top of page

Can Anything Travel Faster than the Speed of Light?

Einstein's second postulate has caused a great many misunderstandings and paradoxes over its century long lifespan. To say that the speed of light in vacuum is isotropic and constant in vacuum, and that nothing can ever surpass it, needs definite clarifications.

Even before learning relativity, every science major is introduced to the Doppler effect, named after Doppler who apparently discovered it in the mid nineteenth century standing on a platform and listening the the pitch of a train's whistle as it goes by. The pitch is higher when it comes toward the person on the platform and lower when it passes him. Doppler's formula says that the speed toward the person on the platform is c+v, the speed of light plus the train's speed v, and when it passes him, the speed is c-v. Relativity tells us to take the square-root of their ratio, whereas classically, it would be one or the other. The same rates are even used in analyzing the Michelson interferometer.

However, ballistic theory (the addition of the speed of the platform upon which light is being emitted) has been all but dead and buried since the famous debate that took place between Einstein and Ritz in 1909. Einstein had help from a friend, de Sitter, who observed the rotation of a binary star. The light emitted from the receding star would be slower than the advancing star as viewed on earth. According to ballistic theory (de Sitter, 1913), the difference in speeds would show up as deviations from Kepler's law, and the Doppler shifted spectral lines should be twice, or even triply, shifted. Since no such phenomena was observed, it was concluded that ballistic theory must be wrong.

Although the argument has been refuted by the neglect of considering the phenomenon of extinction, it, like many other arguments, have been conveniently swept under the carpet. Sure, the light emitted by a double star will remain constant with respect to the center of gravity of the pair, but they will stabilize into one speed as they pass through the gravitational fields of other stars as they make their way to a terrestrial spectroscope. In fact, they will lose all memory of their initial speeds even after on extinction length. Moreover, it must be assumed that light is not modified as it passes through the lens of a spectroscope, and is reflected back like a tennis ball against a wall with twice the speed of the moving mirror that is added to the speed at which the light ray hits the mirror.

This sounds just like how gravitational waves are analyzed in LIGO. The claim is that gravitational waves would lose all "memory" of what created them to begin with because after the million or so light years, they will have passed through other gravitational fields and have undergone extinction. No so say the LIGO team.

Gamma ray bursts are assumed to accompany gravitational wave bursts. But, unlike gravitational waves themselves, the gamma rays would be deflected by gravitational fields and would be scattered by intergalactic dust and cosmic ray particles they encounter along the way. So, say the LIGO team, the gamma rays would travel at a slightly slower speed than the gravitational wave burst "which would pass through space unimpeded."

However, this is an assumption without any physical justification. Since gravitational waves supposedly travel at the same speed as light, they would be susceptible to diffraction and aberration, just to name two phenomena. In fact, the general relativistic calculation of the luminosity of gravitational radiation predicts a Stefan's law of the absolute temperature raised to the 7th--yes 7th and not 4th--power as in blackbody radiation. It also shows that gravitational waves must undergo aberration if they are to radiate, and the radiation cavity is a non-integral power of the volume.

The gravitational wave signal GW170817 observed by LIGO was followed 1.7 sec later by Fermi Gamma Ray Telescope and INTEGRAL of its optical counterpart SS17a. We don't have to consider the 130 million light years but only 45000 light years to show that the gamma ray burst delay would be something light 44.6 hours, and not 1.7 sec. For the 44.6 hours would correspond to one part in 9 million so that if gravitational waves travel at the speed of light in vacuum, the gamma rays would travel 0.99999989c or 0.11 millionth slower. Thus to cover 130 million light years, the gamma ray bursts would need hours---not seconds after their companion gravitational waves have been observed.

Gravitational waves may have had superluminal speeds at the beginning and be longitudinal gravity potential wave pulses that could induce substantial tidal waves causing earthquakes and polar axis torquing effects. Nothing can be ruled out---except the fact that extinction would have wiped out all their memory of what caused them. The spectra used by LIGO to identify gravitational waves is, therefore, completely worthless.

Returning to the initial argument of the blog, nothing can be said about the one-way speed of light. To this, the police measuring speeding cars should take a sigh of relief. It is only the two-way speed of light that is constrained to be c, according to all measurements made so far. And this is implicit in all the phenomena that adds speeds like the Michelson interferometer where the speed in the direction of the ether wind is c+v and against the ether wind is c-v, just like the Doppler effect.

Even more can be said. Ives and Stilwell are commonly accredited with confirming special relativity when they averaged the speeds of hydrogen atoms in the forward and backward directions. They had the effect of cancellation of first-order terms in the relative velocity, while leaving second-order terms which they showed to be proportional to the change in wavelength. Their conclusion was that the frequency, not the wavelength, undergoes a second-order Doppler shift implying time dilation--clocks move slower when in motion than when in a state of relative rest. But, the frequency shift was not measured, only the shift in wavelength. Implicit in their treatment was that c was constant. But, c is normally not constant when light passes through a medium of a different index of refraction. It is this refraction that exactly cancels the effect of motion which is the essence of the Fresnel drag coefficient.

If c is constant, however, frequency reduction would imply wavelength elongation, the opposite of what should happen to matter in motion, if the FitzGerald-Lorentz assumption of interferometer arm contraction in the direction of motion has anything to do with reality.

36 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

What Is Time in Spacetime?

It is well-known that the hyperbolic plane is "too big" to be embedded in Euclidean 3-space, but it is not "too big" to be embedded in Minkowski 3-space. Whereas the metric of the former is positive d


bottom of page