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Faster Than Light

How to Exceed LightSpeed WITHOUT Violating Nature's Speed Limit
  (+8, -13)(+8, -13)
(+8, -13)
  [vote for,

Yes, the above description sounds like a contradiction. But suppose you could locally raise Nature's Speed Limit? Believe it or not, we know how to do that!

To begin at the beginning, we need to imagine "empty space". While this may seem easy enough at first thought, in actuality there really isn't any such thing. According to Quantum Mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle, "empty space" is actually chock-full of "virtual particles" that all do these simple things: (1) They pop into existence out of Absolutely Nothing; (2) They persist for a small fraction of a second (and the more energetic they are when they appear, the shorter the time they persist); and (3) They vanish back into the Nothingness from whence they came. At any given moment a spot HERE might have a virtual particle in it, while another spot THERE might be completely and truly empty. On the average, there are ALWAYS lots and lots of virtual particles EVERYWHERE, appearing, persisting, vanishing, and then reappearing. Seldom does the same type of virtual particle make two appearances in a row, in the exact same location; ALL virtual particles are hopping madly about.

Now it happens that the Speed of Light in a Vacuum depends on the average "density" of the virtual particles in "empty space". This is a consequence of the fact that WHILE a virtual particle exists, it is identical to any ordinary real particle. And since real particles are able to interact with light, it follows that virtual particles can interact with light, also. The key fact is that ANY INTERACTION TAKES TIME.

Suppose, just for the sake of discussion, that as a photon moves through "empty space", it encounters 1 million virtual particles per second. Let us also suppose that on the average, the photon interacts with only 1 virtual particle in every thousand, that it encounters. With those suppositions, it is obvious that the photon would be interacting 1 thousand times per second.

Now, it doesn't really matter what the natural rate of interaction is, for photons with virtual particles. The fact is that the Speed of Light DEPENDS on that natural rate of interaction. WHAT IF WE COULD CHANGE IT? WE CAN!

For example, SUPPOSE we could increase the natural "density" of virtual particles in a particular volume of "empty space" by 10 times. That would mean that any photons passing through that volume of space would interact 10 times more often than before. They would waste 10 times as much time, interacting, than before. The speed of light in that volume of space would be slower! (I cannot say that it would be 10 times slower, however. It is possible that the Speed of Light can be described as some specific value X, MINUS some value Y associated with the time wasted in interactions with the natural density of virtual particles in "empty space". In this situation is is only Y that would be increased by 10 times, and the final slower speed would be described as X - 10Y.)

Next, suppose we can DECREASE the density of virtual particles in a particular volume of "empty space". As you might expect, the speed of light in that volume would go UP. And the fact is, THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW HOW TO DO. There is experimental verification for something known as the "Casimir Effect", which involves decreasing the natural rate-of-spontaneous-appearance of virtual particles in "empty space". THAT means that the volume of space affected by the Casimir Effect will include a less-than-normal density of virtual particles!

OK, I admit we can't do a lot with the Casimir Effect just yet. But I CAN claim that it is worth the effort to try to improve the technology. Suppose we had a spaceship able to move at almost the speed of light -- the ordinary speed of light in "empty space" of about 300,000 kilometers per second. (Since we don't actually have even this much, we don't need to worry just yet about going faster, but it doesn't hurt to start researching these things!)

Now suppose we equip this spaceship with a special generator (or whatever) that causes the density of virtual particles surrounding the spaceship to decrease. The "natural" speed of light in the vicinity of the spaceship will go UP! The more we can reduce the virtual-particle density, the faster the speed of light, local to the spaceship!

WELL, if the spaceship can travel at almost the speed of light, then surely we are talking about the speed of light in the locality surrounding the spaceship!!! Think of the spaceship as being surrounded by a "bubble" of space in which Nature's Speed Limit has been raised! This would be kind of like obtaining legal permission from the Federal Government to attach an Official Speed Limit sign of 90mph to your car! All around your car, everyone else still has to go 55 or 65 (depending on locale).

There you have it, folks. I have records to indicate that I first thought up this idea about 1980. Others have independently thought of it, but I think I was first. (Now all I have to do is live long enough for humanity to reach the stars using this technology, so I can claim a Nobel Prize in Physics, heh heh.)

Vernon, Aug 31 2000

Higgs particle discovered? http://www.newscien...ews.jsp?id=ns225564

FTL FAQ: Casimir Effect http://math.ucr.edu...physics/FTL.html#12
"However, further theoretical investigations have shown that once again there is no possibility of FTL communication using this effect." [Scott_D, Aug 31 2000, last modified Oct 06 2004]

FTL FAQ: Casimir Effect http://math.ucr.edu...physics/FTL.html#12
"However, further theoretical investigations have shown that once again there is no possibility of FTL communication using this effect." [egnor, Aug 31 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Superluminal Motion: Fact or Fiction? http://lal.cs.byu.e....2/Lumin/lumin.html
The 'long scissors' example and others . . . [bristolz, Mar 24 2002]

The Scharnhorst effect http://www.npl.wash...edu/AV/altvw43.html
How to go faster than C [pluterday, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Cherenkov/Cerenkov radiation http://rkb.home.cer.../PH14pp/node26.html
When something goes faster than light in a non-vacuum.... [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

T.O.E. essays http://www.halfbake...2eO_2eE_2e_20Essays
One of the annotations refers to this Idea. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004]

Mach's Principle (1) http://www.padrak.com/ine/INERTIA.html
Some basic information [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Mach's Principle (2) http://www.halexandria.org/dward146.htm
Some more information, somewhat more speculative. [Vernon, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]


       With respect to the first couple of links to other articles, I have to say that those articles are NOT talking about exactly the same idea posted here. They talk about space warps that move, and carry a spaceship along with them. Fine. But that is working within the bounds of General Relativity (the overall shape of Space/Time), while I am attempting to work within the bounds of Quantum Mechanics (the fine details of Space/Time). The "bubble" that I referred to is not necessarily "warped" Space; perhaps it might better be labelled "thinned". (As a simile, consider the Natural Speed Limit being associated with a kind of "viscosity" of Space. Add thinner, and the viscosity goes down, and things can move through it faster.)
Vernon, Aug 31 2000

       Now I'll admit right up that I'm a hopeless thicky, so I'm not going to comment on the feasability or otherwise of Vernon's spaceship. But what I'd like to know is, once you've accelerated this sucker up to full velocity how do you stop it?   

       Incidentally, I read the transcripts of Richard Feynman's 'Alix G. Mautner Memorial Lectures' and he claims that the speed of light is only an average, so some photons already go faster than the speed of light.
DrBob, Sep 13 2000

       It would be funny if, in the future, companies advertised lasers and things as being .0001 percent faster than their competitors', because they make only fast photons.   

       As far as Vernon's ship idea works: from what I read of the Casimir effect, it comes into play in very specialized circumstances (such as when two metal plates are brought very close together). I noticed that you, Vernon, didn't go into HOW the effect works, just grabbed right on to what you saw as its potential. The effect isn't something that you can just generate. Besides, I don't see proof that fewer virtual particles means faster lightspeed. I believe photons can and do spontaneous form and form out of virtual particles anyway, so they might end up creating more virtual particles anyway.
centauri, Sep 13 2000

       Well, when I first thought of the idea, I had not heard about the Casimir effect. I had no solid notion of just how one might go about reducing the natural density of virtual particles in the vacuum. But I thought it totally obvious that since they do exist, since they do interact with real particles (such as photons), then IF you could get rid of the virtual particles, the photons would go faster simply because they weren't wasting time getting absorbed and re-emitted by virtual particles.   

       The Casimir effect DOES involve two plates spaced very close together. Now if you recall the wave-particle duality, you know that any particle also has wave-like properties. This property requires SPACE to be available for a particle to occupy it. When close enough, two plates can prevent the spontaneous appearance of of virtual particles that would be too wide to fit in the gap. The computed speed of light is indeed higher in the gap, although I don't recall at the moment if someone has actually made measurements to verify the computations.   

       Now the original prediction of the Casimir effect concerned virtual particles that were NOT in the gap between the two plates. The whole range of particles pop into temporary existence on the outside of the two plates, but a limited range appears in the gap. This difference leads to a pressure that tries to force the plates all the way together. This force has indeed been measured.   

       Anyway, the Casimir effect is unsuitable for application to a spaceship, since we want a large region surrounding the ship to be reduced in virtual-particle appearances. This is the main reason why I didn't bother to describe the Casimir effect in detail before. However. the point of mentioning that such a reduction can be done at all, is to stimulate research into finding other methods. THAT is the real topic of this post (and is what people should be voting on).
Vernon, Sep 14 2000

       My money has been known to disappear faster than the speed of light.
thumbwax, Sep 16 2000

       Surely the time taken up by interactions is irrelevant because time is not a universal constant. The speed of light would remain the same but the time required for the interactions would reduce, at least from the viewpoint of an outside observer.
Trajen, Apr 11 2001

       Now SUPPOSE we cut down on the time we interact with 'real' particularly nonfeasible ideas generated by Vernon and DECREASE the virtual waste of time that is ACTUALLY about/is/was to happen...
Believe it or not, we know how to do that!
thumbwax, Apr 11 2001

       Sigh. The fact that scientists don't know everything doesn't mean that Vernon knows anything. If his theories held water, they would be very interesting, but they don't. Please see link, and follow the references if you want to know more.
egnor, May 12 2001

       There is a much simpler, yet no less interesting and chilling possibility for the lack of SETI contact....
centauri, May 13 2001

       Either ET life, as we might define it, exists but does not habitually transmit radio signals of the type we're looking for, or ET life, as we might define it, does not exist. Either of those could have any number of causes, all of which are highly speculative at best.   

       I'm not sure which explanation is "simpler", though both are admittedly simpler than the terribly specific "ET life does not habitually transmit radio signals of the type we're looking for because they utilize the Casimir effect for FTL communication".   

       Anyway, this is of course discussed to death elsewhere...
egnor, May 13 2001

       Or the third possibility, nobody wants to associate with a noisy little bunch of mooks like us...
StarChaser, May 13 2001

       Egnor, don't you ever submit anything other than "this is of course discussed to death elsewhere"?
deacon, May 14 2001

       I calls 'em like I sees 'em.
egnor, May 14 2001

       shouldnt this cassimir/vernon generator/field/entire voyager episode worth of technobable device thingie also be restricted to the speed of light and have to interact with the things on the edge of the field.
RobertKidney, Jun 05 2001

       Egnor, that was an interesting link. Unfortunately, the bald declaration of impossibility reminds me of one of Clarke's Laws (something about if a distinguished but elderly scientist says that something is impossible, he is probably wrong). From the tiny description given at the destination of that link, I can agree with what is said. A one-nanometer gap between the two conducting plates will suppress virtual virtual particles larger than that -- but the fact is, all virtual particles that cause photons to waste time during interactions are SMALLER than one nanometer! So they should appear in normal quantities, and the speed of light would be the same.   

       Now, if that gap was small enough to prevent virtual electrons from appearing, a rather significant variation from normal light-speed should be expected. But TESTING it is problematic!!! One would have to use photons that are smaller than electrons (such as gamma rays) -- but gamma-ray photons don't interact much with electrons, anyway! Instead they will interact at the full normal rate with things like virtual protons -- which are lots smaller than electrons, and will appear in normal numbers in that electron-free gap!!!!! Perhaps this ultimate conundrum explains why they claim that the Casimir Effect can never be used for FTL communication. But please remember that I was seeking an alternative way to suppress virtual particles, and allow ordinary photons to go faster.   

       RobertKidney, you raise a valid question. Here is my speculative answer: Consider the spaceship before it starts to accelerate. Turn ON the special virtual-particle suppression field. Let us assume that the 'front' of this field does travel at ordinary light-speed. Please note that any sort of energy field is not an entirely static thing; an ordinary static-electric field, for example, consists of vast numbers of virtual photons constantly emanating from the electrically charged object. SO, when the Special Field is turned on, the front moves at light-speed, but the next portion of the field, right behind the front, can move a little faster than light-speed, thanks to the influence of the front! And the next portion, behind those first two parts, can move faster yet. Et cetera. At the hull of the spaceship, from which the Special Field emanates, the constituents of the Special Field move at (whatever the speed of light has become in that vicinity), thanks to all the previously emanated portions of the Special Field.   

       Next, as the spaceship accelerates, we now have Relativity in our favor, because at any speed you specify, short of lightspeed in the vicinity of the spaceship, exactly the same description continues to apply to the vicinity of the spaceship! Now, I know that your question is actually about how the spacship's vicinity should be described by some outsider watching it zoom by, and it IS a good question. Unfortunately, there is at least one big UNKNOWN that interferes with this speculation. That is: Can the virtual particles in the vacuum be treated as the basis for an Absolute Reference Frame? If the answer is YES, then I would probably have to conclude that the spacehip probably has a problem going faster than the ordinary value of lightspeed. (It would eventually catch up with the wave-front of its Special Field.) However, since Relativity basically declares outright that there is No Such Thing as an Absolute Reference Frame, PERIOD, then I would probably have to conclude that lightspeed is not quite the Constant it's cracked up to be, because it is defined in terms of an alterable medium!   

       So, with THAT conundrum, I would expect fast spaceships to be possible. They would probably emit Cerenkov radiation, and so the engines would have to keep running, to maintain the ships' speed, faster than the normal speed limit.
Vernon, Jul 09 2001

       PeterSealy, please recall that the original post (and one of the annotations) indicate that this is a notion that needs more research, to FIND a way to generate the Special Field described.   

       At the time I originally thought of the idea, I had a notion that MAYBE a given volume of Space can only hold so much virtual-energy. WHAT IF this virtual energy took the form of photons, as in a superduperultrahyperpowerful electromagnetic field? Imagine such a field in the Space surrounding a spaceship: <If> the above "maybe" is true, then the more virtual-photons occupying that Space, the less there will be of any other kind of virtual particle. The nifty part of this idea is that photons don't interact with each other, so the net effect of the presence of so many virtual photons is AS IF the Special Field had been created. However, that "maybe" is the critical point, and I don't know what the truth is about it. Not to mention that the amount of virutal energy that a given volume of Space can hold is so enormously vast that we could have a real problem trying to make a powerful enough electromagnetic field....
Vernon, Jul 09 2001

       If this thing worked(I doubt it but anyway...) how much faster would your ship move... would time dialation become a problem... how about extra Gs from acc_n...
RobertKidney, Jul 09 2001

       RobertKidney, the short answer is, the spaceship can only go almost as fast as whatever the modified speed of light becomes (in its own vicinity). The longer answer: I don't know enough. The answer fundamentally depends on how much the interactions with virtual particles in the vacuum cause light to slow down from its TRUE maximal speed, thereby becoming the observed and assumed-absolute magnitude that we label 'c'. Once the amount of slow-down is known, it then becomes necessary to know how much a particular experiment can cause suppression-of-appearance of virtual particles, in some volume of Space. That will probably be inferred after measuring the value of lightspeed in that volume of Space....
Vernon, Jul 10 2001

       "This effect cannot be used to send information back in time," said Lijun Wang, a researcher with the private NEC Institute. "However, our experiment does show that the generally held misconception that `nothing can travel faster than the speed of light' is wrong."   

       The results of the work by Wang, Alexander Kuzmich and Arthur Dogariu were published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.   

       The achievement has no practical application right now, but experiments like this have generated considerable excitement in the small international community of theoretical and optical physicists.   

       "This is a breakthrough in the sense that people have thought that was impossible," said Raymond Chiao, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley who was not involved in the work. Chiao has performed similar experiments using electric fields.   

       In the latest experiment, researchers at NEC developed a device that fired a laser pulse into a glass chamber filled with a vapor of cesium atoms. The researchers say the device is sort of a light amplifier that can push the pulse ahead.   

       Previously, experiments have been done in which light also appeared to achieve such so-called superluminal speeds, but the light was distorted, raising doubts as to whether scientists had really accomplished such a feat.   

       The laser pulse in the NEC experiment exits the chamber with almost exactly the same shape, but with less intensity, Wang said.   

       The pulse may look like a straight beam but actually behaves like waves of light particles. The light can leave the chamber before it has finished entering because the cesium atoms change the properties of the light, allowing it to exit more quickly than in a vacuum.   

       The leading edge of the light pulse has all the information needed to produce the pulse on the other end of the chamber, so the entire pulse does not need to reach the chamber for it to exit the other side.   

       The experiment produces an almost identical light pulse that exits the chamber and travels about 60 feet before the main part of the laser pulse finishes entering the chamber, Wang said.   

       Wang said the effect is possible only because light has no mass; the same thing cannot be done with physical objects.   

       The Princeton experiment and others like it test the limits of the theory of relativity that Albert Einstein developed nearly a century ago.   

       According to the special theory of relativity, the speed of particles of light in a vacuum, such as outer space, is the only absolute measurement in the universe. The speed of everything else -- rockets or inchworms -- is relative to the observer, Einstein and others explained.
pwt, Mar 24 2002

       Odd that no one addressed two other issues with this idea:
1) No accounting is made for non-virtual particles or matter which would be impacting the vessel at c (or c+ as [Vernon] would have it).
2) No accounting is made for the increase in mass as the vessel approaches (or passes) c.
phoenix, Mar 24 2002

       The speed of dark is faster than the speed of light.
thumbwax, Mar 24 2002

       PeterSealy quote:
"However, the proof is in the pudding. To travel faster than light, you will need to build that spaceship, or at least a working experimental model, not just pontificate online. Have you actually tried any of this in the lab?"

Question for Peter: If he did actually build a working model, wouldn't you then shout 'Baked!?'
RayfordSteele, Mar 25 2002

       Most of the people who frequent this site are way too negative. There are only two types of ideas accepted on this site: those that are possible with today's technology or cutsie magic things like tails. Does anyone know of a site where people discuss ideas more than 1 year in the future? There are more comments about spelling here than about ideas. I vote for this even though I doubt that you could get more than a few percent faster.
tolly3, Mar 25 2002

       //I doubt that you could get more than a few percent faster//
I doubt you could get more than a few Millionths of a percent faster than light IF light itself is already travelling in the most optimal conditions. Unless, of course - you find one of the many sites listed on the help page to be more to your liking, in which case you couldn't close your account here fast enough, M(^r)(^s) Negative. Nevertheless, I repeat: The speed of light is exceeded only by the speed of dark.
thumbwax, Mar 25 2002

       c is the speed of light in a perfect vacuum. It does not take into account collisions with virtual particles and is therefore already the upper ceiling that Vernon is looking for. Interractions with particles will stop light reaching it's true vacuum speed of c (by a tiny amount). To use terminology earlier in this posting, there is no c+, only c and c- (bodes ill for all students).   

       ...or is that thinking out of date?
st3f, Mar 25 2002

       pwt, one of the odd things about various phenomena is that two different velocities can be associated with it. They are labled "group velocity" and "phase velocity". An example of a phase velocity: Take a pair of scissors, and examine the point between the blades where actual cutting of paper occurs. That point is not a real object, and the velocity at which it can move, as the blades close (long enough scissor blades are required), CAN exceed lightspeed. The blades, however, only possess "group velocity" and are not allowed to exceed light-speed.   

       A number of recent experiments have been testing the boundaries between phase and group velocities; the NEC team may be doing exactly that.   

       phoenix, as you probably know, the speed of light in water is less than that in a vacuum, by a significant amount. If we speed up subatomic particles to nearly lightspeed, and inject them into water, they temporarily travel "faster than light", but slow down very quickly, emitting "Cherenkov radiation." That radiation is explicitly associated with the slowdown of superluminal particles to less-than-lightspeed. So, if a spaceship could go FTL using the idea described here, running into ordinary particles would be a bad problem (Cherenkov radiation generated in the hull), but not necessarily a show-stopper (how thick is that hull?).   

       About the increase in mass, this will be a problem ONLY if the locally modified speed of light is merely slightly greater than its ordinary speed. Take that tau-factor formula describing the mass increase, and think about what the result would be if the local speed of light went up by a factor of one million. WE could then go twenty times the current speed of light (in that locally-carried-along zone), with practically no mass increase! Naturally, just getting to such a speed will still be a problem...but not as bad as otherwise.   

       st3f, the definition of "perfect vacuum" for the speed of light was created long before it was discovered that the vacuum is full of virtual particles. Thus those particles ARE part of what is ordinarily called "a perfect vacuum". The goal of this idea is to get rid of the virtual particles, and find out what the speed of light is in a REALLY perfect vacuum!
Vernon, Mar 26 2002

       // Most of the people who frequent this site are way too negative. //   

       No, they're not!   

       Yes, we do tend to eviscerate those who misspell, but that's only because it's virtually impossible to take one seriously if one cannot master something as straightforward as proper spelling.   

       And, 'wax, the speed of dark is exactly the same as the speed of light.
waugsqueke, Mar 26 2002

       The speed of dark (density) slows down the speed of light, therefore - I win again! woohoo!
thumbwax, Mar 26 2002

       Plus; dark always gets places before light   

       (apologies to Mr Terry Pratchett)
Zircon, Mar 26 2002

       Oh yeah, and surely we're going at this problem the wrong way round; there is still going to be a major engineering feat involved in producing a ship that can go nearly as fast as/as fast as/faster than light. We shold be trying to slow light down locally so that, say, a Ford Mondeo can out pace it.   

       Mmmmm...infinate mass mondeo.....
Zircon, Mar 26 2002

       It's easy to make things travel faster than light. Easy, easy, easy, I say. The problem is that "make things travel faster than light" is such a bad definition.

1. Chernenkov Radiation. Created in nuclear reactor water baths when particles exceed the speed of light. The speed of light in water that is, not c.

2. Imagine a perfectly straight wave hitting a perfectly straight harbour wall at a very slight angle. The point of impact travels along the harbour wall. If the wall and the wave are nearly parallel, the point of impact will travel faster than c. But note that nothing physical is travelling faster than c and you can't transmit any information faster than c with this method.
hippo, Mar 26 2002

       hippo - you can transmit the information that a wave has hit the wall. i read an article about someone investigating faster than light patterns like the wave but i cant remember what they were doing.
chud, Mar 26 2002

       [Peter]: I didn't say that ocean waves could rush along harbour walls faster than the speed of light - in this thought experiment, it's the point of impact which moves faster than light. And [Steve] is perfectly correct - it's impossible to use a system like this to transmit information faster than light.
hippo, Mar 27 2002

       Vernon supposes that a travelling photon interacts with a given number of virtual particles per second. By increasing the number of interactions, he proposes that the photon will move faster. When I go running, I interact with (inhale) 1 gnat every 1 minute. If I increase the number of gnats with which I interact, would I become faster? Could I put on a burst of speed by veering to run through a cloud of gnats and breathing deeply?
bungston, Jan 10 2003

       bungston, you have it backwards. The idea here is to decrease the number of virtual particles with which photons interact, and that naturally means that the rate of interaction must also decrease, on a per-unit-of-distance basis. Note that if the photon speeds up becasue of that reduced rate, the result might be the same rate of interaction on a per-unit-of-time basis, as before! I'll make up some figures to say that more clearly:   

       Suppose 1 zillion virtual particles linearly occupy 300,000km of distance. The normal speed of light is about 300,000km/sec which means an interaction rate of 1 zillion virtual particles per second. (Yes, I'm assuming here, for simplicity, that a photon interacts with every single virtual particle in its path.) Well, if we can cut the number of virtual particles in half, then passing photons only interact with 1/2 zillion per second. However, the overall notion is that the very speed of light is affected by its interaction rate -- if it normally does 1 zillion/sec, then, in the reduced-particle environment, photons should be free to move at double their normal speed, to once again interact at 1 zillion/sec. See? The whole point of that is, as mentioned in the original posting, Relativity allows us to move at ALMOST light-speed -- which is now twice the ordinary amount! A spaceship surrounded by such enormous virtual-particle-reduction is a spaceship that "legally" can travel at almost 600,000km/sec., because it is NOT exceeding the speed of light in its own vicinity!
Vernon, Jun 20 2003

       Actually, we don't *truly* know anything about the speed of light outside of point-to-point experiments in our labs.   

       Even in our solar system there is all this solar wind, particles, particles, everywhere. Perhaps it goes faster with less particles and less gravity effects in inerstellar space. What if the local masses of solar systems were acting as waterdrop lenses and bending, slowing the light to a local pace? It doesn't take that long for light to leave the solar system, wonder what happens there?   

       What we know of C is probably a localized average. I don't know about comets and such but I doubt we have ever measured anything except photons/radiation that has traveled interstellar distances.   

       Perhaps photons move even faster in inter-galatic space. There is probably some limit but this would be due to the fact that the universe is finite and not everything is currently occupying the same point.   

       I think what is more important is that there IS a speed of light, rather than what that speed is, and that more or less we know how to numerically manipulate it within the confines of our reference frame.   

       Can the speed of light change? Yes. That is unlikely to be a one-way kinda thing.
michaels, Jul 07 2003

       michaels, you seem to be referring to the tendency of ordinary matter to interact with and slow down light. This is NOT what I have been describing here. Please read it more carefully.
Vernon, Jul 08 2003

       virtual particles are not the ones to be concerned with... the physical particles are.. ever seen the results of a particle accelerator?? say my ship weighs 200,000kg and is traveling @300,000km/s and a single peice of space dust weighing .001kg is traveling at 100,000km/s straight toward me(too tired to do equasions)... anyway it would be one helluva BOOM
tazmase2, Jul 19 2003

       tazmase2, yes, there is a problem with physical particles being in the way of a fast spaceship. Dealing with such problems is a suitable topic for a separate discussion. This discussion ignores it, to deal with its own issue. :)
Vernon, Aug 26 2003

       If we're going faster than light and turn on the headlamps, what would happen?
fugazi, Aug 26 2003

       fugazi, if we're going faster than ORDINARY lightspeed by the means described here, then we have raised the local speed of light, and your headlamps will be emitting photons that move at that faster speed, which we are not exceeding!
Vernon, Aug 27 2003

       I think Vernon,Thumbwax,UnaBubba,Trajen, and Egnor are cooler than the "Faster than Light" idea.The speed of light better recognize these guys!
bergen, Aug 29 2003

       What happens inside the spaceship? There may not be any virtual particles in there but there is almost certainly some air.
RobertKidney, Aug 30 2003

       RobertKidney, the fun thing is that the spaceship has to emit its special "no virtual particles" field AWAY from itself; inside itself it still needs virtual particles to do such things as hold the atoms of the spaceship together....
Vernon, Aug 31 2003


Well, I found this idea fascinating. It’s the ether theory again, but this time it’s made of virtual particles. Unfortunately, it has the same problem that the ether theory always had—the measured speed of light is always the same, regardless of the direction the earth happens to be moving through it.

But, don’t worry about going faster than the speed of light, because you don’t have to. See, from the perspective of the people in the spacecraft, C is no speed limitation at all. Assuming the rocket men can get hold of enough fuel, they can travel at any speed, they could cross the entire galaxy in an hour, ship-time. Of course, if they turned around and came back, the Earth clocks would say millions of years had gone by. And they would say, jeez, when we were here a couple of hours ago, there weren’t all these intelligent worms in charge.

pluterday, Oct 04 2003

bristolz, Oct 04 2003

       Ah, Flesh Gordon, was it?
pluterday, Oct 04 2003

       I'd like an answer to [DrBob]'s point... Will it ever you stop?   

       (Calling any HB physicists: If something were to travel at the speed of light... and it's mass didn't tend to infinite... and the surrounding universe didn't age... and Vernon's ideas didn't tend to collect piles of bones... would I care?)
Jinbish, Oct 04 2003

       pluterday, the relative speed of light DOES depend on the medium through which it passes. See figures for speed of light in glass, or water, for example. Why is it slower there? Because light interacts with the atoms in those materials over-and-above its natural rate of interaction with the virtual particles in the vacuum. Excess interactions always mean wasted time, not spent travelling. So, what do YOU suppose would happen, with respect to photonic interactions, if the virtual particles in the vacuum were to go away and stay away?
Vernon, Oct 05 2003


Of course, Vernon, the speed of light can be always be less than C, since C is just the maximum in a vacuum.

But, you are right, IF C were dependent on interactions and you made them go away, then you could go faster.

And if you had more interactions, C would be less. What would happen near the singularity in a black hole, for instance? Would there be such a molasses of virtual particles there that C went to zero? If so, then there could never be such a thing as a singularity because it could never form to begin with; everything would get so slowed down that it would take forever for anything fall into it—it would be more of a big sticky bun.

<see linky on the Scharnhorst effect>

pluterday, Oct 05 2003

       pluterday, yes, it is known that the speed of light is slower in a gravity well, than outside that well. One can choose to explain it in terms of Time itself passing at a slower rate in that region, part of the overall descriptions of bent space/time according to General Relativity, OR, one could reach the same conclusions by describing things in terms of wasted time, during interactions with virtual gravitons. Either explanation works, but one is Accepted, and the other is Mad Science :) Still, I think it worth pointing out that there are some rather famous compatibility problems between Quantum Mechanics and G.R. -- and it is Q.M. that brings us the concept of virtual particles --convincingly, too! So, my personal opinion is that we TRASH G.R., and extend Q.M. to explain everything that G.R. has been so good at in the past. (See the Idea called T.O.E. essays for more detailed notions along that line.) End of incompatibility, heh heh. Not to mention that Q.M. doesn't claim that light-speed is some kind of fundamental fixed thing....
Vernon, Oct 05 2003

       pluterday wrote: "...since C is just the maximum in a vacuum." -- and -- "IF C were dependent on interactions and you made them go away, then you could go faster."   

       So rephrasing that first quote to be more precise: "C is just the maximum in a vacuum full of virtual particles." It is perfectly true; the question is whether or not those virtual particles actually do interact with passing photons. Personally, since many virtual particles are electrically charged, and photons do have a high probability of interacting with electrically charged particles, AND since virtual particles are perfectly real WHILE they exist, I don't know how one can fail to conclude that the virtual particles in the vacuum slow down light a LOT, from its true maximal absolutely-perfect-vacuum speed. THAT is the speed that should be designated by C (!), not the speed-of-light-in-a-mere-ordinary-vacuum.
Vernon, Oct 06 2003

       Vernon, I can't make heads or tails of your idea, it's so much over my head, but tell me, why hang on my car an official speed limit sign that says 90 MPH if it only does 45? (when going downhill).
finflazo, May 06 2004

       [finflazo], this Idea contains the assumption that you have a spaceship that can nearly reach lightspeed, regardless of what lightspeed happens to be. So, for your car the official speed limit sign is worthless, but for others.... :)
Vernon, May 06 2004

       (vernon) But to reach lightspeed on my car, even with a 90 MPH signal on it, would be EXTREMELY dangerous in any case. So what's the use?.
finflazo, May 11 2004

       Probably the wrong question to ask: how does light know how fast to go?
If you exceed the nearby speed of light, what kind of shock wave (if any) would there be?
If I consider a similar case: an aircraft flying faster than local speed of sound, by somehow in a bubble of very dense air so that the speed of sound wasn't broken at the aircraft itself: would there be a shock wave? I think so.
Ling, May 12 2004

       [Ling], that is a good question. The answer is going to depend heavily on the properties of the vacuum. Still, this may be a case where sound-to-light analogy is a rather poor idea. As you indicated, sound travels faster in a denser medium, while the whole point here is that light should travel faster in a "thinner" medium. The shock waves you mention also depend on Real Material Substance being shoved about, and not mere virtual particles, whose existence is extremely temporary. I tend to think that the prior mentions of Cerenkov radiation will qualify as the shock wave that you are asking about.
Vernon, May 12 2004

       If light was travelling in real empty space, with the odd virtual particle dotted about, then I suppose the only reference that light could have is those particles. If they weren't there, then light could travel at any speed it wanted, and who would know? So, if the virtual particles are the reference, then how do they act as a reference? Unless, of course, light references itself.
Ling, May 12 2004

       Ling: the answer to your question is no. If an aircraft is travelling within a bubble of dense air such that the local speed of sound within that pocket is greater than the relative speed of the aircraft, the aircraft will not generate a shockwave. The aircraft doesn't care what the conditions are outside of it's immediate vicinity.
Freefall, May 12 2004

       But the bubble of dense air would create the shockwave, since it is travelling faster than the speed of sound?
Ling, May 12 2004

       Is an idea like this (even if it won't work) any worse than "put a mirror on your hat" ? The personally insulting nature of many of the annotations from regulars on this idea is disconcerting. A plus from me just for not responding to these annotes in a similarly insulting and sad manner. +
Bamboo, May 12 2004

       [Ling], I would expect you are right, that a bubble of denser air, moving faster than sound, would create a shock wave (of denser-yet air!). This is why in my prior post I immediately :) brought up the opposite-ness of that notion, as an analogy to this FTL idea. A bubble of "thinned" Space would more likely be a "sink" for surrounding virtual particles (except they don't last long enough to move very far toward/in such a sink). That makes it easier, not harder, for the bubble to move through Space.
Vernon, May 12 2004

       JUST HOW LONG did it take you to write this?   

       You have way to much time on your hands.
DesertFox, May 12 2004

       //The personally insulting nature of many of the annotations from regulars on this idea...//

Really? I sure missed them.
ldischler, May 12 2004

       Maybe its just the first one that shades the others in a darker color but all of these are close together in the string of annotes and seem to be less "man what a terrible idea" and more "I'm tired of Vernon's posts and here is a jab for him"   

       \\ Sigh. The fact that scientists don't know everything doesn't mean that Vernon knows anything. //   

       \\ If you were travelling for the time it takes to wade thru one of Vernon's ideas you wouldn't need to travel faster than light. //   

       \\ Exactly Trajen, but you have fallen into the Vernon Twilight Zone, a place where pseudoscience bends the laws of physics to suit the whim of The Dark Lord Vernon. //   

       \\ Now SUPPOSE we cut down on the time we interact with 'real' particularly nonfeasible ideas generated by Vernon and DECREASE the virtual waste of time that is ACTUALLY about/is/was to happen... Believe it or not, we know how to do that! //
Bamboo, May 13 2004

       Work with me here because I'm a little slow. The speed of light is what it is because these virtual particles slow it down like so much treacle. We generate a field or something that moves the virtual particles out of the way (or surpresses them, or something). We then go really fast through the now 'thinner' space. The field travels with us so we can thin the space ahead. Isn't this akin to saying that we could fly an airplane underwater by attaching a giant plastic bubble to it? (ignore the buoyancy issue) I'm not saying that the entire theory is bunk. We might build a kind of tunnel through space that eliminates virtual particles within, just as we could build a tunnel underwater and fly an airplane through it. But using the field to make the spaceship go fast and using the ship to make the field go fast seems a little perpetual motiony to me.
zindog1282, May 27 2004

       [zindog1282], I initially mis-read your question. We do not use the field to MAKE the spaceship go fast; we merely use the field to ALLOW the spaceship to go fast. (In the 8th paragraph of the main text is this: "Suppose we had a spaceship able to move at almost the speed of light".) No means of propulsion is specified here; pick something!   

       However, a related problem is indeed potentially thorny; see the speculative answer in my July 9, 2001 annotation above. Let me know what you think!   

       As an aside, your "tunnel" notion is cool, though probably rather on the expensive side for interstellar travel. :) And regarding propulsion, I sometimes wonder if Mach's Principle will be affected by this Idea. That is, if the inertia of an object depends on the properties of the surrounding Space, and we have "thinned" Space enough, then a wimpy propulsion device (ion drive) might yield thousands of Gs of acceleration, and the passengers wouldn't even notice!
Vernon, May 27 2004

       //if the inertia of an object depends on the properties of the surrounding Space//   

       The inertia of the object depends on mass and velocity. The surrounding space may provide less drag if it's thinned, but the inertia will be unaffected. An ion-drive spacecraft with a low thrust-to-mass ratio will still have a low acceleration.
Freefall, May 27 2004

       [Freefall], I do know the ordinary interpretation of inertia. But I mentioned Mach's Principle, which is a different interpretation. The text you quoted was written in terms of that particular interpretation.
Vernon, May 27 2004

       Putting practical aspects aside, such as will mass increase to infitiy, making it impossible to accelerate past c, inertion independant of virtual particle density, etc...even if impractical to actually achieve due to never getting a ship that can reach near light speed...I see no reason not to give your idea a crossaint. + for you. Very creative!
nomel, Jul 06 2004

       Though, the crackpottery might be a pretty cool place... that is, a salvage bin for fools like BunNazi!!!
daseva, Jul 07 2004

       So, if you accelerated a cat inside a box with a radioactive isotope and a poison pellet at twice the speed of light and then opened the box, would the cat's observance of himself cause a potential paradox?
RayfordSteele, Jul 22 2004

       Yep. It'd unmake all of existence.   

       But only if the cat looked at himself and knew he was looking at himself. Some cats are too dumb to be self-aware, which adds an extra layer of protection to everything we hold dear.
shapu, Aug 24 2004

       Well [Bamboo], I'm about three months late in replying--sorry--but those comments you listed are rather tame for this place.
ldischler, Aug 24 2004

       If anyone ever checks this sites and wants to talk seriously about working theories on traveling faster than light let me know. My email is Mtuman1843@hotmail.com
mtuman, Oct 13 2005

       And, of course, feel free to link to this page any other Web pages holding reasonable-sounding notions (suggestions for experiments welcome!).
Vernon, Oct 13 2005

       Vernon, I think in Feynman's QED book, he discusses that light could be considered to take all possible paths. Most of them cancel out, except the more direct paths.   

       Could that mean that the indirect paths are travelling further in the same time?   

       On another point, if the number of virtual particles was reduced to zero, would the speed of light be infinite? Maybe it would be undefinable, since there would be no reference. In fact, we talk about so many metres per second, but that is meaningless. We might as well compare the speed of light to the average orbital velocity of an electron in a Hydrogen atom, and give the result as a ratio.
Ling, Oct 13 2005

       Could you make a model of it up to explain it better? I'm having breakfast now, so I suggest a bowl of milk to represent the universe, and pieces of oatmeal as the "virtual" particles that pop to the surface and either sink randomly, or interact with the spoon, which would represent the light being slowed on its journey to my mouth.   

       Help! I've got a Higg's Bosun stuck in my throat.
xenzag, Oct 13 2005

       //Help! I've got a Higg's Bosun stuck in my throat// You need a high energy collider on the back.
coprocephalous, Oct 13 2005

       [Ling], please review the last few sentences in the sixth paragraph of the main text. I do not wish to presume that light in a perfect vacuum will have infinite velocity.
Vernon, Oct 13 2005

       <reviewed>, but the velocity would be undefinable in a vacuum with no virtual particles, except by one method:
If the path of light took it through that vacuum, but there was another path around that vacuum consisting of, say, two straight lines that went through vacuum with virtual particles. Then one could send light through both paths at the same time, and the length of each path would be known so the velocities of each could be judged.
But I suspect that light in a perfect vacuum with no virtual particles would not be transmitted - prove me wrong! :)
Ling, Oct 14 2005

       [Ling], a photon is supposed to be its own particle. And according to Quantum Mechanics, it HAS particle-like properties in addition to its wave-like properties. Thus, with no virtual particles in a vacuum, there is nothing to stop the particle-like properties of a photon from being sufficient for it to cross the vacuum. OK?
Vernon, Oct 15 2005

       Vernon I am very impressed with your knowledge of the nature of light. you seem to have a deep interest. Can I ask why and also can you suggest any books on the topic?
mtuman, Oct 20 2005

       //[Ling], please review the last few sentences in the sixth paragraph of the main text//   

       Gets my nomination for the annotation of the year :)
theircompetitor, Oct 20 2005

       [mtuman], Start by reading "Understanding Physics" by Isaac Asimov. Then go to a good library and find the collection of Scientific American magazines. Start about 1960 and go forward, reading all the physics-related articles. That should do it.
Vernon, Oct 20 2005


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