(ORDO NEWS) — Nothing can move faster than light. This rule of physics is woven into the very fabric of Einstein’s theory of special relativity. The faster something moves, the closer it comes to its perspective of time fading.
If you go even faster, you will run into the problems of reversing time, distorting the notion of cause and effect.
But researchers at the University of Warsaw in Poland and the National University of Singapore have pushed the boundaries of relativity to create a system that doesn’t contradict existing physics and can even point the way to new theories.
They came up with an “extension of special relativity” that combines three time dimensions with one space dimension (“1+3 space-time”), as opposed to three space dimensions. and one temporal dimension to which we are all accustomed.
Rather than creating any major logical inconsistencies, this new study adds more evidence to support the idea that objects could very well travel faster than light without completely violating our current laws of physics.
“There is no fundamental reason why observers moving in relation to described physical systems at speeds greater than the speed of light should not be affected by it,” says physicist Andrzej Dragan from the University of Warsaw in Poland.
This new study builds on previous work by some of the same researchers who argue that superluminal perspectives can help link quantum mechanics to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, two branches of physics that currently cannot be reconciled into a single overarching theory that describes gravity as same as we explain other forces.
In this framework, particles can no longer be modeled as point objects as we could in a more mundane 3D (plus time) perspective of the universe.
Instead, to understand what observers can see and how a superluminal particle can behave, we need to turn to the field theories that underlie quantum physics.
Based on this new model, FTL objects will look like a particle expanding like a bubble through space not unlike a wave through a field. On the other hand, a high-speed object will “experience” several different timelines.
Even so, the speed of light in a vacuum will remain constant even for those observers moving faster than it, which preserves one of Einstein’s fundamental principles – a principle that was previously thought only of observers moving slower than the speed of light (like the rest of us).
“This new definition preserves Einstein’s postulate that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant, even for superluminal observers,” says Dragan.
“So our extended special relativity doesn’t seem like a particularly extravagant idea.”
However, the researchers acknowledge that the transition to the 1+3 space-time model does raise some new questions, while also answering others. They suggest that it is necessary to expand special relativity to include faster-than-light reference frames.
This may well include borrowing from quantum field theory: a combination of the concepts of special relativity, quantum mechanics, and classical field theory (which aims to predict how physical fields will interact with each other).
If the physicists are right, all the particles in the universe will have extraordinary properties in extended special relativity.
One of the questions raised by the study is whether we will ever observe such extended behavior, but it will take much more time and many more scientists to answer.
“Simply discovering a new fundamental particle experimentally is a feat worthy of a Nobel Prize and is accomplished by a large research team using the latest experimental techniques,” says physicist Krzysztof Turzynski from the University of Warsaw.
“However, we hope to present our results to help better understand the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking associated with the mass of the Higgs particle and other particles in the Standard Model, especially in the early universe.”
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