Time to Revise Relativity?: Part 1

Special Relativity.


Faster than light (FTL) travel.

Most physicists says that you can only hope for at most two of these three concepts to hold.

Special Relativity has the advantage of 100 years of supporting experimental evidence.

Causality has the advantage of 1000s of years of philosophic thought, and daily experience (at least until very recently – see Rewriting the Past)

Which seems to be bad news for faster than light travel.  But we all so much want FTL travel to be true.  How else are we supposed to communicate with ET?

Well, Special Relativity may have received its first chink in the armor.  Particle physicists at CERN recently released a report on the experimental evidence of FTL neutrinos.  The 6-sigma quality factor reported implies that the margin of error for this experiment is insignificant, meaning that these results may need to be taken seriously.

So, which concept falls by the wayside: Special Relativity (sorry, Albert)?    Or Causality (sorry, Aristotle)?  Alternatively, maybe the “2 outta 3” rule needs revision.

As usual, I have an opinion.

And it is…

1. Special Relativity holds for the moment.  But we need to stop using circular logic for relativistic effects.  We need to stop drawing FTL paths on Minkowski diagrams that are based on the assumption that FTL is impossible.  And, finally, we have to come to terms with the fact that Special Relativity has to do with subluminal speeds and is UNDEFINED at FTL.

2. Causality holds for the moment.  At least in the context of our conventional space-time.  Throw in inter-Hilbert Space travel or Programmed Reality and all bets are off for Causality. (again see Rewriting the Past for more on the latter)

3. Given the caveats in #1, maybe we can get 3 outta 3.

Here’s just one example where it seems to fit:

Imagine a supersonic jet travelling at twice the speed of sound (2S meters/second) in the land of the blind.  A blind observer stands at 10*S meters from the jet at t=0.  At t=0, an audible event (call it Event A, the cause) occurs on the jet, such as an explosion on board the plane.  The sound waves from Event A reach the observer in 10 seconds.  At t=1 second, the entire jet explodes as the gas tanks catch fire (Event B, the effect).  At t=1, the jet is 8*S meters from the observer since it is traveling at 2S, so the observer hears Event B eight seconds later.  In other words, the observer hears event B at t=9 and event A at t=10.  Therefore the observer observes the effect before the cause.

But that doesn’t mean that the effect happened before the cause.  It only appeared to happen that way in the observer’s reference frame.  Similarly, anyone on the jet (who could actually hear things happening outside) would observe a full sequence of events happening backwards in time.  Is this time travel?  No.  No one is going back in time.  They are just experiencing a sequence of events in reverse chronological order happening in someone else’s reference frame.  Is there any reason to assume that the same arguments would not also hold in the domain of light?

In fact, the same thing might happen if you hopped aboard the tachyonic neutrino express.  First of all, I should note that there is some debate about this whole idea of time unfolding in reverse at superluminal speeds.  Much of it stems from the nature of the Lorentz factor:

This is the factor that gets applied to time and distance to calculate time dilation and Lorentz contraction effects at relativistic speeds.  It is also the factor applied to mass in general relativity.  It can easily be seen that as the velocity approaches c (the speed of light), the factor under the square root sign approaches zero, causing the Lorentz factor to approach infinity.  For this reason, time stands still, mass goes to infinity, and the apparent size of the rest of the universe shrinks to zero at the speed of light.  Or, more accurately, “apparent size” as you would SEE it.  But, what happens if you go past the speed of light?  In that case, the factor under the square root sign is negative.  For mathematics, this is not allowed for real numbers.  However, trigonometry has a trick, which is to define an entity i that, by definition, is the square root of -1.  Numbers containing i are considered “imaginary” or complex numbers.  In the real world, these numbers actually have a great deal of use in fields like electrical engineering, where they are used to determine the phase between periodic signals, or in physics, where they are used to determine the relative angle between field vectors.  But what they might mean to relativity is really anybody’s guess.  But it is for this reason that many physicists claim that you can’t accelerate past light speed; that is, that it would necessitate mass exceeding infinity or becoming “imaginary”.  Thus, the entire idea of traveling back in time is just one interpretation of what happens when the Lorentz factor goes imaginary.

So, let’s go with that idea on our tachyonic neutrino express, for the moment.  If you had hurtled through space superluminally in 1804 toward Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, you would watch Hamilton “fall up” into a standing position, the bullet flying out of his stomach and back into Aaron Burr’s gun.  The assassination would still have taken place in their reference frame.  Once you arrived in Weehawkin, NJ and got off the transport, your reference frame would have shifted back to theirs.

One might wonder what happens when you land.  Does the sequence of events go forward again, in which case you could predict the future?  No, that would truly violate causality.  What happens is that you have to decelerate to stop, and as you approach light speed, the backwards time effect slows down.  When you cross over into subluminal, it reverses and the events start forward again from whatever point in the “past” was hit at light speed.  Then, you get to watch the events unfold again in the normal temporal direction.  By the time you decelerate and land, you are at the same point in time as Burr’s reference frame, well ahead of the event that you just witnessed.  Hamilton would be dead, of course.  No time travel, no ability to interact with the past.  No grandfather paradox to solve.  All relativity equations still make sense, from the standpoint of the observations that we can make via known observational methods.  We would still experience time dilation and Lorentz contraction up until we hit light speed.  After that, what happens is anybody’s guess.  But I have a theory.

It’s just going to have to wait until Part 2.

einstein_raspberry185 timewarp185

Just when you thought Physics couldn’t get any Stranger

Tachyons, entanglement, cold fusion, dark matter, galactic filaments.  Just when you thought physics couldn’t get any stranger…

– THE VERY COLD: Fractional Quantum Hall Effect: When electrons are magnetically confined and cooled to a third of a degree above absolute zero (See more here), they seem to break down into sub-particles that act in synchronization, but with fractional charges, like 1/3, or 3/7.

– THE VERY HIGH PRESSURE: Strange Matter: The standard model of physics includes 6 types of quarks, including the 2 (“up” and “down”) that make up ordinary matter.  Matter that consists of “strange” quarks, aka Strange Matter, would be 10 times as heavy as ordinary matter.  Does it exist?  Theoretically, at very high densities, such as the core of neutron stars, such matter may exist.  A 1998 space shuttle experiment seems to have detected some, but repeat experiments have not yielded the same results.

– THE VERY LARGE DIMENSIONAL: Multidimensional Space: String theories say that we live in a 10-dimensional space, mostly because it is the only way to make quantum mechanics and general relativity play nicely together.  That is, until physicist Garrett Lisi came along and showed how it could be done with eight dimensional space and objects called octonions.  String theorists were miffed, mostly because Lisi is not university affiliated and spends most of his time surfing in Hawaii.

– THE VERY HOT: Quark-Gloun Plasma: Heat up matter to 2 trillion degrees and neutrons and protons fall apart into a plasma of quarks called quark-gluon plasma.  In April of 2005, QGP appeared to have been created at the Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).

My view on all this is that it is scientific business as usual.  100 years ago, we lived in a smaller world; a world described solely by Newtonian Mechanics, our ordinary everyday view of how the world works.  Then, along came relativity and quantum mechanics.  Technological advances in laboratory equipment and optics allowed us to push the limits of speed and validate Relativity, which ultimately showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Relativity at slow speeds.  Similarly we pushed the limits of probing the very small and validated Quantum Mechanics, which showed that Newtonian Mechanics was just an approximation of the larger, more encompassing theory of Quantum Mechanics at large scales.  In the 1960’s, we pushed the limits of heat and energy, discovered  and found that our Quantum Mechanical / Relativistic Theory of the world was really just an approximation at low temperatures of a larger theory that had to encompass Quantum Chromodynamics.  Now, we are pushing the limits of temperature, or the slowing down of particles, and discovering that there must be an even larger theory that describes the world, that explains the appearance of fractional charges at extremely low temperatures.  Why does this keep happening and where does it end?

Programmed Reality provides an explanation.  In fact, it actually provides two.

In one case, the programmers of our reality created a complex set of physical laws that we are slowly discovering.  Imagine a set of concentric spheres, with each successive level outward representing a higher level scientific theory of the world that encompasses faster speeds, higher temperatures, larger scales, colder temperatures, higher energies, etc.  How deep inside the sphere of knowledge are we now?  Don’t know, but this is a model that puts it in perspective.  It is a technological solution to the philosophy of Deism.

The second possibility is that as we humans push the limits of each successive sphere of physical laws that were created for us, the programmers put in place a patch that opens up the next shell of discovery, not unlike a game.  I prefer this model, for a number of reasons.  First of all, wouldn’t it be a lot more fun and interesting to interact with your creations, rather than start them on their evolutionary path and then pay no further attention?  Furthermore, this theory offers the perfect explanation for all of those scientific experiments that have generated anomalous results that have never been reproducible.  The programmers simply applied the patch before anyone else could reproduce the experiment.

Interestingly, throughout the years, scientists have fooled themselves into thinking that the discovery of everything was right around the corner.  In the mid-20th century, the ultimate goal was the Unified Field Theory.  Now, it is called a TOE, or Theory of Everything.

Let’s stop thinking we’re about to reach the end of scientific inquiry and call each successive theory a TOM, or Theory of More.

Because the only true TOE is Programmed Reality.  QED.