By: Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer
Published: 10/09/2012 06:15 AM EDT on LiveScience
Although Einstein's theories suggest nothing can move faster than the speed of light, two scientists have extended his equations to show what would happen if faster-than-light travel were possible.
Despite an apparent prohibition on such travel by Einstein’s theory of special relativity, the scientists said the theory actually lends itself easily to a description of velocities that exceed the speed of light.
"We started thinking about it, and we think this is a very natural extension of Einstein's equations," said applied mathematician James Hill, who co-authored the new paper with his University of Adelaide, Australia, colleague Barry Cox. The paper was published Oct. 3 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
Special relativity, proposed by Albert Einstein in 1905, showed how concepts like speed are all relative: A moving observer will measure the speed of an object to be different than a stationary observer will. Furthermore, relativity revealed the concept of time dilation, which says that the faster you go, the more time seems to slow down. Thus, the crew of a speeding spaceship might perceive their trip to another planet to take two weeks, while people left behind on Earth would observe their passage taking 20 years.
Yet special relativity breaks down if two people's relative velocity, the difference between their respective speeds, approaches the speed of light. Now, Hill and Cox have extended the theory to accommodate an infinite relative velocity.
I am sure that the next big step in FTL or time travel will be a completely revamped understanding of the equation for "time". Since time doesn't exist but we insist on it, it keeps "ruining" the equations for true progress.
Think of it like this - We look at a star blazing at 20 million light years away. The light taking 20 million years to get to us should mean we are looking backward in time. But we aren't really. As we stand there, looking at the light, the planets surrounding that star, possibly filled with intelligent life looking back, are doing it in real-time.
We are looking backward in time, but on the other end is a real-time event occurring and only our perception of time and distance distorts the truth.
Leave the math on the table, go outside and look at any given star. It's old light, but across that space is a real-time event. How do we bridge the gap and remove that pesky 'ol time equation?
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