Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Build Time Machine

Faster Than Light--Japanese Edition
The hottest news in physics this fall was the alleged discovery at CERN that neutrinos travel slightly faster than light. Most physicists believe this measurement is the result of some as yet undiscovered systematic error but already a handful of theoretical physicists are claiming that they have a new theory which can explain these spectacular results.

A few years ago I published a book Faster Than Light: Superluminal Loopholes in Physics that explored possibilities for exceeding Einstein's well-known universal speed limit. Note for the record: I did not anticipate superluminal neutrinos. But in that book I do make the claim that if superluminal particles exist, then it would be possible to build a time machine--that is, a device that sends signals from the future into the past, allowing us to "know the future" before it actually happens. Somewhere in that book I may have actually posted a design for such a device. Why else would the Japanese edition of this book (pictured above) be called How to Build Time Machine?

Can one actually build a time machine using superluminal particles?  Suppose such a device works by sending signals back and forth from the Moon. Both on Moon and Earth you have access to spinning disks whose edges travel at 1/2 light speed. Mounted on these disks are sender/receivers of superluminal particles that travel at twice the speed of light. For ease of calculation assume that the Earth-Moon distance is 2 light seconds.

1. How would you construct a time machine (TM) using these ingredients?

2. How far into the future would your TM reach?

3. Could such TMs be cascaded to extend their range indefinitely?

Send solutions to I will publish the most interesting Time Machine proposal on this blog and award the winner a copy of Physics on All Fours.

Warning: You may have to invent some slightly new physics to solve this problem. For instance, how does the velocity addition rule work for FTL particles? And how does one correctly interpret the
space-dependent clock shift in the Lorentz Transformations?

Gentlemen (and Ladies), start your (faster than light) engines.

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