MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Faster than light time dilation effect.

Date: Tue Sep 21 23:18:34 1999
Posted By: Layne Johnson, Undergraduate
Area of science: Physics
ID: 937877668.Ph

Hello, Richard!

A stupid question?  You know better than that! :-)  It's a good question, 
and I'll give it the serious attention it deserves.  That doesn't mean I 
won't have some fun answering it, so beware of bad puns!

There's an inverse relationship between velocity and the flow of time.  The 
usual way of thinking is to assume no or little movement and usual time 
flow, because here on earth that's how things are.  So we think of objects 
going faster and faster, and time going slower and slower.  But a more 
mathematically correct point of view is to start at the speed of light and 
work backwards, because t at vc=0, or the flow of time at light 
speed has stopped.  Using c as our starting point, the more we decrease 
velocity, v, the more time, t, is increased.  Viewing the question like 
this, we could write t at vc/x=x-1, where x is any velocity 
between 1 and c.  Of course, by making x less than 1, velocity has become 
greater than light speed, and time flow has become a negative number.  So 
time would flow backwards, if this lineal equation holds true.

However, there's a problem with this, and not just the obvious objection to 
velocity exceeding the speed of light.  In 1957, H. Bondi's paper "Negative 
mass within general relativity" (Rev. Modern Physics, Vol. 29, No. 3, 423) 
proposed the existence of matter having negative inertial mass.  More 
recently, Harold E.Puthoff has shown Bondi's concept to be impossible.  In 
doing so, he also showed negative time flow to likewise be impossible.  So 
even if v>c, t must not be negative.

We seem to have a contradiction here.  This contradiction must be confused, 
because every contradiction knows that quantum physics is where all the 
other contradictions hang out.  Why do we have one in a linear equation? 

It's a question of definition.  V, by definition, cannot exceed c.  Another 
way to look at Dr. Puthoff's work is since t must not be negative, v cannot 
exceed c.  It doesn't seem like a contradiction at all when worded like 
that.  Asking questions about what happens at velocities greater than light 
is like asking what's the universe expanding into.  Some questions are 
illogical (therefore, unanswerable), but are worded in such a way that an 
answer seems possible.

So, what do you tell your acquaintances?  I suppose you could really 
impress them by hosting an international theoretical physics seminar, and 
inviting them to hear cutting edge ideas on the topic.  But if your bank 
account resembles mine, you can't afford to host a luncheon of peanut 
butter sandwiches for your neighborhood scout troop.  A more practical idea 
would be to explain that the very linear equation which allows for -t 
contains within itself an upper limit, c, which disallows v>c, the 
precursor to -t.

Now that I've said that, allow me to pull that contradiction out of my 
pocket and say that I believe the speed of light can be exceeded.  But 
that's okay, because I'm wandering into the quantum world where this 
contradiction feels at home.

Heisenberg said that we may know the direction and velocity of a quantum 
particle, or we may know it's location in space-time, but we cannot know 
both.  Einstein disagreed, and proposed a test in which a subatomic 
particle at rest was split in half.  Newton's laws say that half of the 
particle would travel along a line at velocity v, and the other half would 
travel along the same line at -v, or the same speed, but opposite 
direction.  Part A could be measured for location, and part B could be 
measured for direction and velocity.  The location of part B could be 
inferred without direct observation by the location of part A, so both the
direction and velocity, and the location of part B could be known.

Trouble is, it didn't work.  As soon as part A was observed, part B altered 
its course.

Let's assume that something was emitted from part A as soon as it was 
observed.  And let's assume further that whatever it was that was emitted 
reached part B, and part B interprets this emission as the signal to alter 
its course.  Measurements show that in order for this mysterious emission 
to reach part B fast enough to alter its course before the direction and 
velocity measurement on part B was taken, whatever was emitted from part A 
must have traveled faster than light.

How do I account for this?  I don't.  Einstein couldn't, and nobody can 
today.  Either some undetected signal from part A was sent to part B at 
faster than light speed, or we have a fundamental misunderstanding of how 
matter behaves.  Go figure!

Now our lineal equation tells me that if our invisible emission from part A 
exceeds the speed of light, by the time it reached part B it would have 
gotten there before it was emitted, as judged by its own internal clock.  
And to exists before it is created is my pocket contradiction's companion 
for the evening.  They'll get along fine - they seem to have quite a lot in 
common.  But their relationship may be short, because our invisible 
emission can't exist before it's created, so it blinks out of existence as 
soon as it has told part B what to do.  It may be possible that this 
phenomenon accounts for the zero point energy field, where energy particles 
flicker in and out of existence constantly, even in a vacuum.  I'm straying 
from known science into the arena of speculation.  We don't know that such 
emissions exist.  I may be asking a question like "what is the universe 
expanding into?"

To keep it safe and simple, I'd stick with the self limiting nature of the 
lineal equation, and accept the fact that x cannot be negative.

But nobody ever made a name for himself by keeping it safe and simple.

Layne Johnson

p.s. Graffiti on a subway wall - Heisenberg was here, probably

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