Daily Archives: August 17th, 2007

German scientists find way around light-speed barrier

From ZDNet.com :

Exceeding the speed of light, approximately 300,000km per second, is supposed to be completely impossible. According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate an object through the light barrier.

But two German physicists claim to have forced light to overcome its own speed limit using the strange phenomenon known as “quantum tunneling.”

Gunter Nimtz, one of the physicists from the University of Koblenz, told New Scientist magazine: “For the time being, this is the only violation of special relativity that I know of.”

However, the scientists’ claims should be treated with some skepticism until they have been investigated by the wider scientific community, according to Dr. Kevin McIsaac, an analyst at Sydney-based firm IBRS, who holds a PhD in theoretical atomic physics.

“From time to time we do hear about these interesting experiments, often by well-meaning scientists. But, until this has been validated by the scientific community, you want to treat it with some skepticism,” said McIsaac.

“To date, all indications are that no information can travel faster than the speed of light. There are some experiments that indicate you can have interactions that appear to be faster than the speed of light but you still can’t transmit information faster than the speed of light,” said McIsaac.

The scientists set up an experiment in which microwave photons–energetic packets of light–appeared to travel “instantaneously” between two prisms forming the halves of a cube placed a meter apart.

When the prisms were placed together, photons fired at one edge passed straight through them, as expected. After they were moved apart, most of the photons reflected off the first prism they encountered and were picked up by a detector. But a few photons appeared to “tunnel” through the gap separating them as if the prisms were still held together. Although these photons had traveled a longer distance, they arrived at their detector at exactly the same time as the reflected photons. In effect, they seemed to have traveled faster than light.

The news of course has been met with a fair amount of skepticism, which is fine because all scientific discoveries should be double checked and verified independently. All good science requires that.

The ramifications of this discovery if it turns out to be viable can turn the world of computing hardware on it’s head. Already computer scientists have discovered a way to utilize photonic optical signals on chips for encrption purposes and increases computing speed at even higher levels. Imagine a computer that can compute faster than the speed of light?

Ray Kurzweil has to be drooling over this!

Original Article