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Old 2009-07-18, 19:46   #1
ixfd64
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Default Will we ever go faster than the speed of light?

It has always been humanity's dream to travel to the stars. The universe is incredibly vast, yet we've explored only an infinitesimal bit of it. The sextillions of star systems out there seemingly await us.

However, Einstein's special theory of relativity says it is impossible to accelerate something to the speed of light or above. This means that even if we were traveling near the speed of light, it will take years to arrive at just the nearest stars alone. And we're not even talking about the problems of time dilation yet.

However, time and time again, science has proven that "impossible" things can be achieved. For example, Lord Kelvin once stated, "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." More notably, Einstein himself stated that "there is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will." However, less than a decade later, nuclear technology is already being developed.

Back on topic, the laws of physics say that we can't ever go faster than the speed of light. Or can we? One promising method is with the Alcubierre drive, a Star Trek-esque device that moves spacetime itself. There are many practical problems with it, but it's not theoretically impossible. So, will we see travel packages for interstellar getaways in the future, or will be confined to the Solar System for the years to come?

Last fiddled with by ixfd64 on 2009-07-18 at 19:46
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Old 2009-07-18, 20:41   #2
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Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post
However, Einstein's special theory of relativity says it is impossible to accelerate something to the speed of light or above. This means that even if we were traveling near the speed of light, it will take years to arrive at just the nearest stars alone. And we're not even talking about the problems of time dilation yet.

...

Back on topic, the laws of physics say that we can't ever go faster than the speed of light. ... So, will we see travel packages for interstellar getaways in the future, or will be confined to the Solar System for the years to come?
Au contraire, as long as you don't mind it being a one-way trip with no communication to your generation, and you can produce the energy to sustain 1g acceleration, you could travel to the edge of the (from earth) visible universe within your lifetime, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_di...d_space_flight
Besides, returning to earth a billion years later could be fun and interesting for you and its inhabitants!
Perhaps the question should be more particularly, "Will humans ever travel faster than the speed of light?" (like the title says) and less about space travel.
Now, on the real topic: I think that given enough time, eventually humans will find a way to travel faster than the speed of light. Now, do we have that time before the end of humans? I don't think so.
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Old 2009-07-18, 21:06   #3
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Now, on the real topic: I think that given enough time, eventually humans will find a way to travel faster than the speed of light. Now, do we have that time before the end of humans? I don't think so.
Agreed on the first question; as for the second question, maybe, maybe not. A lot of this is dependent on one key factor: how much humanity actually cares whether we can eventually travel faster than light. Right now, not too many people seem to care much about even traveling to Mars--most everybody seems more concerned about global warming. If that attitude continues to prevail, then undoubtedly we will *not* travel faster than light (and possibly not even try!) before the end of the world. But if otherwise, then I'd say it's somewhat of a toss-up.

Note that in the above statements, I'm assuming a somewhat unknown "end of the world" date, probably sometime within the next few centuries. Just wanted to clarify this so people don't think I'm referring to trillions of years from now, which would change the meaning of my comments significantly.
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Old 2009-07-18, 21:30   #4
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We already have. You did not state your conditions. People travel FTL all the time.
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Old 2009-07-19, 02:20   #5
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You did not state your conditions.
Nor did you, yours. Please explain.
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Old 2009-07-19, 02:31   #6
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The speed of light is not an invariant absolute under all conditions.
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ide...with_lene_hau/
I have fallen faster than the light that Dr. Hau has worked with.
http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/....18/light.html
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Old 2009-07-19, 02:58   #7
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Originally Posted by ixfd64 View Post
However, Einstein's special theory of relativity says it is impossible to accelerate something to the speed of light or above. This means that even if we were traveling near the speed of light, it will take years to arrive at just the nearest stars alone. And we're not even talking about the problems of time dilation yet.
Time dilation is not a "problem" in this context, but possibly a solution. Even though we cannot reach a star x light years away in less than x years as measured on earth, to the time-dilated traveler, the journey will be shorter. Arbitrarily short, in fact, if the ship is able to travel arbitrarily close to the speed of light.

We don't need new laws of physics to reach the stars within a lifetime. We don't even need unimaginably futuristic technology. Here's a proposal which uses only current or readily-developable technology to get to Barnard's star in 50 years.
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Old 2009-07-19, 14:46   #8
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We already have. You did not state your conditions. People travel FTL all the time.
Sure, but I think it pretty clear that in this thread, the abbreviation "FTL" rather unambiguously refers to the speed of light in vacuo, the value "c" in relativistic dynamics.

Paul
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