Albert Einstein formulated his General Theory of Relativity on inviolable foundations, one of them being the constant speed of light in a vacuum. Physicists consider that nothing exceeds 299 792.458 km/s, but does this reflect reality?

For some theoretical physicists, there could indeed be things faster than photons of light, such as hypothetical particles known as tachyons . They could travel so fast that it would take a lot of effort and energy to slow them down.

Working with these possibilities, a team of scientists published a study demonstrating that traveling faster than light could reveal a completely different universe. This would allow the development of a new theory that would unify general relativity and quantum mechanics.

If we could travel at superluminal speeds (faster than light), we would see phenomena happening spontaneously, without a deterministic cause. Furthermore, thanks to the quantum nature of the superposition of states of particles, we could observe them traveling along several paths simultaneously.

Another bizarre effect would be the transformation of space-time — described by Albert Einstein as a three-dimensional space associated with a time dimension — into a universe with three dimensions of time and one space dimension.

In doing so, the team "discards the conventional dynamics of point-like mechanical particles and forces one to use a field-theoretic framework." If particles cannot be described as "dots," quantum field theory becomes "a direct consequence of extended special relativity," the authors wrote.

The idea doesn't seem so outlandish when you consider that particles may, in fact, be nothing like points in the universe, although that's perhaps the best description our three-dimensional perspective allows.

Finally, a superluminal particle or object could only travel in a single spatial dimension, but would observe subluminal particles in three time dimensions, independently "aging" in each of the three times.

If we traveled above the speed of light, the slowest particles would appear to have simultaneous motion in all directions in space, much like the propagation of a spherical quantum wave associated with a particle.

These consequences could be theoretically described in a language similar to that of quantum field theory, thus allowing reconciliation between the theory of the macroscopic universe (general relativity) with the microscopic universe (quantum mechanics).

The most encouraging thing for the team is that none of these results would violate the principles of General Relativity, that is, the hypothesis of superluminal velocity in this new spacetime would only be an addition to Einstein's theories, not a replacement. And yet it would give an incredible new insight into the universe.

The research was published in the New Journal of Physics .

Source: New Journal of Physics , University of Warsaw

Photons can travel at a speed of 300,000 km/h because they have no mass (Image: Reproduction/twenty20photos/Envato)

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