Nothing can go faster than light. It’s a rule of physics woven into the very fabric of Einstein’s special theory of relativity. The faster something goes, the closer it gets to its prospect of freezing time to a stop.
Go even faster, and you run into problems with time inversion, playing with notions of causality.
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 go against existing physics, and may even pave the way. to new theories.
What they came up with is an “extension of special relativity” that combines three time dimensions with a single spatial dimension (“spacetime 1+3”), as opposed to the three spatial dimensions and one time dimension we think of. all accustomed.
Rather than creating major logical inconsistencies, this new study adds more evidence to support the idea that objects may well be able to travel faster than light without completely breaking our current physical laws.
“There is no fundamental reason why observers moving relative to the physical systems described with speeds greater than the speed of light should not be subjected to them,” explains physicist Andrzej Dragan, from the University of Warsaw in Poland.
This new study builds on previous work by some of the same researchers who posit that superluminal perspectives could help connect quantum mechanics to Einstein’s special theory of relativity – two branches of physics that currently cannot be reconciled into one overarching theory that describes gravity the same way we explain other forces.
Particles can no longer be modeled as point objects in this framework, as we could in the more mundane 3D (plus time) perspective of the Universe.
Instead, to make sense of what observers might see and how a superluminal particle behaves, we should look to the kinds of field theories that underlie quantum physics.
Based on this new model, superluminal objects would look like a particle expanding like a bubble in space – much like a wave through a field. The high-speed object, on the other hand, would “experience” several different delays.
Even so, the speed of light in a vacuum would remain constant even for observers going faster than it, which preserves one of Einstein’s fundamental principles – a principle previously only thought of in relation to observers going slower than the speed of light (like all of us).
“This new definition preserves Einstein’s postulate of the constancy of the speed of light in vacuum even for superluminal observers,” says Dragan.
“Therefore, our extended special relativity doesn’t seem like a particularly outlandish idea.”
However, researchers recognize that moving to a 1+3 spacetime model raises new questions, even as it answers others. They suggest that there is a need to extend special theory of relativity to incorporate faster-than-light frames of reference.
This may well involve 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 will interact with each other ).
If physicists are right, particles in the Universe would all have extraordinary properties in extended special relativity.
One of the questions raised by the research is whether or not we would be able to observe this extended behavior – but answering that is going to take a lot more time and a lot more scientists.
“The simple experimental discovery of a new fundamental particle is a Nobel Prize-winning feat achievable in a large research team using the latest experimental techniques,” says physicist Krzysztof Turzyński, from the University of Warsaw.
“However, we hope to apply our results to a better understanding of the spontaneous symmetry breaking phenomenon associated with the mass of the Higgs particle and other particles in the Standard Model, particularly in the early Universe.”
The research has been published in Classical and quantum gravity.