Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Here's the latest on traveling beyond light speed

Einstein's theory of relativity says it's impossible for an object to travel faster than the speed of light. But what if you could move space itself? (Discover Magazine / Space.com)

That's how the universe is expanding. Galaxies aren't just pushing away from each other through space, the space they're on is moving, too. Like crumbs on a piece of taffy that's being stretched out. So if you could harness this stretching, you could exceed the speed of light.

Before we get to the harnessing, let's quickly go over how space expands.

According to sting theory, "empty space" is full of spontaneously created and annihilated pairs of matter and anti-matter. When matter is winning, space expands. When anti-matter is winning, space contracts. (
Discover Magazine / EETimes)

This battle in empty space between matter and anti-matter is also described as "dark energy" or "the cosmological constant" (which can be positive or negative).

Now, to move the space you (or your ship) is in, you would need to adjust the cosmological constant in front of you to be negative, and that behind you to be positive. Then, you could blast through face like "surfing a wave." (
Discover Magazine / ABC News)

Here's the problem. To create this space-time wave, you would need an amount of energy "equivalent to the entire mass of Jupiter being converted into energy," and "we're still a very long ways off" from that. (
Discover Magazine / Photonics Online)

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