Feb 152009

Ok, I know that likefood will be chomping at the bit to comment/rebuke this but PLEASE for the love of science read the entire post first.

It has been the subject of countless scientific debates, the center of endless science-fiction literature, and between them both it has single handedly been the leading cause of death for billions of trees (paper).

The Speed of Light.

Weather you are referring to actually building a craft that can do it or just trying to send an e-mail to grandma–circa the Pleiades–there is one constant speed limit that, thus far, cannot be broken. Why? Well now Timmy here’s your answer! The speed of light is NOT the universal speed limit (USL) that cannot be broken! in fact “the speed of light” (or TSOL) is actually BELOW the USL altogether! HOWEVER (and I use all caps on that one because this is huge) The actual speed of light (roughly 299,792,458 meters/s) is so close to the USL that the USL has been incorrectly labeled “the speed of light”.

Once upon a time I posed the following to likefood: If you were on a craft that somehow was able to travel at TSOL, and you turned on a flashlight and pointed it forward what would happen? Likefood–I suspect, simply having insufficient argument–declined a reply. Well I have the answer, and likefood it should have been your response. Once the flashlight was powered on, there would be a sudden bulb of light in front of the flashlight but that bulb would never become a beam and would in fact simply dissipate or reflect back into the face of the torch holder! You see it is NOT TSOL that prevents the light from moving beyond the vessel at equivalently faster speed, it is the USL that does!


Think of velocity (which is defined as the rate of change of position) as a ever shrinking value. If you are traveling at a given speed and you want to increase your speed you have to exert an increasing amount of energy to propel yourself that much faster. This equation involves three parts, your existing speed, your mass (or your overall weight and size), and the energy required to go faster. Well timmy, the closer to the USL you get the smaller you have to be in order to get closer to the USL. there is a very real and definable limit to how fast any object with measurable mass can go regardless of how fast the originating “push off point” was moving to begin with. So the USL tops out just under 300 million meters/s, the problem herin is simply that TSOL is NOT an unbreakable speed. In fact it not only can be done, it HAS been done! Just not with anything with mass!

So Timmy, what was the point of this little informational? To all you simple people out there reading your Issac Asimov books and star trek fanboys, please try to remember we are not trying to travel faster than light, that’s easy. We are trying to break the universal speed limit!

‘nough said… begone.

 Posted by at 10:41 AM

  8 Responses to “FTL…”

  1. FYI, the speed of light is only 186,282 miles per second (670,615,200 miles per hour). You’re confusing kilometers and miles. Other than that, I’ll say nothing. :)

  2. And, yes, I read that article before coming to a conclusion. :)

  3. yeah… that was a dual typo… it was supposed to be METERS/S I have corrected it. thanks anyway.

    as for the whole silly SAE vs metric… I am starting to lean toward metric… after all the rest of the world uses it and it’s more accurate! I’m also trying to learn the kelvin scale as BOTH the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales SUCK and are based on boiling/freezing points of WATER… stupid biased measurement systems.

  4. Use Windows… “after all the rest of the world uses it”… :p

    === Nitpicky warning ===

    Celsius and Kelvin are right in line with each other (difference of 1° C is the same as 1 K), except that Kelvin is shifted down 273.15° (and you don’t do the degree mark with Kelvin).

    You’re right, it’s very dumb to base temperature on boiling water… because it varies with barometric pressure (boiles nearly instantly in the vacuum of space). And it’s very dumb to base distance on a dude’s foot. But you have to drive the same speed as everyone else, so that you don’t gum up the works (keep using Imperial in normal conversation). I remember back in the 80′s or 90′s when all of the interstate speed limit signs had both miles and kilometers… it never really caught on. Silly gringos.

    Just an FYI,
    Non-metric is “Imperial”. SAE refers to the automotive application of Imperial measurements.

    I still have this Dell switch (out in the garage)… brand new, still in the plastic… :)

  5. I meant “boils”, not “boiles”. Spelling fail.

  6. The vacuum of space will give you boils. And reentry will give you a rash.

  7. As I understood it. The basis of how C & F were determined was to specify the “survivable” temp @ which a human could live. I’m prob wrong, but who cares? Really, who?