Jul 21, 2011
Prior to the day in 1947 when test pilot Charles E. Chuck Yeager
broke the sound barrier for the first time, people argued it wasnít
possible for a plane to fly that fast.
So, perhaps we shouldnít be
deterred by the part of Einsteinís special theory of relativity that
seemingly bars traveling at speeds faster than light.
That said, cracking the light-speed barrier is vastly more
complicated than going faster than sound. The aircraft that Yeager
used to break Mach 1, for example, didnít have to change form. But
according to Einstein, an object that attains light speed would be
converted to energy itself.
Nevertheless, as some physicists point out, there are nuances of
Einsteinian physics that might permit faster-than-light travel.
While an object canít exceed the speed of light in space-time,
space-time itself can be warped and distorted, as if it were a
stretched-out bed sheet.
If a spaceship could harness something really powerful - like a
bunch of super-dense matter from a neutron star - it might be
possible to warp space-time enough to briefly pull two distant
points together, the way that the edges of the bed sheet would come
together if you dropped a heavy weight in the middle.
Such warps in space-time - which are
wormholes - in theory may occur naturally in some places,
and a spaceship might be able to exploit them to travel enormous
distances extremely quickly.