Maths overtakes the speed of light
2012-10-12 0:00

By Morgan Pettersson | Cosmos

New mathematical formulas have expanded Einstein’s theory of special relativity to allow for travel beyond the speed of light, potentially changing the way we view the Universe and judge distances.

Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity, published in 1905, interprets motion based on different frames of reference in space and time. The new mathematical formulas are based on the same principles, but – unlike Einstein – the mathematicians have allowed for a hypothetical infinite velocity.

“The new theories provide a framework in which we may discuss relative velocities in excess of the speed of light without resorting to the introduction of imaginary masses or complicated physics,” the researchers wrote in the paper, published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

“Essentially we have extended Einstein’s theory of special relativity beyond the speed of light,” added co-author James Hill, an applied mathematician at the University of Adelaide in South Australia.

Insight into dark energy, dark matter and black holes

The series of mathematical formulas in the new theory are yet to be tested, and Hill confessed that without physical testing it is difficult to state the implications of the results.

“We have identified a theory that is beyond the speed of light and maybe it will give an insight into issues like dark energy and dark matter and those topics,” said Hill.

“Essentially it sort of breaks the world up into two parts, we’ve got our Universe and then there is this place where everything is going faster than the speed of light and it could well be the key to understanding things like black holes and colliding galaxies.”

“An entirely new theory”

Theoretical physicist Craig Savage from the Australian National University in Canberra said the research is interesting, but suggested caution until the findings have been tested.

“The theory doesn’t say anything about the world as we know it. However, if the world it hypothesises exists, then it seems to me the theory predicts some strange results for hypothetical faster-than-light physicists,” he said.

Savage also said that this was the kind of research that mathematicians rather than physicists would conduct.

“It’s a technical issue, and we just started to think about how we would deal with this technical issue," Hill said. "I think the secret is to not look at it directly, but rather to come up with an entirely new theory."

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