Nothing can be faster than light. It is a physics rule woven into the fabric of Einstein’s theory of special relativity. The faster something goes, the closer the time-frozen perspective is to a standstill.
Go faster, and you’ll run into issues with reversing time, messing with notions of causation.
But researchers from the University of Warsaw in Poland and the National University of Singapore have now pushed the boundaries of relativity to come up with a system that doesn’t contradict current physics, and may point the way to new theories.
What they’ve come up with is an “extension special relativity“which combines three dimensions of time and one dimension of space (“1 + 3 space-time”), unlike the three spatial dimensions and one time dimension that we are all used to.
Rather than create any major logical contradictions, this new study adds more evidence to support the idea that objects may be able to move faster than light without completely breaking the existing laws of physics.
“There is no fundamental reason why observers moving in relation to the described physical systems at velocities greater than the speed of light should not be subject to it,” says physicist Andrei Draganfrom the University of Warsaw in Poland.
This new study is based on previous job by some of the same researchers who posit that ultraluminous perspectives can help connect quantum mechanics to Einstein’s mechanics The special theory of relativity Two branches of physics that cannot currently be reconciled into one comprehensive theory that describes gravity in the same way we explain other forces.
Particles can no longer be modeled as point-like objects in this framework, as they can in the more mundane three-dimensional (plus time) perspective of the universe.
Instead, to understand what observers might see and how a superluminous particle might behave, we need to turn to the kinds of field theories that underpin quantum physics.
Based on this new model, the ultraluminous objects would look like a particle expanding like a bubble through space — not unlike a wave through a field. On the other hand, a high-speed body will experience several different timescales.
However, the speed of light in a vacuum will remain constant even for those observers traveling faster than it, which maintains one of Einstein’s basic principles – a principle previously only thought of in relation to observers traveling slower than the speed of light. (like all of us).
“This new definition maintains Einstein’s assumption about the constancy of the speed of light in a vacuum even for super-observers.” Dragan says.
“So our extended special ratio doesn’t sound like a particularly extravagant idea.”
However, the researchers acknowledge that switching to a 1+3 model of space-time raises some new questions, even as it answers others. They suggest that extending the theory of special relativity to incorporate faster-than-light reference frames is necessary.
This may include borrowing from Quantum field theory: a combination of concepts from special relativity, quantum mechanics, and classical field theory (which aims to predict how physical fields interact with each other).
If the physicists are right, the particles of the universe would all have unusual properties in extended special relativity.
One of the questions raised by the research is whether or not we’ll be able to observe this extended behavior — but answering that will take a lot of time and a lot of scientists.
“The abstract experimental discovery of a new fundamental particle is a Nobel Prize-worthy achievement that can be achieved in a large research team using the latest experimental techniques,” says physicist Krzysztof Torzynskifrom the University of Warsaw.
“However, we hope to apply our results to a better understanding of the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking associated with the mass of the Higgs particle and other particles in standard formespecially in the early universe.
Research published in Classical and quantitative gravity.
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