The Speed of Light: Can We Go Faster?

The speed of light in a vacuum is around 300,000,000 meters per second (for those more accustomed to freedom units, that’s 186,282 miles per second). Thanks to Albert Einstein and many other prominent scientists, we believe that only massless particles like photons are able to achieve this speed. This implies that it’s theoretically impossible for anything with mass to travel at the speed of light as we currently understand it. However, this natural “speed limit” doesn’t stop sci-fi writers from taking creative liberties in their work. Things like warp drives, wormholes, and time travel all revolve around speculations on the true nature of light-speed and how humans can engineer machinery to mimic its behavior. With today’s technology these ideas are obviously impossible, but does that mean humans will never achieve the seemingly impossible? With the current rate of technological innovation, inter-galactic space travel might not be as far off as we think. In only the past 100 years, humans have created marvels like the rocket ship, internet, and computer chip. Who’s to say where civilization will be in a couple hundred years from now? You and I probably won’t be around to see the first human reach a different solar system, but in a few centuries reaching the speed of light might not be seen as such an unattainable feat.

7 thoughts on “The Speed of Light: Can We Go Faster?

  1. On the one hand, I think that we never know what the future holds for us. However, technological innovations have reached a stalling point. For example, scientists have theoretically deciphered the process of nuclear fusion, but we have not be able to create that process for almost a century now. i feel like one day we will understand and have the theoretical framework for space travel. However, we may never be able to create the conditions that materialize on that framework.

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  2. Alex, you made some good points about the possibility of traveling at the speed of light. Although it seemingly defies the laws of physics, these laws have changed many times over centuries as scientists have made new discoveries and observations. It would be almost inhuman to rule out traveling at these speeds, since we have made the impossible possible many times.

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  3. This post made me realize the incredible pace with which mankind has made so many tremendous discoveries. This post also made me think about what the future might hold and how our daily lives may be changed by new technological innovations.

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  4. Although the idea of light speed travel is quite intriguing, I disagree that, even with future advances in technology, will be able to reach the speed of light. The main problem I see is with the general physics of light speed travel, especially when it comes to time dilation (the idea that as we move closer to the speed of light, we perceive time to move more slowly). According to this theory, reaching the speed of light would cause perceived time to come to a stop.

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  5. I think you bring up an interesting point about the limits of science and how sci-fi pushes those boundaries. Do you think it is possible for scientists to push beyond a “limit” that has been established for so long? Or will the fields of Physics and Astronomy need to revolutionized to push beyond or current limits?

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  6. I liked how you focused on our technological ability to explore the stars! I talked about a very similar topic in my blog post, and I was just wondering if you have any good guesses as to how we’ll best be able to travel to our galactic neighborhood?

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  7. NASA has a annual conference of “futurists” some of whom are science fiction authors who discuss these next steps. I am old enough to remember SETI was a crazy idea and now it is mainstream.

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