Top 10 Cool Theories about Faster than Light Travel

10 Cool Theories about Faster than Light Travel

Questions about the speed of light go back over 2,500 years when the Greek philosopher Empedocles first claimed that light had a finite speed. Light travels so fast that it can travel between London and New York more than 50 times each second, which equates to over 299,792.458 kilometers per second. The speed of light plays a fundamental role in physics because it is one of the points on which Einstein’s theories of relativity were established. Einstein’s famous formulas are quoted by scientists and non-scientists alike, and Einstein’s relativity laid the groundwork for the foundation of modern physics. Despite the fame and success of Einstein’s theories, they continue to pose problems in modern physics experiments. This is because, according to Einstein, nothing with mass can travel faster than the speed of light. This may be one of the basic laws of physics, but as time goes on scientists are finding Einstein’s theories to be more flexible than they first thought.Here are 10 cool theories about traveling faster than the speed of light:

10. Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity Says It Is Impossible to Travel Faster than Light

Einstein's theory of relativity says faster than light travel is a no-go
Einstein’s theory of relativity says faster than light travel is a no-go

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It wasn’t until Albert Einstein formulated E=mc2 that physicists really grasped the important relationship between mass and energy. Einstein’s theories broke the scientists of the 20th century out of the world of classical physics. Einstein developed two major theories: the theory of special relativity and the theory of general relativity.

The theory of relativity says that when two objects are moving, they are moving at a speed that is relative to one another. Each person has their own time depending upon their independent speed. The theory of special relativity includes only the case when the motion is uniform. For example, if you are traveling in a straight line at a constant speed. Through his theories, Einstein disproved the concept of absolute velocity and proved that all motion is relative, except for light. The faster something moves the more mass it has and the slower time moves for it. So, if something were to exceed the speed of light, it would move backwards in time. However, light moves at one speed, and it is not varied by time. Einstein’s theories had two rules. One, that the speed of light is invariable and two, the laws of physics remain the same wherever you are. Light travels at a finite speed according to relativity. The speed of light is constant but time is not absolute, and a moving clock will tick more slowly than one which is standing still.

The reason Einstein became so famous was not only because his theories became so fundamentally important, but because he did the opposite of what his colleagues were doing at the time. Most physicists perform experiments and when they fail, they assumed their experiments were flawed and their theory was true. Einstein, however, assumed that the findings of his experiments were true and adjusted his theory accordingly.
Einstein also believed heavily in causality which is an important component of relativity. Causality is the idea that for every effect there is a cause. This is one of the fundamental laws of classical physics. One of Einstein’s biggest concerns about quantum theory is that quantum theory left causality behind. Indeed, many of the modern bending of the theory of relativity includes these types of events.

9. No One Really Knows What It Means to Travel Faster than the Speed of Light

Our understanding of physics does not allow us to grasp what it means to travel faster than the speed of light
Our understanding of physics does not allow us to grasp what it means to travel faster than the speed of light

It is very difficult to pin point exactly what it means to travel faster than light. Traveling faster than light violates the laws of relativity and is therefore considered impossible by the basic laws of physics. It is not so simple to say that faster than light means that a particle is traveling at over 299,792.458 kilometers per second. This is not the same as traveling faster than the speed of light because some processes can move faster than this speed, but they cannot carry information. Also, this statement does not account for light traveling in a vacuum. Neither of these ideas violates special relativity, and so neither qualifies as traveling faster than the speed of light. Most of what scientists know about traveling faster than light is not what the idea means, but what it does not mean. The laws of relativity require a relative velocity, meaning that the velocity depends on the individual.

One way to travel faster than light is to do so via a wormhole which would allow you to travel potentially from one side of the universe to the other without traveling through local space. Yet, a distinction must be made because this is not traveling faster than light locally, it is bending the laws of relativity and traveling faster than light globally, which are two different things. Traveling through a wormhole means distorting space time rather than traveling through it. You can think of it like this: if two people are running a race and one of them ducks through a hedge and crosses the finish line two minutes quicker than the other, were they traveling faster than the person who took the planned route?

8. It Is Theoretically Possible to Find Particle That Travel Faster than Light

Neutrinos may travel faster than light
Neutrinos may travel faster than light

Neutrinos are a fundamental particle in the universe, but they are also difficult to understand. Neutrinos are similar to electrons, but they do not carry any electricity. Because neutrinos are not electrically charged, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces like electrons are. Therefore, they are able to pass greater distances in matter without being affected by electromagnetic forces. Evidence has previously suggested that neutrinos have mass, but that their mass is minuscule, even by particle standards. A paper published in December, 2014 claimed that not only are there neutrinos which may travel faster than the speed of light, but they actually move faster as they lose energy. The Super-Kamiokande collaboration announced in 1998 that there is evidence of a non-zero neutrino mass. The most recent paper claims that these particles have ‘imaginary mass.’ Imaginary mass means that something has a negative mass value, similar to how imaginary numbers are the square root of negative numbers. This might sound strange, but it is not all that far away from Einstein’s theories of relativity, which included the theory that mass increases with velocity. This paper would apply that there are particles that can travel faster than light and that they do have mass. If this is proven, this would mean that a particle with mass is able to travel slightly faster than the speed of light – an idea that up until now has been impossible. This discovery does not necessarily mean that anything can move faster than the speed of light. Though if it is proven that neutrinos can do this, it is a special discovery for scientists because it means there is something very important about the particles that they do not know.

The idea is that if the neutrinos really can travel faster than light, the scientists could use neutrinos by sending them back in time to deliver messages. Faster than light communication is essentially the equivalent to time travel.

7. Traveling at the Speed of Light Is Only a Dream but Maybe We Can Send Messages

Sending faster than light messages might be feasible
Sending faster than light messages might be feasible

What would happen if we finally began to congregate on other planets? How would we send information to and from the farthest reaches of space? Sending a message to the moon at the speed of light takes 1.3 seconds, which even might be faster than the delay on some video chatting services. But, if humans began to colonize Mars, messages would take significantly longer to reach their destinations: almost 12.5 minutes if traveling at light speed. If we tried to communicate with our closest start system, it would take four years for each message to be delivered. Sending messages at the speed of light is called superluminal communication, and right now, it is still only a hypothetical process. Most of the experiments that have shown success do not violate any of Einstein’s theories of general relativity, which means that they were not actually traveling at the speed of light and carrying information. One of the possibilities is to send information through wormholes, however, that possibility operates under the assumption that wormholes exist, and that you can send information through them. Both of these things are currently unproven.

Einstein’s theories say that we cannot increase the speed of the transmission, but scientists say that we can increase the amount of information that is transmitted. If scientists can increase the bandwidth of a transmission then they can send more data every second, especially if they were able to compress the data and decrease errors. Again, this does not mean that messages would travel at the speed of light. However there is hope that while the speed of light is constant and so far unbreakable, there may be a short cut.

6. The Closest Scientists Have Come to Sending Signals Faster than Light Is Through Exotic Matter

Exotic Matter? I thought you said Exotic dancer. Oops
Exotic Matter? I thought you said Exotic dancer. Oops. Still good.

Exotic matter is matter that is different for the normal electrons or photons. Exotic matter can take many forms such as dark matter, negative mass or imaginary mass. Exotic matter is purely hypothetical partly because its proposed properties violate the laws of physics and partly because much of it has not yet proven to exist. For example, physicists are more certain of what dark matter isn’t than what it actually is.

Exotic matter makes of some of the greatest paradoxes in quantum physics. The concept of negative mass would mean that a particle moves in the opposite direction of applied force. Imaginary mass would be the only particle that could travel at the speed of light because it would have negative mass. It would, as a result, react differently with space in time, essentially allowing time travel as it would travel so quickly through space that it would travel backwards in time. Exotic matter does not interact with other matter. Scientists routinely set up experiments in which they hope to catch a glimpse these exotic particles. In some cases, they must perform experiments deep underground where they are completely clean of the outside world in a type of sterile environment. Exotic matter is elusive but it is the only matter that would radically break from the laws of relativity in order to allow for particles to travel faster than light.

5. Quantum Interactions Are Faster than Light

Quantum entanglements may be 10,000 times faster than the speed of light
Quantum entanglements may be 10,000 times faster than the speed of light

Quantum entanglements are one of the only proven reactions to move faster than the speed of light. A quantum entanglement may be described as the following: If there are two electrons close together, they may vibrate in unison according to quantum theory. If you separate these two electrons, an invisible cord forms which connects these two electrons even if they are separated by incredible distances, such as across the universe. Quantum entanglement says that if you move one electron, the attached electron will feel it instantly, which is faster than the speed of light. Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance.” Recently, Chinese scientists wanted to measure the instantaneous reaction of entangled particles. What they came up with is that the slowest possible speed of quantum interactions of entangled particles is 10,000 times faster than the speed of light. However, scientists cannot just use entangled photons like a telephone. There is no way to control the photon on the other end of the pair, and you do not always know the state of the pair before conducting the experiment. This measurement does not mean very much for quantum physics. By its nature, quantum physics must be open to everything as a potential answer. It is in a constant state of flux allowing for several interpretations to take place in any experiment. While the numbers may not mean much to physics as a whole, finding a ceiling on the movement of entangled photons is still pretty fun for the scientists who work on them.

Quantum entanglement might also be linked with the mysterious wormholes, which are still just a hypothetical feature of space.

4. Wormholes Are One of the Keys to Faster-than-light Travel

Wormholes might be our best bet to faster than light travel
Wormholes might be our best bet to faster than light travel

A hypothetical wormhole, like the ones described in science fiction novels, would be able to provide a short cut from one part of the universe to another. However, one cannot actually travel or send message through wormholes. A wormhole might also be possible if two black holes were entangled, and then were pulled apart. It doesn’t matter how far apart the atoms are, if they are entangled they will be connected even if they are on opposite sides of the universe.

This can also happen with black holes. If two black holes become entangled, they may be connected across vast distances through a wormhole. Black holes may be the size of a single atom or even larger than the sun, and the strength of their gravitational force ensures that not even light can escape from them. If you were to fall into a black hole, you would die by being crushed because of the gravitational force.

Wormholes have become very important in quantum science. Even though they are not understood, they have allowed for two sects of mathematics to work together to solve a problem which has ultimately contributed to developing a broader understanding of quantum entanglement.

3. Star Trek’s Warp Drive Is Not Total Fantasy

Don't panic you're just experiencing Ludicrous Speed!
Don’t panic you’re just experiencing Ludicrous Speed!

NASA has been working on the concept of a warp drive. If possible, it would allow astronauts to travel between stars in weeks or months instead of tens of thousands of years. Dr. Harold White believes it is possible to bend the rules of time and space. The team at NASA are trying to find a way to harness the expansion and contraction of space. Dr. White believes that it is possible to engineer a space ship like Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, and the successful completion of this project could lead to space travel like never before. Astronauts and scientists would be able to take trips to other galaxies in a timely fashion allowing for the opening of an entire new field of research. Other physicists say that while NASA’s dream is not going to happen in the immediate future, it is not all that far off either.

Warp drive is not the only possible physical development harnessed by Star Trek. Star Trek also emphasised a particle called a tachyon, which is said to exist naturally at faster than light velocities and are usually associated with time travel in science fiction. As of now, the particle is still hypothetical but CERN had hopes of having found tachyons in 2011.

2. Miguel Alcubierre Thinks It’s Possible to Move in Warp Speed

Now if we just get Miguel's ship in one of these bubbles...
Now if we just get Miguel’s ship in one of these bubbles…

Miguel Alcubierre published a theory that says that a warp drive is possible. This theory was special because it did not contradict Einstein’s theories of relativity. According to his theory, a warp drive could happen because of a theoretical propulsion system that looks like a bubble. This system would stretch space time in a wave and cause the fabric of space in front of a space craft to contract, and the space behind it to expand. When this happens, the space ship could ride the so called wave and accelerate to high speeds, though not totally to the speed of light. Because of this, the spaceship would be pulled towards a distant target while being pushed away from Earth by space-time itself. What Alcubierre did to find this theory was run the Einstein field equations in its opposite direction. Instead of first finding the distribution of matter and energy and then space time, Alcubierre first found the space time and then looked for the energy and momentum within it.

Many people are sceptical of the space and time warp. While agreeing it is plausible, even Dr. Alcubierre questions the possibilities surrounding the possibility of the warp drive. The biggest concern with the warp drive is that the wave or bubble that a space ship would need cannot be found by a signal from within the ship. Scientists can neither turn this wave off or on. This makes it very difficult, seemingly impossible to harness. But, as with most great discoveries in modern science, it is enough for the idea to be considered.

1. Eventually the Expansion of the Universe Will Outpace the Speed of Light

The Universe will move faster than light.  Eventually.
The Universe will move faster than light. Eventually.

Physics says that universe will eventually move faster than the speed of light, but this is not a simple proposition. The universe has been expanding since the Big Bang when all the matter in the universe was propelled in every direction. The universe is still expanding and there is not a limit to how fast it can happen. As space expands, galaxies are moving with space, not through space. This does not violate Einstein’s theory because his theory provides that nothing may move faster than the speed of light in a vacuum because space is nothing.

Einstein’s laws of relativity are both logical and scientifically sound. They have been tested for over 100 years and still hold up the foundations of physics, even today. Einstein’s laws say that nothing can move faster than the speed of light but scientists today are finding bends in the law which allow particles to move at over 300,000 kilometers per second. However, these are still bends in the law rather than direct violations of the law. Physicists around the world are still on the lookout for the exotic matter that they only see an indirect glimpse of very rarely. Exotic matter actually makes up almost 95 percent of our known universe and only 5 percent of all of the matter in our universe are the photons, electrons and atoms that make up our world. Yet, exotic matter remains hidden in plain sight. NASA may only be one hundred years away from creating a space ship that likens itself to the scientific fantasies of Star Trek, but physicists may never get a full glimpse of the matter- only hints at what it is not. The principles of quantum physics rely on opportunity, hope and potential. A future that includes traveling at faster than light speeds must require this as well.