What would happen if we traveled at twice the speed of light?

Recently, a 13-year-old boy in Mumbai asked a math philosopher Sam Baron what would happen if someone had to move – hypothetically – to twice the speed of light. The baron replied

To our knowledge, it is not possible for a person to move at twice the speed of light. In fact, it’s not possible for an object with the kind of mass you or I have to move faster than the speed of light.

Sam BaronCurious Kids: What would happen if someone moved at twice the speed of light?” at The conversation (May 24, 2022)

He explains why not as follows,

To accelerate an object with mass, we need to add energy. The faster we want the object to go, the more energy we will need.

The equations of relativity tell us that anything with mass – whatever its mass – would require an infinite amount of energy to be accelerated to the speed of light.

But all the sources of energy that we know are finite: they are limited in certain respects.

Sam BaronCurious Kids: What would happen if someone moved at twice the speed of light?” at The conversation (May 24, 2022)

So. aside from an amazing energy breakthrough, we’re just not going that fast. But this is where it gets interesting:

However, for some strange particles, traveling at twice the speed of light might be possible – and it might send those particles back in time…

There are… hypothetical particles called tachyons with a special kind of mass called “imaginary mass”.

There is no evidence that tachyons exist. But according to relativity, their possible existence cannot be ruled out.

If they exist, tachyons must always travel faster than the speed of light. Just as something with ordinary mass cannot be accelerated beyond the speed of light, tachyons cannot be slowed down below the speed of light.

Some physicists believe that if tachyons existed, they would constantly go back in time. This is why tachyons are associated with time travel in many science fiction books and movies.

Sam BaronCurious Kids: What would happen if someone moved at twice the speed of light?” at The conversation (May 24, 2022)

At Space.com, we hear about a another wrinkle:

Although the speed of light is often called the speed limit of the universe, the universe is actually expanding even faster. The universe is expanding at just over 42 miles (68 kilometers) per second for every megaparsec of distance from the observer, astrophysicist Paul Sutter wrote in an earlier article for Space.com. (A megaparsec is 3.26 million light years – a very long way.)

Vicki SteinWhat is the speed of light ?” at Space.com (January 21, 2022)

So the expansion of the universe technically exceeds the speed of light as it expands in all directions. If you add the speeds in opposite directions (opening speed) you get a higher overall number.

Baron also offers an imaginative scenario to Gizmodo for what would happen if we found a wormhole:

A wormhole is a shortcut between any two points in space. While a star may be 4.5 light years away in normal terms, it may only be hours away via a wormhole.

If real wormholes exist, they would allow us to travel great distances in a very short time, allowing us to reach the ends of the universe in a single lifetime.

Unfortunately, like tachyons, wormholes remain entirely hypothetical.

Sam BaronIf we moved at twice the speed of light, would we slip through the multiverse?” at Gizmodo Australia (May 28, 2022)

While wormholes, like tachyons, are hypothetical, accepted physical theory allows them insofar as it does not permit more conventional methods of exceeding the speed of light.

To Space.com, Vicki Stein suggests, “One proposed idea involves a spacecraft that could bend a space-time bubble around itself. Sounds good, both in theory and in fiction. Because

“If Captain Kirk were forced to move at the speed of our fastest rockets, it would take him a hundred thousand years just to reach the next star system,” said Seth Shostak, astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence institute. (SETI). in Mountain View, Calif., in a 2010 interview with Space.com’s sister site, LiveScience. “So science fiction has long postulated a way to beat the speed of the light barrier so that the story can move forward a little faster.”

Vicki SteinWhat is the speed of light ?” at Space.com (January 21, 2022)

Warp drives, like those of Kirk and Spock, are theoretically possible, according to theoretical physicists:

In short, the speed of light is an insurmountable barrier if the proposal is to use energy to drive objects that have mass to exceed it. But this is not a law of nature. We may one day find methods that do not require the use of energy in this way. We will see.


You can also read: Can we teleport? Find a wormhole? Survive the death of the universe? Many ideas that were once thought of as science fiction have become science fact. How will these get out? Teleportation, for example, works for quantum particles, but it may require the energy of a galaxy to transport a human. Not quite like StarTrek.


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