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New method would not break Einstein's Theory of Relativity

Virtually all science fiction that involves intergalactic travel or convenient travel between planets in our own solar system revolves around faster than light travel. One problem with many theories for faster than light travel is the proposed methods would violate Einstein's Theory of Relativity.

Two physicists from Baylor University have theorized what they believe to be a method of faster than light travel that would not break the Theory of Relativity. Einstein's Theory of Relativity states that objects accelerating to the speed of light require an infinite amount of energy.

The physicists -- Gerald Cleaver and Richard Obousy -- have theorized a new idea for faster than light travel that involves manipulating dark energy to propel a spacecraft. According to Space.com the universe -- in theory -- moved faster than light for a short time after the Big Bang, propelled by dark energy which represents about 74% of the mass energy budget in the universe. Space.com goes on to say that, 22% of the mass energy budget consists of dark matter and what remains of the mass-energy budget in the universe being made up of stars, planets and other things we see.

Some current evidence supports the theory that the fabric of space-time can expand faster than the speed of light. This is said to be because the reality which light travels is expanding itself.

The Baylor physicists took a recent idea in string theory to devise a method of manipulating dark energy to accelerate a spaceship based on the Alcubierre drive. The Alcubierre drive works on the principle -- in theory -- that expanding space-time behind a ship and reducing space-time in front of the ship would result in propulsion at faster than light speeds.

Cleaver said, "Think of it [faster than light travel] like a surfer riding a wave. The ship would be pushed by the spatial bubble and the bubble would be traveling faster than the speed of light."

It is believed that 10 dimensions exist, with six of them being largely unknown. M-theory suggests that hypothetical one-dimensional strings vibrate in yet another dimension. Cleaver and Obousy theorize that manipulating the dimension the strings vibrate in would alter dark energy in height, width, and length to permit a spaceship to take advantage of dark energy's effect on the universe.

Cleaver told Space.com, "The dark energy is simultaneously decreased just in front of the ship to decrease (and bring to a stop) the expansion rate of the universe in front of the ship. If the dark energy can be made negative directly in front of the ship, then space in front of the ship would locally contract."

While the whole theory hardly sounds simple, one of the greatest problems is the amount of energy required to propel a ship using this method. The physicists estimate that to move a small ship -- measuring approximately 33-feet x 33-feet -- would require energy equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter.

Cleaver continued saying, "That is an enormous amount of energy. We are still a very long ways off before we could create something to harness that type of energy."



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RE: Mass Effect
By Flunk on 8/22/2008 12:30:51 PM , Rating: 2
No, actually I don't think they sound like mass drivers are at all. Mass drivers are comprised of a linear set of high-powered electro-magnets powered in series to propel a ferrite object (like a iron ball or steel spacecraft) at high (but magnitudes slower than light) speeds.

This theory involves manipulating the fabric of space, something that we have absolutely no way of doing at the moment. So I don't see a similarity.


RE: Mass Effect
By Solandri on 8/22/2008 2:36:39 PM , Rating: 3
Another problem is that Relativity doesn't exactly predict the speed of light as a hard speed limit. It establishes a relationship between space and time, where really weird things can happen if you exceed the speed of light.

One of these is the principle of simultaneity. Two events in different locations may appear simultaneous to one observer (after accounting for the time it takes for light to travel from the events to the observer), but they are not simultaneous to another observer moving at a different speed. However, the degree of difference is restricted by the distance between the objects so that cause can never precede effect. If you flip on a light (cause) and your buddy down the street flips on his light when he sees your light go on (effect), your light turns on first in all reference frames.

Going faster than the speed of light breaks this. In the reference frame of a FTL traveler, your buddy's light turned on before you turned your light on, even though he turned his light on in response to seeing your light go on. Or flipped the other way, if I were to travel from Earth to Alpha Centauri faster than the speed of light, in some slower-than-light reference frames I would arrive before I left. That is, I would pop into existence at Alpha Centauri while I was still at Earth.

So if FTL travel is possible, either Relativity is wrong, or the Universe is made in a way such that cause and effect do not work the way we think they do.


RE: Mass Effect
By MatthiasF on 8/22/2008 3:12:35 PM , Rating: 2
You're putting too much importance on individual perceptions. Transmission of data always has a delay, but the fact remains the ship would leave and arrive at the same relative times no matter the delay noticed from individual locations watching the event.

What matters is that the ship carried you from Point A to Point B before light traveling a parallel path arrived, thus you've traveled faster than the speed of light.

Meanwhile, light traveling the same path or tangent paths along the way could be pushed in front of you by the same process pushing you, causing it to arrive before you arrive, thereby letting people at Point B watch you come at them.

But in reality, who cares what they see? Are you trying to sneak up on someone?


RE: Mass Effect
By Spuke on 8/22/2008 3:36:23 PM , Rating: 2
This reads like supersonic travel where the sound of an aircraft follows some distance behind the aircraft. The faster the aircraft, the farther behind the sound of it travels.

I suppose a ship that's FTL would behave similarly. That ship could arrive at a particular destination before it's visible representation would arrive. This would only happen if the ship maintained it's FTL travel. Once it slowed down, its light representation would catch it.

Can light particles be slowed?


RE: Mass Effect
By MatthiasF on 8/22/2008 5:45:48 PM , Rating: 2
True, except the aircraft produces a lot of sound when running. I'm not sure a ship traveling between stars would put out as much light as an aircraft does sound.

Course, whatever produces the movement could be causing light to bend and refract around the object enough to create shapes, flashes or streams of light, etc. If the ship has a bubble like described in this example, it's possible it could be capturing light from all sort's of angles as it travels, refracts it over the corona of the bubble and drags it like a contrail behind it.

There have been experiments able to slow light in wave and photon form. No doubt the faster you go, light as either would play a big part just as sound has to aircraft.


RE: Mass Effect
By Spuke on 8/22/2008 7:18:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Course, whatever produces the movement could be causing light to bend and refract around the object enough to create shapes, flashes or streams of light, etc.
This was my next question or statement (physics noob). Instead of the ship being invisible, at least to someone observing it from a point perpendicular to the ship, would it just look distorted? But at the same time at a point behind the ship, wouldn't we see the ship undistorted?


RE: Mass Effect
By MatthiasF on 8/23/2008 1:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, you've got it. Perpendicular viewers will see the delay, probably lagged further by whatever field is created around the ship by the method of travel. What they see depends on the type of method, since it could just randomly throw light around it and not allow for a true picture of the ship, but they would definitely see something.

Those behind the ship would see distortions as well, again depending on the method of travel. Since the discussed method inflates space behind the ship, the image of the ship from behind would probably grow larger, creating a weird ghosting effect kind of like seen in some movie effects like the older intros to Doctor Who.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTn_ADs6v3A&feature...


RE: Mass Effect
By Solandri on 8/22/2008 9:17:57 PM , Rating: 2
It's not a perceptual effect. You're thinking in terms of Newtonian physics to conclude that it's just a perceptual effect and that the only consequence of FTL travel is that people at your destination can't see you arriving.

Relativity doesn't work like that. If you go faster than light, then you violate causality. Put quite simply, according to Relativity, if faster than light travel is possible, then time travel is possible, because the two are the same thing. The only way to travel faster than light is to arrive before you left in certain reference frames.

http://www.physicsguy.com/ftl/html/FTL_part4.html#...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light#Pos...


RE: Mass Effect
By MatthiasF on 8/27/2008 5:10:07 PM , Rating: 2
All that matters is what's happening in locality. Do not worry about distant observers.

If three points in space and a traveler are all running on standard Earth time, using the same method of time measurement being effected by space/time, the traveler arriving will have the same time as each point even if he gets there before the light from the previous point does. The effects of (de)acceleration and differences in locality effects on route would equalize the two clocks as they arrive.

So while in the middle of the three, the clocks might not all match, but when the traveler is at any one location his clock will match that location's clock.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov











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