There is just too much news these days for me to
print anything else.
HUGE story, for those who haven't
Scientists break speed of light
Jonathan Leake, Science
SCIENTISTS claim they have broken the ultimate speed barrier: the
speed of light.
In research carried out in the United States, particle
physicists have shown that light pulses can be accelerated to up to 300 times
their normal velocity of 186,000 miles per second.
The implications, like the speed, are
mind-boggling. On one interpretation it means that light will arrive at
its destination almost before it has started its journey. In effect, it is
leaping forward in time.
Exact details of the findings remain
confidential because they have been submitted to Nature, the international
scientific journal, for review prior to possible publication.
The work was carried out by Dr Lijun Wang, of the
NEC research institute in Princeton, who transmitted a pulse of light towards a
chamber filled with specially treated caesium gas.
Before the pulse had fully entered the chamber it had gone
right through it and travelled a further 60ft across the laboratory. In
effect it existed in two places at once, a phenomenon that Wang explains by
saying it travelled 300 times faster than light.
The research is already
causing controversy among physicists. What bothers them is that if light
could travel forward in time it could carry information. This would breach
one of the basic principles in physics - causality, which says that a cause must
come before an effect. It would also shatter Einstein's theory of
relativity since it depends in part on the speed of light being
This weekend Wang said he could not give details
but confirmed: "Our light pulses did indeed travel faster than the accepted
speed of light. I hope it will give us a much better understanding of the
nature of light and how it behaves."
Dr. Raymond Chiao, professor of
physics at the University of California at Berkeley, who is familiar with Wang's
work, said he was impressed by the findings. "This is a fascinating experiment,"
In Italy, another group of physicists has also succeeded in
breaking the light speed barrier. In a newly published paper, physicists at the
Italian National Research Council described how they propagated microwaves at
25% above normal light speed. The group speculates that it could be
possible to transmit information faster than light.
Dr. Guenter Nimtz, of
Cologne University, an expert in the field, agrees. He believes that
information can be sent faster than light and last week gave a paper describing
how it could be done to a conference in Edinburgh. He believes,
however, that this will not breach the principle of causality because the time
taken to interpret the signal would fritter away all the savings.
most likely application for this is not in time travel but in speeding up the
way signals move through computer circuits," he said.
is the latest and possibly the most important evidence that the physical world
may not operate according to any of the accepted conventions.
In the new world that modern science is beginning
to perceive, sub-atomic particles can apparently exist in two places at the same
time - making no distinction between space and time.
carried out by Chiao illustrate this. He showed that in certain
circumstances photons - the particles of which light is made - could apparently
jump between two points separated by a barrier in what appears to be zero
time. The process, known as tunnelling, has been used to make some of the
most sensitive electron microscopes.
The implications of Wang's
experiments will arouse fierce debate. Many will question whether his work
can be interpreted as proving that light can exceed its normal speed -
suggesting that another mechanism may be at work.
Neil Turok, professor
of mathematical physics at Cambridge University, said he awaited the details
with interest, but added: "I doubt this will change our view of the fundamental
laws of physics."
Wang emphasises that his experiments are relevant only
to light and may not apply to other physical entities. But scientists are
beginning to accept that man may eventually exploit some of these
characteristics for inter-stellar space travel.
YET ANOTHER big story that you haven't
heard coming up tomorrow...
Since light travels faster than sound, isn't
that why people appear bright until you hear them