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German Physicists Claim Speed of Light Broken

ScuttleMonkey posted about 7 years ago | from the don't-believe-your-optics dept.

Science 429

Byzanthy writes "Two German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light by using 'microwave photons.' According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, it would require an infinite amount of energy to accelerate any object beyond the speed of light. However, Dr Gunter Nimtz and Dr Alfons Stahlhofen, of the University of Koblenz, say they did it by using a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling. The pair say they have conducted an experiment in which microwave photons — energetic packets of light — traveled 'instantaneously' between a pair of prisms that had been moved up to 3ft apart." New Scientist, however, is running an article that suggests Einstein can rest easy. Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of Toronto, explains that the German physicist's results aren't necessarily wrong, they are just being interpreted incorrectly.

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The headline leaves only one question (5, Funny)

DigitalReverend (901909) | about 7 years ago | (#20260025)

What are they going to do to fix it?

Re:The headline leaves only one question (0)

WED Fan (911325) | about 7 years ago | (#20260145)

They were ticketed and have a court date set for last year in the Eon Traffic Court for Eternity.

Re:The headline leaves only one question (4, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | about 7 years ago | (#20260317)

Since they are in front of Judge Schroedinger, they'll know whether or not they are guilty once their cell door is opened.

Re:The headline leaves only one question (4, Funny)

WED Fan (911325) | about 7 years ago | (#20260533)

Nice, even my cat liked that one. How do I know? Simple observation.

Re:The headline leaves only one question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260737)

But the cell door can be opened and closed simultaneously... does that mean they might and might not know that they might and might not be guilty?

Oh Irony, the anti-bot word was "Simply".

Re:The headline leaves only one question (1)

lordshipmayhem (1063660) | about 7 years ago | (#20260185)

You broke it, you bought it!! (I hope they had insurance!)

Re:The headline leaves only one question (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260811)

What are they going to do to fix it?
They're going to issue a patch next Tuesday.

Re:The headline leaves only one question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260873)

simple. they install light speed v2.0 on the next patch day

Oblig Futurama Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260963)

Why, increase the speed of light, of course!

186,000 miles per second (4, Funny)

gozar (39392) | about 7 years ago | (#20260041)

186,000 miles per second, it's not just a good idea, it's the law.

Re:186,000 miles per second (2, Insightful)

pkvon (899533) | about 7 years ago | (#20260091)

Laws are there to be broken :)

and the penalty for breaking this law? (5, Funny)

aapold (753705) | about 7 years ago | (#20260245)

You have to walk the plank.

Re:and the penalty for breaking this law? (1)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | about 7 years ago | (#20260771)

In the absence of -1 Really Bad Pun, please mod the parent +1 Funny.

Re:186,000 miles per second (-1, Troll)

Chris whatever (980992) | about 7 years ago | (#20260847)

If we can say that 186 000 milles per second is the speed of light, i dont see why they could not go at 186 001 milles per second, there is no limit to the speed something can travel at, it's just the limit of the light.

It's only a matter of time till they find something that can go much faster.

Re:186,000 miles per second (1)

somersault (912633) | about 7 years ago | (#20260929)


go read a physics book..

Just won't do... (5, Funny)

nbannerman (974715) | about 7 years ago | (#20260057)

How am I supposed to welcome our new microwave-photon overlords if they've already arrived?

Re:Just won't do... (5, Funny)

varmittang (849469) | about 7 years ago | (#20260231)

But they haven't left yet either....

Re:Just won't do... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260579)

in Soviet Russia...

microwave-photon overlords welcome you!

How quaint (3, Funny)

Verteiron (224042) | about 7 years ago | (#20260069)

Information on how to break the light barrier has been around for ages [] .

Re:How quaint (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260117)

I already did this tommorow.

Re:How quaint (1)

AchiIIe (974900) | about 7 years ago | (#20260375)

> Information on how to break the light barrier has been around for ages.

Well, It's been around slashdot too:

Speed Of Light Broken With Off Shelf Components
> 49.shtml []

Speed of Light Exceeded?
> 6/0210240 []

Another explanation from Ars (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260085)

Re:Another explanation from Ars (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260489)

Apparently, Chris Lee has read the current paper, but Prof. Nimtz isn't new to the field of faster then light transmission, he demonstrated this a few years ago with a mozart symphony in a barrier shaped like fig. a in this article on popular science [] . The results experiment have been confirmed by others, showing that the signal travels at about 4.7c in the narrow section of the barrier, if I am not mistaken. Chris Lee appears to have some understanding of the basics, but he tries to argue against the new paper with some handwaving and appealing to intuition, however both are quite useless in the field of quantum mechanics.

quantum spin (3, Interesting)

randuev (1032770) | about 7 years ago | (#20260087)

Doesn't quantum changing of spin happen faster than light would travel between two points? Does teleportation actually breaking speed of light? Otherwise why would it be called teleportation if it's just moving things (really) fast?

Re:quantum spin (2, Informative)

vigmeister (1112659) | about 7 years ago | (#20260207)

This is called the EPR paradox [] and IIRC it was forwarded by Einstein himself to demostrate the quantum physics yielded BS results. I don't think it is now considered a real paradox since information still cannot be transmitted faster than light.


Re:quantum spin (1)

pkvon (899533) | about 7 years ago | (#20260235)

With quantum teleportation you are still using a light beam to move the information from A to B. Thus its not instantaneous.

Re:quantum spin (4, Informative)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | about 7 years ago | (#20260417)

You're thinking of the EPR Paradox [] .

Simplified, when you have two entangled electrons and measure the spin along an axis of the first, the second one immediately takes on the opposite spin of the first.

But you don't know what spin you are going to get by measuring the electron; because it is made of two entangled wavefunctions it's pure chance which one is going to show up. Thus, you have no control over which spin the second electron has, and thus you can't transmit any information using this phenomena.

However, you DO know the spin of the second electron, a fact that can be used. For example, you can create potentially unbreakable ciphers using Quantum Cryptography [] .

Re:quantum spin (1)

kalirion (728907) | about 7 years ago | (#20260573)

But what happens when you have to entangled electron and you measure the position of the first? Then the position of the second is no longer uncertain. So if you have two streams of electrons, split off after passing through the ubiquitous double-slit, with each electron in one stream having an entangled body in another, then once you start measuring one of these, the second stream will no longer form an interference pattern. I think a few months ago there was a story about this kind of setup being made to test sending information FTL.

Re:quantum spin (1)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | about 7 years ago | (#20260807)

Well, in order for a characteristic to be entangled, there must be a superposition of the two wavefunctions. If you have a stream with position-entangled electron pairs AB, you can't make the A:s go to the left and the B:s to the right without losing entanglement, because then you have broken down the wavefunction, and defined the position of the A:s as "to the left" and the B:s as "to the right".

Wasn't it done with photons? (0)

holmedog (1130941) | about 7 years ago | (#20260105)

Wasn't it done with photons? I mean, who cares if you accelerate light, we've seen that before in gases.

Re:Wasn't it done with photons? (2, Informative)

tomz16 (992375) | about 7 years ago | (#20260331)

No it wasn't... (look up group vs phase velocity)

Great..... (5, Funny)

segedunum (883035) | about 7 years ago | (#20260129)

The time barrier's been broken, so where's that damn warp drive?

Wait a minute..... (0)

StressGuy (472374) | about 7 years ago | (#20260137)

Two German physicists claim to have broken the speed of light by using 'microwave photons.'

Microwave?...I mean, this is Slashdot, shouldn't that be a quantum-nano-buckyball sort of arrangement?

they did it by using a phenomenon known as quantum tunneling

Oh...OK, my bad, I was getting worried there for a minute.

Re:Wait a minute..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260821)

I always suspected that a warp engine could be created from my microwave.

*Grabs salt shaker* (5, Funny)

TyFighter (189732) | about 7 years ago | (#20260163)

I brought enough for everyone.

Wrong about microwave photons (1, Informative)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | about 7 years ago | (#20260177)

Oy vey, how likely the article is accurate if they get the basics wrong?

"Microwave photons" are neither "light", nor "energetic".

Photons with a frequency in the microwave region are thousands of times less energetic than the least energetic light photon. Basic Plank's equation, E = hv, you see.

And Einstein need not worry, his basic theory or Relativity covers the fuzzy concept of "simultaneity" and "instanteinity" quite thoroughly.

Re:Wrong about microwave photons (1)

nyctopterus (717502) | about 7 years ago | (#20260243)

If I were Einstein I'd be worried... about being dead!

Re:Wrong about microwave photons (2, Funny)

vigmeister (1112659) | about 7 years ago | (#20260319)

Since time travel is still an uncertain phenomenon, unless we scour the entire universe for Einstein, isn't he still in a state of both dead AND alive at the same time? Then again, Einstein was no cat.


Idiocy (3, Insightful)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | about 7 years ago | (#20260353)

Light is light, no matter the frequency. I think when you say "light", you're trying to refer to light in the visible part of the spectrum.

The summary does however call photons "energetic packets of light" when I think they're trying to say "packets of energy".

Re:Idiocy (2, Informative)

MrNaz (730548) | about 7 years ago | (#20260463)

Actually no. The word "light" is used to represent the subset of the electromagnetic spectrum that corresponds to EM radiation in the range that results in visible light. Scientifically, the word "light" has no definition, however most people use the word to refer to its vernacular reference to visible EM radiation. Now don't bother going on the net to find some site that defines it differently. I know you'll find one, but that's because the word's meaning is unduly broad and also because it is so commonly misdefined.

Re:Idiocy (1)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | about 7 years ago | (#20260543)

You yourself say that "light" can mean (1) visible EM radiation, and (2) EM radiation. Thus, saying microwave radiation is "light" is correct. Anyway, the speed limit is the same, so in this context it doesn't matter at all.

Re:Wrong about microwave photons (1)

StressGuy (472374) | about 7 years ago | (#20260395)

And Einstein need not worry, his basic theory or Relativity covers the fuzzy concept of "simultaneity" and "instanteinity" quite thoroughly

Not only that, but he's dead

Re:Wrong about microwave photons (5, Funny)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 7 years ago | (#20260547)

>Not only that, but [Einstein is] dead

Only if you're within 52 light years of him.

Re:Wrong about microwave photons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260541)

> Photons with a frequency in the microwave region are thousands of times less energetic than the least energetic light photon.

Oh yeah? Then how come my microwave oven cooks food so much faster than the light bulb in my EZ-Bake Oven(TM), smarty pants?

Re:Wrong about microwave photons (1)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | about 7 years ago | (#20260589)

Maybe by "energetic", they mean "containing energy"...

...which would also be rather dumb, because a photon containing no energy wouldn't be a photon (well, infinite wavelength... there must be some law of nature drawing a line there).

Every couple of years (5, Interesting)

abionnnn (758579) | about 7 years ago | (#20260199)

Guys come out confusing group velocity with the speed of light, from the very first equation I am beginning to suspect that it is the case. I have read the paper, and must question their conclusion as their setup is not entirely clear. This said, everybody loves surprises. Yes, IAAP.

Re:Every couple of years (5, Informative)

kebes (861706) | about 7 years ago | (#20260497)

Indeed. Now, I won't say with certainty that this present claim is wrong... but we've seen so many "speed of light broken!" reports over the years that I'm not going to get too excited. Typically, when people think they have seen a speed-of-light violation, they are actually reporting on one of two well-established phenomena:

1. Group velocity versus speed-of-light. Basically, relativity states that no individual photon can travel faster than c. However a collection of photons interfere to form a beam or a pulse with some kind of shape. You can arrange your experiment so that the envelope of the pulse travels at some velocity (faster than light, slower than light, etc.) but the individual photons are still always traveling at exactly c.

2. Quantum instantaneousness. Two particles can be put into a quantum entanglement, such that their states depend on one another, even though they have not 'picked' a particular state yet. You can separate the two particles (even by a huge distance), collapse one particle into a state and the other particle collapses instantaneously into the corresponding state. This instantaneous effect seems to violate the light-speed rule. However because the experimenter cannot control the state which is selected upon collapse, no "information" is actually transmitted from one location to the other.

Importantly, both 1. and 2. involve emergent effects that a human may characterize as "faster than light"--but no information, and no energy, was transmitted faster than light-speed. (And, to be clear, relativity states that energy and hence information cannot travel faster than light. Emergent phenomena can travel at arbitrary speed. In fact in relativity spacetime itself can, theoretically, expand faster than light, but you still can't send signals from one location of spacetime to another at greater than c.)

From the descriptions, it really does sound that these researchers are merely committing one of those two classic fallacies (or maybe a novel combination of the two?). Now, assuming that these researchers are not novices, I find it hard to believe that they would commit such classic mistakes. So in this case it might be a subtle point to prove that relativity is not disproved, but my assumption would be that they have made a mistake somewhere.

I don't mean to dismiss these results, and new science certainly comes from violations of established science. However relativity is so well-established at this point that making the extraordinary claim "we've violated relativity" is going to require exhaustive verification.

Re:Every couple of years (1)

rhakka (224319) | about 7 years ago | (#20260931)

I have to ask: why is it that because the information is not determined by a researched and then transmitted, that it is not information?

It would seem to me... as an absolute lay person, of course... that information is being transmitted in the quantum entanglement example, it's simply not USEFUL or controlled information to us. But obviously, somehow the remote particle has to be "told" it's time to change in some way when the first particle changes. Whatever mechanism transmits or conducts that "signal"... and please excuse my ignorance, I'm just trying to use the vocabulary I have... is able to so beyond the speed of c.

If that's not accurate, is it possible to explain why in plain english? I'm very curious.

Re:Every couple of years (2, Interesting)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#20260695)

This is proof of the power of peer review.

First Post! (1)

blackholepcs (773728) | about 7 years ago | (#20260203)

At least, going by TFA, I should be instantaneously like the 8th post AND the first post! w00t!!

Anyway, I'm not all that convinced that the speed of light would require infinite energy to be broken. According to E=MC2 and all the special relativity and all that crabopple, just to travel AT the speed of light requires almost all the energy in the universe and the mass of the object increases to nearly the same amount of mass in the universe (purely from memory and I'm not a scientist/physicist/quantum physicist/lawyer). If such is the case, or something relatively similar to what I just said, then how does a photon, WHICH HAS VOLUME AND MASS, travel at the speed of light without having the same mass/energy as the whole of the universe?

If someone can explain that to me, I'd very much like to hear it.

Photons do not have mass (5, Informative)

eyebits (649032) | about 7 years ago | (#20260393)

Photons do not have mass.

From: s/960731.html []

The Question
(Submitted July 31, 1996)

Do photons have mass? Because the equations E=mc2, and E=hf, imply that m=hf/c2 . Is it so?

The Answer
No, photons do not have mass, but they do have momentum. The proper, general equation to use is E2 = m2c4 + p2c2 So in the case of a photon, m=0 so E = pc or p = E/c. On the other hand, for a particle with mass m at rest (i.e., p = 0), you get back the famous E = mc2.

Re:Photons do not have mass (1)

vigmeister (1112659) | about 7 years ago | (#20260537)

That's what NASA would like you to think. If everyone knew photons had a mass, then they would find out there's no way those pictures from the moon were real...


Re:First Post! (1)

tomz16 (992375) | about 7 years ago | (#20260421)

Photons do not have (rest) mass... there's your problem!

Re:First Post! (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 7 years ago | (#20260451)

Photons have no mass.

Take with a grain of salt, but one thing I recall hearing someone say is that Einstein was talking about accelerating matter (with mass) to the speed of light, and that approaching the speed of light causes the mass to increase exponentially, which then raises the energy requirements exponentially. Since photons have zero mass, the energy requirements wouldn't increase exponentially due to mass increase since x*0 = 0.

Re:First Post! (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | about 7 years ago | (#20260803)

For the sake of personal interest: If photons don't have mass, how is it that they are affected by gravitational fields? And for the sake of unsubstantiated theories: What if the classic E=MC^2 curve were, in fact, one half of a symmetrical curve? If one could *somehow* cheat and skip over the infinite energy/mass bit, then your energy needs would decrease dramatically the more you accellerated beyond the speed of light. Please note, my knowledge of physics come from half-remembered high school classes. In real life, I am an Engineering Technician.

Re:First Post! (1)

rsmah (518909) | about 7 years ago | (#20260879)

light (photons) are affected by gravity even though it has no mass because gravity is the curvature of space-time caused by mass (in this case, other mass). Thus, gravity affects the movement of EVERYTHING, regardless of whether the entity has mass or not.

Re:First Post! (5, Funny)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 7 years ago | (#20260487)

then how does a photon, WHICH HAS VOLUME AND MASS, travel at the speed of light without having the same mass/energy as the whole of the universe?

Well, you've proven one theory of mine - any postulate typed in uppercase is guaranteed to be incorrect. ;)

Re:First Post! (1)

MrNaz (730548) | about 7 years ago | (#20260495)

Also FTFA, now you can actually *reply* to someone and still claim FRIST PSOT!

No volume either (1)

eyebits (649032) | about 7 years ago | (#20260531)

On an board in 2005 Fernanda summed it up nicely:

"yeah, I'm done with this thread and will order any admin here to close all threads Michael opens regarding photons having mass, weight, size or whatever the heck wacky proposal he has."

Re:First Post! (1)

mhall119 (1035984) | about 7 years ago | (#20260549)

Photons have no mass. Therefore, using f=ma re-written as a=f/m, as m approaches 0 acceleration from any amount of force becomes infinite, thus instantly propelling a photon (in a vacuum) to the absolute fastest it can travel, c, the speed of light.

Re:First Post! (1)

blackholepcs (773728) | about 7 years ago | (#20260759)

Ok. So I'm still not convinced that a photon has no mass. It exists, has volume and is detecable as a particle/atom or whatever. A photon can be singled out and measured. We may not be able to measure its mass yet, but I just can't bring myself to see how it can be truly mass-less. That would seem, to me, to be completely the opposite of a photon. But, like I said, I'm not a physicist or scientist, I just think about things a lot and try to use different perspectives and information that I can glean from wherever to try to make a well-informed decision as to what I accept as possible and not possible with these kinds of things. I appreciate all the answers so far!

Group velocity vs. velocity... again (1)

Skrynkelberg (910137) | about 7 years ago | (#20260225)

Am I mistaken, or is it the old group velocity vs. velocity error again? One thinks it's about time the quantum physicists learn basic wave mechanics, especially as various scientists have made similarly incorrect faster-than-light claims several times now.

Re:Group velocity vs. velocity... again (0, Troll)

eyebits (649032) | about 7 years ago | (#20260727)

Definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Is it me, or has the quality of German physics research gone down a bit in the past 100 years?

Actually (0, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 7 years ago | (#20260229)

Einstein died thinking his theory was the "dumbest thing since ...". I'm not sure what exactly, actually, but it had something to do with God.

I do remember his "God does not play dice" statement.

But he spent the last 30 or so years of his life trying to disprove relativity, because he thought it wrong. So actually he probably would be glad someone finally succeeds.

Re:Actually (4, Informative)

brunascle (994197) | about 7 years ago | (#20260287)

i think you're confusing quantum physics and relativity. Einsten didnt believe in, and tried to disprove, quantum physics, but i dont believe he ever questioned his own relativity theory.

"God does not play dice" is about the inherent randomness in quantum physics.

Re:Actually (2, Informative)

krgallagher (743575) | about 7 years ago | (#20260369)

"Einstein died thinking his theory was the "dumbest thing since ...I do remember his "God does not play dice" statement."

Actually that quote is from a letter he wrote to Max Born [] about his distrust of the theory of quantum mechanics, not his own theory of relativity. Here [] is the actual quote:

Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the Old One. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.

Re:Actually (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | about 7 years ago | (#20260703)

As an aside, I find it interesting how different people interpret Einstein's famous stance on Quantum Mechanics. As indicated in that quote, Einstein felt that Quantum Mechanics was fundamentally incomplete, and was not an accurate representation of reality. Now, many people point to Einstein's disbelief to support their own arguments that Quantum Mechanics is wrong. Thus their argument is: "See! If a smart guy like Einstein says it's wrong, then it's probably wrong!"

However Einstein himself, over his entire life, was never able to disprove Quantum Mechanics, despite many attempts. All the thought experiments and physical experiments he proposed instead bolstered the case of Quantum Mechanics, since the predictions of the theory were verified time and again. In the years since Einstein's death, the case has only gotten stronger: Quantum Mechanics is now one of the most thoroughly and rigorously verified theories we have (along with relativity, of course).

So, the alternate interpretation of Einstein stance is: "See! Even a really smart guy like Einstein is wrong sometimes!" Just because Einstein "felt" that Quantum Mechanics was wrong does not make it so. In this case, his intuition seemingly failed him.

(Incidentally, one thing we do know is that there is a mismatch between our two best theories: quantum mechanics and relativity. It's not at all obvious how to reconcile them, and it is likely that they are both "wrong" in the sense that they both need to be modified to be united into a single coherent theory. However the aspects of Quantum Mechanics that Einstein didn't like (nonlocality, randomness, etc.) are firmly established and are probably not going to be "undone" by even a unified theory.)

Re:Actually (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260859)

Wow! What reasoned, logical, and well written comment. What are you doing on /.?

Re:Actually (2, Interesting)

E++99 (880734) | about 7 years ago | (#20260927)

However the aspects of Quantum Mechanics that Einstein didn't like (nonlocality, randomness, etc.) are firmly established and are probably not going to be "undone" by even a unified theory.

Randomness established? What experiment could possibly establish randomness? I'm with Einstein on that one.

Re:Actually (1)

pkvon (899533) | about 7 years ago | (#20260373)

Its the cosmic constant, not relativity - (See [] ) And with the discovery of an exanding universe it seems it wasnt a blunder but he was right.

Re:Actually (5, Funny)

Nilych (959204) | about 7 years ago | (#20260471)

I liked Niels Bohr's response to Einstein's comment:

"Einstein, stop telling God what to do."

Ahem (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | about 7 years ago | (#20260251)

But if it had broken the speed of light, it should have arrived BEFORE it left. Unless Einstein just happens to be wrong...

but who knows. Atoms are weird. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that when they travel at the speed of light they generate dancing-banana particles which can be explained by a peice of paper and a crayon.

Re:Ahem (1)

MrNaz (730548) | about 7 years ago | (#20260517)

Atoms are weird.

Dude, if you think atoms are weird, put down that electron microscope and go meet a girl. Now there's a *real* mystery.

Re:Ahem (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | about 7 years ago | (#20260849)

With a microscope, it's the speed of light.

With a girl, it's depth of wallet.

Incredible? (5, Informative)

vigmeister (1112659) | about 7 years ago | (#20260259)

Something like this was claimed a while back. Is it like this guy's [] experiment where although an adge of a light pulse travelled faster than light, information still could not be transmitted faster than light?

Not discrediting the achievement. This will help us clarify current theories regarding speed limits and stuffz


Informative (3, Funny)

daskinil (991205) | about 7 years ago | (#20260297)

I'm glad there was a post today to tell me the speed of light isn't broken. I need a reminder every once in a while.

Funnay (1)

pipatron (966506) | about 7 years ago | (#20260315)

How many German physicists does it take to change a broken speed of light? Answers below:

Re:Funnay (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 7 years ago | (#20260503)

None.....once it was broken it went back in time to a point where it wasn't.......



Wait a second! (1)

lazlo (15906) | about 7 years ago | (#20260323)

Hold on a second here... They say that they've exceeded the speed of light with (drumroll please) Photons! But, wait a minute, isn't that light? However fast those photons were going, *is* the speed of light. It's just that they've discovered that all the rest of the photons in the universe just really aren't giving it their all.

(by the way, this is a joke. I know what they mean, it just seems funny to me.)

Re:Wait a second! (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#20260729)

I think the photons were traveling normally, it's just that the rest of the universe suddenly moved backwards relative to them. That is obviously the simplest answer.

War (1)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | about 7 years ago | (#20260339)

With this new discovery the Germans have made an incredible jump in technological advancement, so Europe prepare for World War III :)

On a more serious note, wasn't it part of the theory that when you travel faster than lightspeed you travel into the future or past? So if they did succeded in surpassing lightspeed how would they be able to tell? (and how are they able to tell anyways?)

Next article from Germany (3, Funny)

kannibul (534777) | about 7 years ago | (#20260351)

We shall call this new Technology:

Way to go Anywhere Really Phast


Re:Next article from Germany (1)

penp (1072374) | about 7 years ago | (#20260641)

I think I prefer WARP - Warp Around Righteous Places

Nothing new.. (4, Interesting)

Araxen (561411) | about 7 years ago | (#20260361)

The effect they measured is not new. As they described correctly, the waves are evanescent modes. The thing about these modes is that they do not possess a velocity with a real number value; the index of refraction is effectively imaginary. Imaginary in the sense that you need to consider the square root of a negative number. The imaginary velocity means the modes decay away from the surface (of the prism in this case). But if you have another prism close enough, it can pick up some of the evanescent mode and convert it back to real propagating light (which travels at real light speed).

Since imaginary speed waves die out over long distances, for which we do need "faster than light" speed, we will not be able to use this effect.

Re:Nothing new.. (1)

Magada (741361) | about 7 years ago | (#20260733)


Ob. South Park reference (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | about 7 years ago | (#20260415)

"Aephraim Steinberg, a quantum optics expert at the University of Toronto ..."


From the press statement:

The McKenzie Brothers explain Nimtz and Stahlhofen's observations by way of analogy with a 20-car train departing Chicago for New York with 100 cases of 24 Molsons Beer ("two-fours" in Kanuck-speak). The stopwatch starts when the centre of the train leaves the station, but the person holding the stopwatch drinks a case of 24 at each stop. So when the train arrives in New York, now comprising only two cases of beer, the person holding the stopwatch wakes up from his drunken stupor, doesn't remember a thing for the last 23 hours, can't find the stopwatch (he sold it to someone to stake him the last 2 cases) and now claims the trip was "instantaneous" although the train itself hasn't exceeded its reported speed.

And there you have it - The McKenzie Brothers' explanation... Beer DOES affect relativity, in a relative sort of way. I guess.

aww... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20260425)

I was actually a little disappointed to see it debunked. I guess hot green alien women will have to wait.

measuring nanoseconds (2, Interesting)

capoccia (312092) | about 7 years ago | (#20260441)

does anyone know how these scientists measured time for this experiment? what sort of equipment do you use to measure picoseconds []

Re:measuring nanoseconds (1)

vigmeister (1112659) | about 7 years ago | (#20260627)

You don't need to measure time to measure speed. Interference patterns, diffraction etc...serve well for the purposes of the experiment.

I knew it was BS (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 7 years ago | (#20260457)

until I changed my mind and as I typed my scathing flammage of the Germans, I was able to turn on my microwave photon gun and correct my email to a glowing review of these brilliant scientists who have clearly figured out a way to live outside the laws of physics.

And now I turn off my microwave photon gun set to "drippy irony".


I thunk.. (2, Informative)

toQDuj (806112) | about 7 years ago | (#20260539)

I thought that something travelling at exactly the speed of light required infinite amounts of energy. No-one said anything about more than the speed of light.

Check out what happens when X-Rays pass the speed of "light" in water. check out Cherenkov radiation. Irregularwebcomic has a good explanation []


Re:I thunk.. (2, Informative)

CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) | about 7 years ago | (#20260757)

It takes infinite amount of energy to accelerate something to the speed of light. It's theoretically possible for something to travel faster than light if it somehow had just popped into existence at that speed (How that would happen I have no idea).

As for Cherenkov radiation, the speed of light is only constant inside a vacuum.

Re:I thunk.. (1)

toQDuj (806112) | about 7 years ago | (#20260939)

Yes, but cherenkov radiation shows you what happens if a photon happens to "pop into existence" in a medium in which the "speed of light" is lower than the photon speed.


Shenanigan! (1)

withears (881576) | about 7 years ago | (#20260555)

Zephram Cochran called. He's not buying it.

Fast Food! (1)

amigabill (146897) | about 7 years ago | (#20260671)

OK, so now when I put my cold food in the nukerwave, it'll be heated up and done before I press start?

It's because of Global Warming (2, Funny)

mediis (952323) | about 7 years ago | (#20260709)

They broke it because of Global Warming... the whole world is out of whack... we need a new science... w/ proven results... ...results that are quantifiable... solid... not subject to "misinterpretation" ... non of this crap that we've gotten so far... what has science given us already... geesh.

Matter People, Matter!!! (4, Informative)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 7 years ago | (#20260785)

It just goes to show that journalists have a hard time reporting science.

The Speed of Light limitation is in regards to Matter, i.e. something with Mass. A Photon does not have mass. The component is acceleration! You cannot accelerate matter faster than the speed of light. The reason being as you begin to approach the speed of light, the object in question begins to increase in mass. Thus you need increasingly more energy to propel the object. More energy, continues to increase the mass of the object.

However there is no law against objects that already travel faster than the speed of light. For example, Tachyons. Hypothetical particles that travel faster than the speed of light. However they have never been found.

So a Photon can travel faster than itself - i.e. speed of light because it has no mass. Interesting. The explanation of why it's wrong doesn't jive. The data still prove it got there faster than it should.

Theoretical Physicists have a hard time with Experimental Physicists, mainly because experimental physicists have data to backup the arguments.

Communication and Computing Implications (1)

blueZhift (652272) | about 7 years ago | (#20260871)

While I'm sure there will be the prerequisite warp drive/time travel jokes about this, I think the most interesting aspect lies in potential applications to communications and computing. The potential of quantum computers is already quite impressive, but imagine coupling that with the ability to design a system without concern about the physical proximity of some components. Imagine being able to build a planetary computer capable of answering the question of life the universe and .... everything! Planetary should be big enough for that, right?

But surely the real question is... (0)

pandrijeczko (588093) | about 7 years ago | (#20260875)

...what's the speed of dark?
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