A new physics-defying theory describes the effects of faster-than-light travel

Extended special relativity describes how the universe would look if you broke the speed of light.
Chris Young
Black hole concept with deep universe galaxy
Black hole concept with deep universe galaxy

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Scientists from the University of Warsaw in Poland and the National University of Singapore are pushing the limits of relativity with a new theory called the "extension of special relativity," a report from Science Alert reveals.

The new theory combines three time dimensions with a single space dimension ("1+3 space-time"), providing an alternative, mind-bending scenario to the three spatial dimensions and one time dimension we all know.

The scientists' new study suggests that objects may be able to go faster than the speed of light without completely shattering our current laws of physics.

Ultimately, it describes how observations made by "superluminal" observers — observers traveling faster than the speed of light — may appear.

Extended special relativity

The new study, published in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, builds on previous work on these theoretical superluminal observers by some researchers on the project.

In their new work, they posited that superluminal perspectives could help to link quantum mechanics with Einstein's special theory of relativity for a unified theory of quantum gravity. "There is no fundamental reason why observers moving in relation to the described physical systems with speeds greater than the speed of light should not be subject to it," explained physicist Andrzej Dragan from the University of Warsaw in Poland.

The research team's new model describes superluminal objects as resembling a particle that expands like a bubble through space, allowing it to 'experience' several different timelines in the process.

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"Even so, the speed of light in a vacuum would remain constant even for those observers going faster than it," the Science Alert report explains, "which preserves one of Einstein's fundamental principles – a principle that has previously only been thought about in relation to observers going slower than the speed of light (like all of us)."

Importantly, the scientists argue that superluminal objects require descriptions within the field theory framework, meaning their extended special relativity should be logically consistent with past models. "This new definition preserves Einstein's postulate of constancy of the speed of light in vacuum even for superluminal observers," Dragan said. "Therefore, our extended special relativity does not seem like a particularly extravagant idea."

A 'feat worthy of the Nobel Prize'

The researchers aim to carry out more work to better understand the implications of their 1+3 space-time model. However, their initial analysis suggests that the particles of the Universe could all have incredible properties under the rules of extended special relativity.

"The mere experimental discovery of a new fundamental particle is a feat worthy of the Nobel Prize and feasible in a large research team using the latest experimental techniques," explained physicist Krzysztof Turzyński, from the University of Warsaw.

"However, we hope to apply our results to a better understanding of the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking associated with the mass of the Higgs particle and other particles in the Standard Model, especially in the early Universe."

Study abstract:

We develop an extension of special relativity in 1+3 dimensional spacetime to account for superluminal inertial observers and show that such an extension rules out the conventional dynamics of mechanical point-like particles and forces one to use a field-theoretic framework. Therefore we show that field theory can be viewed as a direct consequence of extended special relativity.