General Question

chucklmiller's avatar

Does anything move faster than light?

Asked by chucklmiller (391points) February 2nd, 2010

I know great distances are measured in “light years”, but is there anything that travels faster than light?

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72 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Throw a Twinkie on the ground and you’ll see me do that ;)

janbb's avatar

Light’s older brother?

The_Idler's avatar

Tachyons. Maybe.

eponymoushipster's avatar

a fat chick when there’s free pie.

erichw1504's avatar

Superman, of course. Duh!

chucklmiller's avatar

You guys with funny answers should try this…you’ll be right at home:

Glow's avatar

It’s not for certain, we don’t know yet about those kinds of things…

but I don’t doubt it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is something faster.

bluemukaki's avatar

Seriously though, I don’t think there’s a consensus on this, but there’s a pretty good wikipedia article about the theories in place about faster-than-light travel.

ucme's avatar

Usain Bolt with a stick of dynamite up his arse?

Your_Majesty's avatar

Mind (but unmeasurable).

Pseudonym's avatar

Chuck Norris

CMaz's avatar

I really don’t care, as long as you SHUT THE LIGHT OFF!

erichw1504's avatar

@Pseudonym has the correct answer. Question closed.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Steven Wright always wondered if you are driving your car at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, what happens?

erichw1504's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Nothing, no light will project in front of your car since you are going the same speed as it.

HTDC's avatar

@erichw1504 “no light will project”...but will the light actually come on at all?

erichw1504's avatar

@HTDC Good point. I don’t think you’d be able to see any light.

HTDC's avatar

I’m gonna be thinking about this all day now…

dpworkin's avatar

No, relatively speaking.

Staalesen's avatar


ragingloli's avatar

I heard once that magnetic fields expand at speeds greater than c. But that is probably wrong.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Yes if I take a right turn and no if I take a left turn out of the driveway??

ragingloli's avatar

But then there is this

wundayatta's avatar

Any one of a number of Starships can go faster than light using hyperdrive.

erichw1504's avatar

@Tropical_Willie Is that the same as taking the red pill or taking the blue pill?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

That is it, R U the queen of hearts?

erichw1504's avatar

@Tropical_Willie Nope, there is no erichw1504.

ragingloli's avatar

None of these ships would be exceeding the speed of light though. They would take a shortcut via a fictional extradimensional extension of normal space, either called hyperspace, subspace or what have you. Warp drive for example as the name implies, warps space in front and behind the ship, essentially making the way shorter. Transwarp drive, as well as quantum slipstream drive, create a tunnel through subspace, thus taking a shortcut.

Tropical_Willie's avatar


Maybe Cheshire Cat…...

wundayatta's avatar

@ragingloli Trust you to bring semantical small talk into what was otherwise a perfectly ridiculous question.

I made my comment and I’m not changing it! Not one bit! Ok. Maybe a little. Oh all right, you win. Bwaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh.

Rarebear's avatar

Actually, the universe itself is expanding faster than the speed of light. It’s just that information within the universe can only be transmitted at a maximum speed of the speed of light. There was a good Astronomy Cast episode on this awhile back. I’ll find it for you if you like, but it’ll take a little digging.

gasman's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe No, light from your headlights will still be measured at exactly c (assuming you’re driving near but not at the speed of light). This was covered nicely by Cecil Adams / Straight Dope .

@ragingloli No—Magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields all propagate at c.

@The_Idler Tachyons are hypothetical particles that travel faster than c. In fact, as they gain energy they slow down, approaching c from above. Their existence is doubtful, however, as they must remain consistent with relativity.

talljasperman's avatar

lint…you take your clothes out of the dryer then lint appears….(spaceballs the movie)

also plad

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

Light can be slowed down enough in various media that some particles can overtake it in that same medium, hence Cherenkov radiation that makes “swimming pool” reactors glow blue.

No normal matter can reach or exceed the speed of light in vacuum.

Massless particles travel at light speed.

Special relativity admits faster-than-light solutions for particles with imaginary (as in multiples of sqrt(-1)) rest mass. These particles must be created traveling faster-than-light and can never slow down to equal light speed as @gasman mentions. These are called tachyons. AFAIK none have been conclusively observed.

Space itself can expand faster-than-light. This likely happened during the early stages of inflation after the Big Bang.

LuckyGuy's avatar

It is possible to have the intersection of two wave fronts move faster than light. Imagine two waves moving in toward the shore from slightly different points in the ocean. They are moving at one speed but the point where they both intersect can move very quickly in the direction perpendicular to their movement. Nothing physically is moving just the intersection point.

Rarebear's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop In response to your first comment: “Light can be slowed down enough in various media that some particles can overtake it in that same medium, hence Cherenkov radiation that makes “swimming pool” reactors glow blue.”

I knew about Cherenkov radiation. I didn’t know that other particles could overtake them. I also read about a theoretical experiement (not performed yet AFAIK) where light could be slowed almost to a snails pace in certain Bose-Einstein condensates.

HGl3ee's avatar

My brain just made a sizzle and pop noise.. oh crap O.O

Scooby's avatar

Faster-than-light communication is, by Einstein’s theory of relativity, equivalent to time travel. According to Einstein’s theory of special relativity, what we measure as the speed of light in a vacuum is actually the fundamental physical constant c. This means that all observers, regardless of their relative velocity, will always measure zero-mass particles such as photons traveling at c in a vacuum. This result means that measurements of time and velocity in different frames are no longer related simply by constant shifts, but are instead related by Poincaré transformations. These transformations have important implications:
The relativistic momentum of a massive particle would increase with speed in such a way that at the speed of light an object would have infinite momentum.
To accelerate an object of non-zero rest mass to c would require infinite time with any finite acceleration, or infinite acceleration for a finite amount of time.
Either way, such acceleration requires infinite energy. Going beyond the speed of light in a homogeneous space would hence require more than infinite energy, which is not generally considered to be a sensible notion.
Some observers with sub-light relative motion will disagree about which occurs first of any two events that are separated by a space-like interval.[5] In other words, any travel that is faster-than-light will be seen as traveling backwards in time in some other, equally valid, frames of reference, or need to assume the speculative hypothesis of possible Lorentz violations at a presently unobserved scale (for instance the Planck scale). Therefore any theory which permits “true” FTL also has to cope with time travel and all its associated paradoxes,[6] or else to assume the Lorentz invariance to be a symmetry of thermodynamical statistical nature (hence a symmetry broken at some presently unobserved scale).
While Special and general relativity do not allow superluminal speeds locally, non-local means may be possible, which means moving with space rather than moving through space.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@Scooby That is a nice quote. Would you provide the citation please?
I would like to read more of this.

lloydbird's avatar

Greased light.
Travelling downhill.

HungryGuy's avatar

Some physicists are asking if gravity moves faster than light. There have been computer simulations on the orbit of the earth around the sun that suggest that if gravity travels at the speed of light, the attraction of the earth to the sun would be behind by a few arc seconds, and its orbit would be unstable.

Bugabear's avatar

Quantumly entangled particles. But the information being sent back is completely random.

DrMC's avatar

theoretically with worm hole travel, or alternatively space-time continuum warpage – nice coverage recent science network I think. See warp drive, Michio Kaku on Science channel

“Warp 7 Hulu”

“aye aye captian”

flo's avatar

No, not yet anyway.

Xilas's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe you would become a point of light yourself

Barbs's avatar

Who knows what we will discover in the future and whether we even have the capacity to work out what is possible in the future. At the moment if something does travel faster than light we wont be able to see it so there in lies the problem.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, spacetime. And the effect is accelerating due to dark energy.

ragingloli's avatar

I think it is dark matter that accounts for most of the Universe’s mass and Zero Point Energy that is responsible for the accelerating expansion.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

It would have to produce light. The energy flowing thru the wires would have to result in some kind of response, it wouldn’t disappear. Then if light was produced from a structure moving at the speed of light the light would have to follow the rules of physics. Wouldn’t it have to move at twice the speed of light?

ucme's avatar

Rosie O’ Donnell running toward Dunkin’ Donuts at breakfast time.

ragingloli's avatar

“Then if light was produced from a structure moving at the speed of light the light would have to follow the rules of physics. Wouldn’t it have to move at twice the speed of light?”
No, because of time dilation caused by the light emitter moving at c, time on the moving object would essentially be frozen, which means that the light would not be moving at all, and in relation to the observer would still be moving at c, not 2c

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Ah, good answer. I forgot about the time element. Would the energy that produced the light would have to go somewhere or would it reult in a change in mass? or time?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

The other thing that would move this fast is the number of women fleeing from us for seriously considering this.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ragingloli – There’s always a little bit of confusion about terminology. Maybe this article helps:

‘People talk a lot about “vacuum energy” or “zero-point energy” – that is, the energy density of empty space. In cosmology, people also call this quantity the “cosmological constant”, or “dark energy”.’

The following picture gives an overview of the composition. The majority is dark energy:

Rarebear's avatar

@ragingloli Almost. If you’re travelling at 99.9 % c and you shoot a flashlight out in front of you, it appears that the flashlight is moving away from you at normal speed.

bea2345's avatar

I have just finished reading Hawking, A brief history of time and it seems to me that a great, a very great, amount of deduction comes from a tiny amount of fact. This is not to knock Professor Hawking, what do I know? But how do we actually know that there is nothing faster than the speed of light?

Rarebear's avatar

@ragingoli I just reread my answer above. I didn’t mean to write “flashlight” the second time, but “light.”

HungryGuy's avatar

“Instantaneous Action at a Distance in Modern Physics: Pro and Contra” by Andrew Chubyklo, Viv Pope, and Roman Smirnov-Rueda.

Petelad's avatar


Jabe73's avatar

Anything perhaps being sucked into a black hole would have to travel at least at the speed of light since you would need to move faster than light speed to escape beyond the event horizon gravitational pull. Not a stupid question.

There is a way you can get from point A to point B faster than the speed of light without actually moving as fast as light. If earth was point A and the sun was point B and they are about 93 million miles apart than it would take light from the sun 8 light minutes to reach the earth, however, though this seems unlikley but it is possible, that if there was a large disc between the earth and sun close to 93 million miles in diameter driven by a force of some kind to rotate at even just 1 RPM, i’m not 100% sure on this one but circumference of a circle is a little over 3 times equal to its diameter so at half the rotation of the disc it would take to get there at 1 RPM it would take that point on the giant disc only about half a minute to get from the earth to sun without actually moving anywhere near the speed of light relatively. I guess it would be like comparing the speed of an ant and the speed of a person walking even if in relative speed you would be actually not moving as fast as the ant you would still get from point A to B faster because of relative speed combined with the actual amount of space each object would cover at one time.

I’m not a scientist, i’m a mechanic and electrician but i know a little about physics from my line of work. Maybe even dark energy, or anti-gravity matter but no direct force exists that’s been proven to move faster than light.

HungryGuy's avatar

@Jabe73 _ Ah, Interesting thought experiment. Alas, due to that infernal E=MC^2, it would take an infinite amount of energy to spin up that disk so that the perimiter would have a velocity of C. But I gave you a GA for thinking!

chubbychu's avatar

Thought it faster than light. In a split second, I can think about being in Hawaii, thereby getting there faster than light can. Sham-POW! :)

King_Pariah's avatar

Albert Einstein would say no, modern quantum physicists would possibly say yes due to quantum tunnelling.

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