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'We have broken speed of light'
August 16, 2007 12:51 PM   Subscribe

"We have broken speed of light." So say Dr. Gunter Nimtz and Dr. Alfons Stahlhofen of the University of Koblenz, in this article from New Scientist. Dr. Nimtz's work has been cited on MeFi before.
posted by hermitosis (54 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
See, that's why we can't have nice things.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2007 [14 favorites]


I'm not really sure that these scientists are saying what they've been quoted as saying.

It sounds to me (and IANAPhysicist) that they're talking about teleporting quantum states which, to our eyes, seems faster than the speed of light, but really isn't for all practical purposes.
posted by Avenger at 1:05 PM on August 16, 2007


Ah... New Scientist. I've never quite looked at them the same way since that hyperdrive bullcrap they published.

Weirdly this isn't actually on their site. And it looks like one of their news pieces anyweya, which are a different thing fromtheir feature articles, and tend to be fairly straight relayings of press releases.

To be fair, my laymans reading of the article seems to indicate that it's some spooky but inconsequential quantum hand waving reather than a shattering of Einsteinian causality.
posted by Artw at 1:05 PM on August 16, 2007


changes everything. This
posted by tommasz at 1:10 PM on August 16, 2007 [25 favorites]


The article is on their site, you just can't read it all unless you subscribe, so I just posted a link to the text instead.
posted by hermitosis at 1:14 PM on August 16, 2007


We have NOT broken the speed of light (from reddit)

Nothing new here.
posted by ShooBoo at 1:15 PM on August 16, 2007


I'll believe it when I see it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:17 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


My faith in science journalism continues to decline...
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on August 16, 2007


Well, ShooBoo, that blogger doesn't seem TOO unconvinced:

"But it's so hard to say what's going on based on these news reports, they don't include reference information and I can't see it here anyway, so I can't check any actual paper for an idea of what's going on.

In any case, I still stand by my original assessment that this isn't revolutionary, but as always, I could be wrong."
posted by hermitosis at 1:20 PM on August 16, 2007


Can you imagine how much the ticket is going to cost?
posted by IronLizard at 1:27 PM on August 16, 2007


BAH! Zefram Cochrane won't even be born for another 25 years!
posted by briank at 1:29 PM on August 16, 2007


Prior hyperdrive nonsense aside, the article they have (in print, at least) looks much better. Aside from the hyperbolic headline, they make sure to state that no laws of physics have been broken. There's even a layman's explanation of the effect, using a very lucid analogy(or, to use the technical term, lie)*. No harm done here.

*Imagine a train engine pulling many carriages at constant speed for hundreds of miles, losing carriages as it goes until only the engine arrives at the final destination. The front of the train goes at the given speed, but the midpoint moves faster - this does not imply that any actual physical entity broke the track's speed limit.
posted by topynate at 1:40 PM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well, ShooBoo, that blogger doesn't seem TOO unconvinced:

So, you're saying one should always believe breathless Science bylines unless someone can point out contradictory evidence?

That blogger is just being cautious with his statements, like any true scientist would be. But on the whole, he's right.

I could spend time writing up why but then this was an FPP linking to a New Scientist article. The actual paper is on arxiv.org and there are quite a few intelligent blog entries already written explaining why this is misleading. If you couldn't be bothered then why should you expect anyone here to take the time to deconstruct this fluff?
posted by vacapinta at 1:47 PM on August 16, 2007


changes everything. This

That would explain why Yoda talks that way, I suppose.
posted by The World Famous at 1:50 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Mmmmm.... superluminal.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2007


That would Explain why Yoda talks that way that would , suppose I. I suppose

For you, fixed that I did.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


We must send them into the past, to save Nationwide.
posted by Flashman at 2:00 PM on August 16, 2007


Do you people have to be so negative about everything? This is exactly the kind of talk that emboldens the photons.
posted by PlusDistance at 2:12 PM on August 16, 2007 [6 favorites]


banhammer new scientist. it completely blows.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:12 PM on August 16, 2007


I read all of the above posts yesterday.

I'm just sayin'...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:28 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


All you naysayers will start believing when you realize that the experiment takes place two months from now.
posted by geoff. at 2:29 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let me try and understand this. Correct me: (If you don't know your quantum physics please don't attempt to learn any from this. It's probably all wrong.)

Basically, they're saying that the quantum tunneling process for photons is instantaneous, or at least that at time t the photon's probability leaves it on this side of the prisms and at time t + x it has tunneled to the other side, and x is less than the speed of light time. (For our purposes, the whole lab is located in deep deep space so we don't have to worry about anything interfering, unless your disproof shows that it requires the existence of an impossibly ideal vacuum or something like that.)

Can the process carry information (at least on-off keying)? To understand why this is impossible, do I need to learn the wave side (phase velocity crap?) of the wave-particle duality that I hate for hurting my brain instead of nice intuitive particles with probabilities?

It seems to me that at some time, the photon's probability function is centered around the left side of the prism. At some very short time later, thanks to the tunneling, it's centered around the right side of the prism. The photon was here, now it's there, with as much macro-world reality as the electrons in semiconductors.

Please tell me how the universe wins and screws us again.

I tried to read the Wikipedia article on quantum tunneling for help and the only mention of speed was this. I tried Google, and they've gotten too fast, everything is this.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2007


The University of Koblenz, how cute! I didn't even know they had anybody doing research in physics over there. Most of their students are majoring as elementary school teachers, all the other areas are mostly some kind of an add-on to keep the official status as a full university.

Even people from the other three (rather insignificant)universities in Rhineland-Palatinate (one of the less important states of western Germany) use to make fun of them.

But of course, all of that stuff might still be sound research and well done scientific journalism; who am I to judge or even care.
posted by erdferkel at 2:31 PM on August 16, 2007


Yeah, this is "superluminal loophole" type stuff, ie, it looks like FTL speed but no information can be sent. Until a faster than light communication is created, it is essentially illusory.
That link to the previous MeFi thread is from 7 years ago, saying basically the exact same thing. If there were still a question whether this were a meaningful development, I think that's your answer.
posted by mdn at 2:37 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


The actual paper is on arxiv.org and there are quite a few intelligent blog entries already written explaining why this is misleading.

Linksplskthx I haven't found anything yet that goes beyond explaining what quantum tunneling is and how "ZOMG it's used in our everyday computers!" I'm at least beyond that. The one article says it doesn't violate speed of light because it's not actually moving, but I feel like I don't give a shit if it moves or not as long as it was here and it's now there, it happened really fast, and I can make an ansible out of it. Even a really slow ansible. There's a cool series of stories where eventually millions-of-year old robots get intergalactic ansibles at about 1 bit per day using really low wavelength photons or some crap like that, but since they live millions of years it's more like "Wow this 56k sucks" than a huge hassle. Even at human scale, you could get out an ASCII message to the Andromeda colonies: "ZOMG THE ALIENS WILL BE HERE IN 100 MILLION YEARS PLEASE HOPE ME"
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:44 PM on August 16, 2007


boy, that's a bold claim to make in the title of your paper without any support at all in the body. this is why peer review is good.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:03 PM on August 16, 2007


It's funny. Right when they did that, a mushroom the size of a jackalope appeared in my cereal bowl and asked for some soup.
posted by disclaimer at 3:05 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I hope they fix it soon. I can't see a thing in here.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


why is no one else noticing missing 'the'?
has it already begun?
posted by arialblack at 3:13 PM on August 16, 2007


Ow! My eye!
posted by bwg at 3:14 PM on August 16, 2007


Didn't you guys know there's all these different kindsa dimensions and that THE SUN IS MADE OUT OF SALTWATER! and you gotta make up words when talking quantum and that eyes are conduits of electricity between people when they talk and the chick next door is hot and...
posted by ZachsMind at 3:23 PM on August 16, 2007


Meh. Tachyons1 move faster than light and go backwards in time.

Beat that, bitches!

1: Theoretically, natch.
posted by quin at 3:26 PM on August 16, 2007


Just because Dr. Gunter Nimtz and Dr. Alfons Stahlhofen observed something then immediately drew the wrong conclusion doesn't mean they broke the speed of light in my opinion.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 3:35 PM on August 16, 2007


BAH! Zefram Cochrane won't even be born for another 25 years!

Unless he gets here before he left, hello!
posted by nax at 3:49 PM on August 16, 2007


Yet another reason not to respect New Scientist.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:15 PM on August 16, 2007


I just broke the speed of wind.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:28 PM on August 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


You break it, you buy it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Has anybody discovered how to stop crap pop science articles turned crap memes born on digg/reddit/etc. from making it to the blue yet?
posted by drpynchon at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2007


Phase, Group, and Signal Velocity.
posted by snarfodox at 5:01 PM on August 16, 2007




Break speed of dark, and I’ll be impressed.
I think though someone named Stahlhofen from the University of Koblenz would make a mean knockwurst.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:25 PM on August 16, 2007


Wow. I had no idea Zefram Cochrane had a mirror counterpart.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:45 PM on August 16, 2007


"You can escape velocity but not the need for veracity." - Dr Hal Robins.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:02 PM on August 16, 2007


I always used to wonder (prepare for snarkfest, because I know how stupid this sounds) how they even measured the speed of light?

Yeah, I know, this is a science and I'm a girl.
posted by misha at 7:22 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Observations and calculations were being made as far back as the 17th century, misha.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:35 PM on August 16, 2007


misha! Tape your fingers together; whats with the science & girl = duhh. schtick?!
posted by porpoise at 8:27 PM on August 16, 2007


Has anyone made a joke about Zefram Cochrane yet?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:39 PM on August 16, 2007


Misha: "Yeah, I know, this is a science and I'm a girl."

"She blinded me with science!" - Thomas Dolby
posted by ZachsMind at 8:48 PM on August 16, 2007


Nice ultimate drift tie in. Best part of the thread.
posted by Area Control at 11:42 PM on August 16, 2007


Hey erdferkel, what's up with your attitude of Rheinland-Pfalz? Did a Westerwalder piss in your beer or something?
posted by moonbiter at 11:49 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


The BBC did an in-depth report in it this morning on the Today programme. It went something like this:

Presenter: So, you've broken the speed of light? That's impossible isn't it?

Mad scientist: Yes, but we have done it. And it has been repeated.

Presenter: Fascinating. Here's the weather.
posted by vbfg at 1:04 AM on August 17, 2007


There once was a lady named Bright
Who could travel much faster than light
She left town one day
In a relative way
and returned on the previous night
posted by lazaruslong at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is science and I'm a girl=SNL reference, old Mr. Wizard skit. Sorry I'm showing my age so blatantly.
posted by misha at 12:25 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, and thanks, stavros, that's a great link.
posted by misha at 12:27 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


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