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New theory describes faster than light travel, could explain CERN's results

Some of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, including Albert Einstein, consider the speed of light a sort of universal "speed limit".  But over the past couple decades physicists theorized that it should be possible to break this law and get away with it -- to travel faster than the speed of light.

I. CERN Results Potentially Described

One of several possible routes to faster-than-light travel was potentially demonstrated when researchers at CERN, the European physics organization known for maintaining the Large Hadron Collider, sent high-energy particles through the Earth's crust from Geneva, Switzerland to INFN Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy.  In a result that is today highly controversial, the team claimed that the particles were observed travelling in excess of the speed of light.

Now physics theory may finally be catching up.  Math researchers at the University of Adelaide -- located in the middle South of Australia -- have developed new formulas to describe the relationship between energy, mass, and velocity (which incorporates length and time) for objects traveling faster than the speed of light.  The formulas modify Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, a fundamental pillar of our understanding of the universe.

Einstein Theory of Special Relativity
Einstein formulated his Theory of Special Relativity in 1905. [Image Source: AP]

Math professor Jim Hill, a co-author of the paper writes, "Questions have since been raised over the experimental results [from CERN] but we were already well on our way to successfully formulating a theory of special relativity, applicable to relative velocities in excess of the speed of light."

He elaborates, "Our approach is a natural and logical extension of the Einstein Theory of Special Relativity, and produces anticipated formulae without the need for imaginary numbers or complicated physics."

The study's other co-author, Dr. Barry Cox, adds, "We are mathematicians, not physicists, so we've approached this problem from a theoretical mathematical perspective... Our paper doesn't try and explain how this could be achieved, just how equations of motion might operate in such regimes."

II. Placating the Critics

The authors obviously recognize the controversy surrounding both experimental and theoretical work regarding challenging the light speed limitation attached to the special theory of relativity.  Write the authors in the abstract, "In this highly controversial topic, our particular purpose is not to enter into the merits of existing theories, but rather to present a succinct and carefully reasoned account of a new aspect of Einstein's theory of special relativity, which properly allows for faster than light motion."

Hyperlightspeed travel
Many believe faster-than-light travel may be possible. [Image Source: LucasFilm, Ltd.]

The paper proposes two sets of equations -- one based on an invariant set of "frame transitions", the other based on a "frame transition" with the invariance limitation removed.  The authors suspect that if faster than light travel is possible, that the physical behavior of the faster-than-light travelling object is described by one of these equations.

Note, such work is relatively independent from forms of faster-than-light travel that do not violate Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, such as warping space via a massive energy source.

The paper was published [abstract] in the prestigious peer-reviews journal The Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

Source: RSPA



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RE: E=m(c+v)^2?
By testerguy on 10/14/2012 12:57:45 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I don't think it slows down. It only appears to.


A good example of this is that certain particles with very short lifespans have been observed in real experiments to have extended life when travelling at high speeds - exactly in line with equations. For an external, inertial viewer, the time for the particle has slowed down because it survives longer. For the particle or entity experiencing the velocity, time doesn't even appear to slow down - they experience time at the same rate.

quote:
We don't really know this (light not requiring a medium) for certain.


quote:
In any event, my observation here is that one cannot affect the speed of a sound wave.


Well, some theorize that light an electromagnetic radiation in general are particles as well as waves, which wouldn't require a medium. Others theorize that the electromagnetic field, for example, is the medium - that all 'fields' are in fact hidden mediums. The difference between light and sound is that we have never found any way to alter the speed of light. You can trivially change the speed of sound, by pressure, temperature, or by medium. Also, different observers can indeed experience sound at a different speed. Consider a moving train, 340m long, at one end of which sits a guy who honks a horn. Relative to the train, the sound will transfer to a second guy at the other end of the train in 1 second. If someone is sat at a station as the train rolls through and observes the same sound being transmitted, and measures the speed of that sound relative to them, they will discover that the speed is the speed of sound PLUS the speed of the train. This is true for all mechanical systems, such as throwing a ball.

However, if we replace the guy on the train with a light and a light switch - both the person on the platform AND the person at the opposite end of the train will measure the speed of light to be exactly the same, regardless of how fast the train is moving. In certain cases this means that certain observers can disagree about the simultaneity of events involving light, which doesn't apply with sound.

quote:
However, if you listen to the Doppler Effect, by listening to an ambulance for instance, you'll notice that there are more oscillations as it approaches over a period of, say, ten seconds, than when it leaves. Thus, time is compressed, albeit, to the ear. I am saying that light does the same thing to the eye.


It's important to distinguish the frequency of a wave with its speed. The Doppler effect as it applies to light waves causes similar effects at low speed but vastly different results to sound at higher speeds, because there is a different underlying mechanism. We constantly observe different frequencies of light, or any frequency on the electromagnetic spectrum - but we don't use the frequency of a wave, ever, to calculate time. If light appears at a higher frequency to our eyes, we interpret it as a different colour (in this case a 'blue shift') - we don't interpret that as time speeding up.

quote:
The experiment done with the rocket could easily be explained by the effect that gravity has on photons.


I agree that no experiment can ever be devoid of other factors which could potentially be cited, but a wide variety of experiments have been performed which depend on the constancy of light and the time dilation phenomenon.

quote:
There is also the fact that, relatively speaking, it doesn't matter which object is expending energy to achieve a difference in velocity. Relatively speaking, if you sit on either the rocket or in the chair, it's not going to make a difference.


This is not correct. See, for you to correctly observe that a clock elsewhere is moving slower than yourself, you yourself have to be in what's called an 'inertial frame'. That is to say, if you held out a mass in front of you, and let it go - it would remain there indefinitely. While velocity is relative and can be undetectable to the observer, acceleration is not (although some scientists have applied thought experiments with gravity to dispute elements of this, that is probably beyond our current discussion). The observer who experiences the acceleration or deceleration to align them with the frame of the original observer does not have this inertial state and thus they are the ones for whom time has slowed down.

If it were true that it made no difference whether you were in the rocket or the chair, both observers would observe that the others clock was running slower than theirs, a logical impossibility. If a < b, b < a is not true.

quote:
if we had a different medium in which to observe both train and ball, than light, we would see the ball exceed the speed of light.


Why can we not measure it accurately from an inertial frame, or to put it plainly, simply by being in a particular point in space with no acceleration or forces acting upon us? If we actually did measure the speed of the ball in that scenario, despite the fact that the train is moving 2mph less than the speed of light, and that in the reference frame of the train, the ball is thrown at 4mph in the same direction of the trains velocity, we would observe the speed of the ball to be significantly slower (lorentz contraction, time dilation) such that no matter how fast the ball was thrown, it would never appear to us to be travelling faster than the speed of light. Similarly, if someone shone a light in the same direction of the speed of the train, we would measure the speed of that light as the speed of light. It's almost as though (as Hawking theorized) the speed of light is universal speed limit. The closer you get to it, the more time slows down making any further velocity actually take place over a slower time and thus be reduced. Thus we could never observe the ball to be travelling faster than the speed of light.


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