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The universe looks very different when travelling beyond the speed of light

[May 21, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

A superluminal world would have to be characterized with three time dimensions and one spatial dimension and it would have to be described in the familiar language of field theory. (CREDIT: insspirito – pixabay)

Theorists from universities in Warsaw and Oxford propose that if observers were to move faster than light in a vacuum, their view of our world would be vastly different from our everyday experience. Such observers would observe not only spontaneous phenomena, but also particles traveling simultaneously along multiple paths.

Furthermore, the very nature of time would be radically altered in a superluminal world, requiring a description in the familiar language of field theory with three time dimensions and one spatial dimension. Interestingly, the presence of superluminal observers does not lead to logical inconsistencies and suggests that superluminal objects may actually exist.


Albert Einstein's work in the early 20th century fundamentally transformed our understanding of time and space. He introduced the concept of a fourth dimension of time, unifying time and space as a single entity.

According to physicist Prof. Andrzej Dragan from the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw and the Center for Quantum Technologies of the National University of Singapore, the special theory of relativity formulated by Albert Einstein in 1905 highlights that time and space vary only in sign in some equations.


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Einstein's special theory of relativity is based on two assumptions: Galileo's principle of relativity and the constant speed of light. As argued by Dragan, the former principle is crucial because it stipulates that the laws of physics are identical in all inertial systems, and all inertial observers are equivalent.

Although this principle typically applies to observers who move relative to each other at speeds less than that of light, Dragan maintains that there is no fundamental reason why observers moving in relation to the described physical systems with speeds greater than the speed of light should not be subject to it.


Suppose we consider the theoretical possibility of observing the world from superluminal frames of reference. This could potentially enable the integration of the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics into the special theory of relativity.

Graphical abstract of space time. (CREDIT: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

Prof. Andrzej Dragan and Prof. Artur Ekert from the University of Oxford put forth this groundbreaking hypothesis in their article, "Quantum principle of relativity," published in the "New Journal of Physics" two years ago. In this article, they examined a simplified scenario involving two-dimensional space-time and both families of observers.


In their most recent publication, "Relativity of superluminal observers in 1 + 3 spacetime," a team of five physicists take it one step further by presenting their conclusions on the full four-dimensional space-time. The authors begin with the concept of space-time that corresponds to our physical reality, which includes three spatial dimensions and one time dimension.

However, according to Prof. Andrzej Dragan, "from the point of view of the superluminal observer, only one dimension of this world retains a spatial character, the one along which the particles can move. The other three dimensions are time dimensions." Co-author of the paper, Prof. Krzysztof Turzyński, adds that "from our perspective - illuminated bread eaters - it looks like a simultaneous movement in all directions of space, i.e. the propagation of a quantum-mechanical spherical wave associated with a particle."

According to Professor Andrzej Dragan, Huygens' principle, which states that every point reached by a wave becomes the source of a new spherical wave, was formulated in the 18th century. Initially applied only to light waves, quantum mechanics later extended this principle to all other forms of matter.

The authors of a publication argue that including superluminal observers in the description of the world requires a new definition of velocity and kinematics. They prove that this new definition preserves Einstein's postulate of the constancy of the speed of light in vacuum, even for superluminal observers. Therefore, Dragan suggests that extended special relativity does not appear extravagant.


The inclusion of superluminal solutions in the description of the world causes it to become nondeterministic. Instead of moving one at a time, particles begin to move along many trajectories at once, in accordance with the quantum principle of superposition. For a superluminal observer, the classical Newtonian point particle no longer makes sense, and the field becomes the only quantity that can be used to describe the physical world, notes Andrzej Dragan.

The authors of the publication write that until recently, it was believed that the postulates underlying quantum theory were fundamental and could not be derived from anything more basic. However, they argue that their work shows that justifying quantum theory using extended relativity can be naturally generalized to 1 + 3 spacetime, and such an extension leads to conclusions postulated by quantum field theory.

In extended special relativity, all particles exhibit remarkable quantum properties. However, the question arises if this works the other way around. Are there particles that appear normal to superluminal observers, i.e., those moving relative to us at superluminal speeds? According to Professor Krzysztof Turzyński, it is not a straightforward matter.

While the discovery of a new fundamental particle through experimentation is an accomplishment deserving of the Nobel Prize and achievable through a large research team utilizing cutting-edge techniques, our aim is to leverage our findings to better comprehend the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking linked to the mass of the Higgs particle and other particles in the Standard Model, particularly in the early universe. Andrzej Dragan states that a tachyonic field is a critical component of any spontaneous symmetry breaking mechanism. It appears that superluminal phenomena could play a significant role in the Higgs mechanism.


The University of Warsaw's Faculty of Physics has a long and distinguished history. It first emerged as part of the Faculty of Philosophy in 1816, under the auspices of physics and astronomy. The Astronomical Observatory was later founded in 1825. Today, the Faculty of Physics comprises several institutes: Experimental Physics, Theoretical Physics, Geophysics, the Department of Mathematical Methods in Physics, and the Astronomical Observatory.

The Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw conducts research in almost all areas of modern physics, ranging from quantum to cosmological scales. Its staff of over 200 academic teachers includes 81 professors, who engage in both research and teaching. With more than 1,000 students and 170 doctoral students, the Faculty of Physics at the University of Warsaw is a vibrant and dynamic academic community.

For more science and technology stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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