Breaking the Universe's Speed Limit?Category: Science & Technology
Posted: August 18, 2011 08:01AM
Two hundred ninety-nine million, seven hundred ninety-two thousand, four hundred fifty-eight meters per second is c, the universal constant; the speed of light in a vacuum. Albert Einstein told us in special relativity that information cannot travel faster than a photon, but there are some phenomena that will push light to a higher speed. Unfortunately this often results in losing some of the energy, making the signal dimmer. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have devised a way around this though, keeping the energy loss to a minimum. Previously the signal arriving a nanosecond sooner required a 20% drop in intensity, the team has detected the light 211.3 nanoseconds ahead of when it should be with the same 20% drop. How the phenomenon works is by shifting a peak in the light’s signal shift forward along the beam already traveling at c. Of course it is more complicated than that as the peak will be detected at a second sensor on its path, before the first sensor sees it.
Relativity is not going to be fouled by this experiment though, as the information from the signal will still be under the speed limit, but the technique the researchers created may still be used to speed up telecommunication by a small amount. For the average consumer the difference of a few nanoseconds will, most likely, go unnoticed, but in the high-speed world of stock exchanges this may be a benefit.