Thursday, August 16, 2007

Special Relativity Has Been Violated

Einstein's special relativity theory states that there must be an infinite amount of energy to move something at a speed in excess of 186,000 miles per second. Two german scientists say they have shown this to be false.

Dr Gunter Nimtz and Dr Alfons Stahlhofen from the University of Koblenz were looking into a phenomenon called quantum tunnelling. This phenomenon allows for the breaking of seemingly unbreakable laws. During their research they conducted an experiment involving microwave photons which are energetic packets of light and they travelled "instantaneously" between a pair of prisms that had been moved 3 feet from one another.

To overcome such a barrier as the speed of light would mean that theoretically one would be able to arrive at a destination before one ever left the starting point.

You can read more here.
You can read about the breaking of the speed of light back in 2000 here.


B Nettles said...

Not so fast, grasshopper! Seems that Nimtz has been doing things like this for quite a while according to Robert Helling. What I gleaned from it is that Nimtz is measuring a quantity called the phase velocity, which is allowed to moved faster than light since no matter is really moving that fast. The speed of the matter is properly measure by the group velocity, which Nimtz didn't measure.

j razz said...

Explain old wise sage. The report is stating that the photon is moving faster than light (although that is a bit odd to me as the photon is a "packet of light" and it is traveling faster than itself) not the velocity of the phase of the wave right? Am I missing something?

j razz

B Nettles said...

First, it's a newspaper article and there are no comments from other scientists. Second, it's not a report of a paper presented at a meeting or published in a refereed journal. The reporter mentioned microwave photons probably because that's a term that Nimtz mentioned, but that doesn't mean that the experiment was set up to measure photons. All electromagnetic energy can be measured in either a photon manner or a wave manner. If you're doing single photon measurements (here is photon A now, wait a bit, there's photon A), that's a lot different from what Nimtz is doing. He's doing wave-type measurements, which means he has to account for phase velocity effects (which is a shifting of the phase of the wave, not the actual propagation of the wave), and he doesn't report what type of measurements he's doing. The 2000 article that you linked has some skeptical comments, too.

And if he's detecting quantum tunneling through 3 feet, I'll wait until the article is published in a journal before I bite.

Basically, Nimtz is like all the perpetual motion machine guys: he's obsessed with the idea and keeps interpreting the data incorrectly.

When Physics Today publishes it, I'll pay attention.

j razz said...

You call that explaining? :)

I was expecting something I could understand... really though, thanks for your comments b nettles. I appreciate the time you took to explain it. Now, after I go and look up what some of the differentiations are between what you are saying and what he is saying, I might have some more to comment on this. Thanks again.

j razz

B Nettles said...

J razz, you haven't given me much to work with here. It's just a newspaper article, and Nimtz doesn't publish any data, just his own interpretation of the experiments. In looking around this is what I've found: Basically, he starts a timer when at the peak of a wave packet, then stops the timer when he detects a peak at the next "location." When he does the timing without an obstruction, he measures a certain time interval which results in "c" for the speed. When he puts an very restrictive obstruction in the path, he gets a shorter time, hence he calculates a speed bigger than "c". The problem is that he's assuming that the peak is the proper measurement. He's interpreting the data incorrectly because he's getting the result he wants from his interpretation. Wave packets have two associated velocities, group and phase. The group velocity is the speed at which the packet travels, and this is the one that is restricted to "c". The phase velocity is the speed at which the peak of the packets shifts around in the packet, and can routinely be larger than "c." Obsturctions produce rather large phase shifts and so measuring peak to peak isn't always a cool thing to do. Is that better?

From what I've been able to glean, he's been trying to convince other European scientists of his work for several years and nobody agrees. Occasionally he repackages his work and gets some reporter or museum executive (probably not a scientist) to give him some space.