Feeds

US gov boffins achieve speeds FASTER THAN LIGHT

'Loophole' found in Special Theory of Relativity

High performance access to file storage

Scientists working in a US government laboratory say they have managed to transmit a signal from point to point faster than the speed of light in a vacuum - in a development apparently violating the laws of physics.

According to a statement issued by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST):

According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, light traveling in a vacuum is the universal speed limit. No information can travel faster than light.

But there's kind of a loophole ...

Sadly this isn't the sort of loophole which seems likely to lead to hyperdrive starships or interstellar portal technology or anything like that. But it does, in effect, let information go faster than light. In a way.

This is achieved by taking an ordinary pulse of light and changing its shape so that the peak of the pulse moves quickly from the back towards the front. As the entire pulse is already travelling at very close to speed-of-light-inna-vacuum, the peak is now travelling faster than light.

Apparently so much was already old hat, but the processes used thus far produce a very noisy signal and the increase in apparent speed is not really very big. But now a new and potentially usable refinement known as "four wave mixing" has been developed. The NIST boffins describe their new process like this:

In four-wave mixing, researchers send 200-nanosecond-long "seed" pulses of laser light into a heated cell containing atomic rubidium vapor along with a separate "pump" beam at a different frequency from the seed pulses. The vapor amplifies the seed pulse and shifts its peak forward so that it becomes superluminal. At the same time, photons from the inserted beams interact with the vapor to generate a second pulse, called the "conjugate" because of its mathematical relationship to the seed. Its peak, too, can travel faster or slower depending on how the laser is tuned and the conditions inside the laser.

In the latest experiments, the NIST scientists say, they made a pulse-peak travel from point to point and it showed signatures "corresponding to" a situation where the peak covered the distance some 50 nanoseconds sooner than light travelling through vacuum would have done.

Actually using this method to transmit normal humdrum information faster than light would still violate the laws of physics. However it seems that it might be possible to use four-wave superluminal signals to transmit quantum information, made up of qubits whose value is not simply 0 or 1 but potentially any value from 0 to 1.

"By performing measurements of quantum discord between fast beams and reference beams, the group hopes to determine how useful this fast light could be for the transmission and processing of quantum information," the NIST announcement says.

Those with the boffinry puissance to understand the science (and the relevant subscription) can read all about it here, in the journal Physical Review Letters. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.