Tuesday, May 29, 2007
It’s not Einstein’s cosmological constant blunder or fruitless pursuit of a theory of everything that is Einstein’s error.
It’s his relativity “proof” that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light; the idea that mass becomes infinite when one approaches the speed of light and thus makes travel over 186,000 miles per second (299,792,458 meters per second) impossible.
Of course Einstein allowed for perturbations in his theory but the light constant became an idée fixe that is in error.
Quantum particles can travel faster than light, as can “information,” but what about matter that is overt?
Depending upon one’s location in the Universe, one will find light traveling at varying speeds, and very likely faster than 186,000 miles per second.
Moreover, Einstein’s concept of warped space – the curvature imposed upon it by gravitational force – allows the possibility that a space traveler can go from Point A to Point B, following the curve of space faster than a space traveler going from Point A to Point B along a linear path, with time being equal in both instances (since time is not altered by the curvature or straight-line travel (in a vacuum).
Here are some papers (in PDF format) outlining various theses or speculations about faster than light parameters:
As you can see, Einstein’s concept has to be re-configured, just as Newton’s theories needed to be reconfigured by Einstein’s ruminations.
This is the way it is in physics (and science generally): the “facts” of an era will be changed, inexorably, by new discoveries that show up every time new tools (not new thoughts!) become available – such as the Hubble telescope or the WMAP and Planck satellites.
Einstein’s formulae helped create the atom bomb, but limited conjecture about space travel to the farthest galaxies; Einstein’s proscription about the light limit squelched any practical considerations about exploring the Universe, and even tamped down travel within our Solar System.
While we admire – even adulate – Einstein, he was, like the greats before him, in error, about the limit on faster than the speed of light travel.
(Also see Joao Magueijo’s book, Faster Than the Speed of Light, Arrow Publishing, 2004.)