September to disprove their earlier findings that neutrinos, or subatomic particles, can travel faster than light. Critics pounced and blamed a high-tech manufacturing or measurement error. A pillar of modern physics espoused by Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity was at stake.

So the scientists ran the numbers again. And once again, the results confirmed their findings.

This is not the end of the story. The team is again performing another series of calculations that could reverse their original thesis.

But some are already pondering the mind-boggling possibilities.

As Oxford University physicist Giles Barr tells the BBC: "The profound thing that could happen here is that some people in a very fast spaceship could actually observe these neutrinos leaving after they have already arrived in the place we've seen them.

"In other words," he says, "time has been reversed."

Marty? Are you out there?