“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Germans Break Speed of Light

by August 16, 2007
Germans Break Speed of Light

Germans Break Speed of Light

Germans are always breaking records it seems. This time then went for the big time and took on the speed of light... and apparently won. A pair of German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light - an achievement that would undermine our entire understanding of space and time and possibly change the way we commute to work each day.

According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, E=mc^2 (though Einstein was reported by some to have simply been trying to figure out a way to make carbonated beverages). Given this equation, it would require an infinite amount of energy to propel an object at a speed greater than that of light in a vacuum (approximately 186,000 miles per second).

Despite this, Drs Gunter Nimtz and Alfons Stahlhofen, of the University of Koblenz, claim to have found a back door which proves an exception to the a key tenet of that theory.

The doctors claim to have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons - energetic packets of light - traveled "instantaneously" between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart. While this sounds more like a teleporter than an exception to Einstein's theory, the results are essentially the same.

As a matter of principle, traveling faster than the speed of light would lead to numerous paradoxical situations. If, for instance, you could travel faster than light then you could arrive at a destination before the time you initially left. Travel long enough and time travel would essentially be possible.

The scientists made their breakthrough while investigating a phenomenon called quantum tunneling, which allows sub-atomic particles to break apparently unbreakable laws.

Dr Nimtz told New Scientist magazine: "For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of."

I think the next step for these scientist should be to apply the theory to the transmission of television signals. If a new television show tanks, then we can indicate this to the producers using a special time-dilation mechanism that would travel back in time and tell them not to make the show in the first place.

This could spell the end of bad television and movies once and for all!

I'm going to see if these scientists have an agent...

About the author:
author portrait

Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

View full profile

Recent Forum Posts:

pikers posts on August 19, 2007 13:50
djoxygen, post: 297842
Yeah… quantum tunneling does not equal faster than light any more than quantum entanglement does. Sorry, german researcher guys.

I think they were going for the great-sounding PR stunt rather than solid, peer-reviewed publishing.

I on the other hand have seen plenty of your findings all over the web like this one. Oh, wait…
pikers posts on August 19, 2007 13:47
If ever there was a time for pure objectivists to take a chill pill, this is it.

This “immutable” law now brings into question many others that POs trot out to shoot down the other–shall we say, “perception-based” arguments–in any debate.
djoxygen posts on August 17, 2007 15:03
Yeah… quantum tunneling does not equal faster than light any more than quantum entanglement does. Sorry, german researcher guys.

I think they were going for the great-sounding PR stunt rather than solid, peer-reviewed publishing.
jonnythan posts on August 17, 2007 09:49
Here is an excellent analysis:
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070816-faster-than-the-speed-of-light-no-i-dont-think-so.html

I got as far as “The paper in question has no data at all” before I rolled my eyes. Keep reading.
jonnythan posts on August 17, 2007 09:43
“According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, E=mc^2 (though Einstein was reported by some to have simply been trying to figure out a way to make carbonated beverages). Given this equation, it would require an infinite amount of energy to propel an object at a speed greater than that of light in a vacuum (approximately 186,000 miles per second).”

This doesn't make any sense.. and it's quite wrong.

E = mc^2 means that the energy and mass are essentially equivalent, and the speed of light is the conversion factor. It says nothing whatsoever about velocity or the energy required to move at a particular velocity. It assumes that the mass in question is at rest.

The equation we use as evidence that it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate a mass to the speed of light is:

E = ?mc^2, where

? = 1 / sqrt(1 - (v/c)^2)

So:

E = mc^2 / sqrt(1 - (v/c)^2)

This equation tells us that the energy of a mass with v=c is inifinite. It is actually undefined, as it gives a divide by zero situation, but more accurately the limit of the equation for E as v -> c is infinite.

Anyway, the researchers don't seem to have accelerated a mass past the speed of light so all the above is irrelevant The researches apparently haven't made any claims about traveling faster than the speed of light - that is, accelerating a mass past the speed of light. They claim to have performed faster-than-light communication over a distance of 3 feet.

Quantum mechanics has already proved an event can cause another event very far away to happen simultaneously, but this type of event is worthless for sending information or communication.



The experiment itself went kinda like this:

The dudes shone a beam of photons into a pair of glass prisms sandwiched together. As expected, some photons were reflected back at the surface between the prisms and some went through to the other side.

They moved the prisms apart… and reflected photons hit the detector at the “launch” site at the precise moment that photons that went through the gap through the prism on the other side. This directly implies that the photons traveled through the gap instantaneously.

They then said that they couldn't observe the effect with the prisms more than 1 meter apart.

At first glance, to me, this doesn't violate special relativity because special relativity doesn't say anything about waves/photons never being allowed to travel faster than c. It *does* say that information and energy cannot, and I don't see how this would violate it. IANAP though.

Here's a quote from an article that satisfies me completely:

New Scientist
Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of Toronto, Canada, doesn't dispute Nimtz and Stahlhofen's results. However, Einstein can rest easy, he says. The photons don't violate relativity: it's just a question of interpretation.

Steinberg explains Nimtz and Stahlhofen's observations by way of analogy with a 20-car bullet train departing Chicago for New York. The stopwatch starts when the centre of the train leaves the station, but the train leaves cars behind at each stop. So when the train arrives in New York, now comprising only two cars, its centre has moved ahead, although the train itself hasn't exceeded its reported speed.

“If you're standing at the two stations, looking at your watch, it seems to you these people have broken the speed limit,” Steinberg says. “They've got there faster than they should have, but it just happens that the only ones you see arrive are in the front car. So they had that head start, but they were never travelling especially fast.”
Post Reply