How to Travel at the Speed of Light…or Faster.

I wrote this for a dissertation for a Theoretical Physics seminar last year (Boston). It was peer reviewed but not printed or accepted for the seminar because my credentials were not sufficient to meet the standards of the seminar. I did, however, get a positive commentary from Julius Wess who was given an expanded copy of this article because of his interest in supersymmetry and his work at DESY.

Nov 16, 2004

Super String Theory Update

In articles that have appeared in various publications within the past few months (Jan to June 2004), the Super String Theory has been studied to a much greater level of detail. The Super String Theory is an extension of the Standard Model and is also known as the Supersymmetry Standard Model (SSM). The SSM which is generally accepted as the most accurate to date; however, fails to explain mass fully and it is the one possible theory that can provide the joining of both quantum mechanics and Newtonian physics for a Unified Field Theory – a single model of all matter and energy in the universe.


One aspect of the SSM is that it predicts that there is a pervasive cloud of particles everywhere in space. A hundred years ago, this might have been called the “ether” but we now refer to this as the Higgs Field and the particles in this field are called Higgs Bosons.


This cloud of very small particles (Higgs Bosons) creates a field (the Higgs Field) that interacts with matter to create mass and gravity. The existence of this field is predicted by the Lagrangian function of the Standard Model and provides a description of the Higgs field as a quantum field. The Higgs field permeates all reality and the interaction between this field and other matter (electrons, other bosons, etc.) is what creates the effect we call mass. A dense solid interacts with this field more than a less dense solid creating all of the physical characteristics we attribute to mass – weight, momentum, inertia, etc.


The existence of the Higgs Field and the Higgs Boson was nearly proven in 2000 but the CERN synchrotron isn’t quite strong enough. Newer designs that are being built now should prove this concept within the next 3 to 5 years. To date, every physical prediction that we can achieve of the SSM and the implications of the Higgs field have been shown to be true. Let us speculate for a moment on the possibilities.


The Higgs field’s interaction with matter is what gives us the physical characteristics we attribute to mass – weight, momentum, inertia, etc. Imagine a jet aircraft flying in the air. As we move it faster, the air resists so that it takes a lot of energy to move a large (or heavy) object. If we go too fast, friction will heat up the surface of the wings as it does with re-entry vehicles from space. With jet aircraft, there is a sound barrier that builds up air in front of the aircraft and resists further increases in speed. The energy to move faster increases significantly as you get closer to the sound barrier and then when you exceed it, the energy to fly faster drops back down.


When you remove the air – such as in space – now you need very little energy from the engine to move very large objects or to go very fast. The resistance of the air and gravity is gone and the smallest push or thrust will make even a very large object move or go faster.

This is all fact. Now lets speculate for a moment….


What if Michelson and Morley’s 1879 experiment to find the “ether” medium that light traveled on was right but on such a different scale that they failed to detect what they were looking for. After all, we still are not certain exactly what the Higgs field is but what if that is their ether. It would certainly explain the dual personality of light – acting like both waves and particles. It might also help explain dark matter and dark energy in the universe – but I digress. Let’s speculate for a moment and imagine that the Higgs field does exist (not that big a stretch of the imagination) and that it is the media that keeps light from going any faster than….the speed of light.


Now suppose you didn’t have a Higgs field or could turn it off? If the Higgs field is not there at all, there is no mass, no momentum, no inertia and no weight. If an object has no mass or very little then even a small amount of thrust will push it very fast. Using an ion engine that has a low but very fast thrust, you should be able to push a massless object rapidly to the speed of light and perhaps beyond.


Think about it. Other than the E=MC2 formula and the math that was derived by observations in a Higgs Field universe, why is there an upper limit on speed? Why can’t we go faster than light IF the mass is low and the thrust is fast enough? Suppose like some many things in physics, the limits we have put on our thinking about possibilities is because of the limits we have put on our thinking. In other words, if relativity is flawed or misunderstood with respect to the its framing of the conditions of the math, then perhaps in a different frame of reference, the math is wrong and it does not take infinite energy to push an object to the speed of light.


Now back to facts. A careful read of special relativity will reveal that Einstein said, “the speed of light is constant when measured in any inertial frame”. If, as has been speculated, the Higgs field is responsible for the physical characteristics we attribute to mass – weight, momentum, inertia, etc., and it was possible to somehow remove the Higgs field, and therefore remove the inertial frame, then even the special theory of relativity says that light speed is no longer a constant.


Does it make any sense to even consider this perspective in light of all of the proven experiments and math that have proven General and Special relativity over and over again? The answer is yes if you consider one thing. If the Higgs field permeates all reality and the interaction between this field and other matter (electrons, other bosons, etc.) is what creates the effect we call mass, then how could we imagine that there is any other frame of reference. At the time of Einstein, the Higgs field was unknown so the absence of the Higgs filed could not even be speculated. Now it can be. Or we can imagine frames of reference that might allow objects to alter, interact with or somehow by-pass the effects of the Higgs field. For instance…..


We have speculated that there are particles called tachyons that have a LOWER limit of the speed of light but that are based on the assumptions that they have no mass. If a space ship could be made to have no mass, what would it’s speed limit be?


If the Higgs field is now acting like air and creating a barrier that appears to us to be the limiting factor in the speed of light, then perhaps faster than light travel is possible in the absence of a Higgs field.


How do we get the Higgs field to go away? I don’t know but in 25 or 50 or 75 years, we might know. One hint of a possibility is a startling new find called two-dimensional light. Its called plasmons and it can be triggered when light strikes a patterned metallic surface. In March 2006, the American Physical Society gave demonstrations of plasmons and plasmonic science. They demonstated, for instance, a plasmon microscope that was capable of imaging at scales lower (smaller than) the wavelength of the light they were using to view the object. This is like seeing a marble by firing beach balls at it.


Using a combination of metamaterials, nano-optics, microwaves and plasmonics, David Schurig and David R. Smith at Duke University and his British colleagues (in October 2006) created something that can cause microwaves to move along and around a surface. The effect is exactly like a Klingon cloaking device from Star Trek or like Harry Potter’s Cloak of Invisibility. This is not speculation, they have done it. Similar work by the Imperial College in London and SensorMetrix of San Diego are developing metamaterials capable of rerouting visible light, acoustic waves and other electromagnetic waves.


This is technology today. What will we be able to do in 50 years? Might we be able to sort of pry open a hole in the Higgs field by bending or rerouting the field around an object. You might call this a warped Higgs field or simply a warp field.


If we can warp the Higgs field in a controlled manner, then the temporal implications are another matter but travel at or faster than the speed of light might be possible.


OK, so how do you warp the Higgs field?


(Of course, we are way out in the realm of speculation but isn’t this they way that crazy things like black holes and super novas were first imagined? If our minds can fathom the remotest possibility now, then perhaps when the containment technology and power densities (energies) above the Fermi scale catches up with our imaginations, we can see if works.)


One aspect of the Supersymmetry Standard Model (SSM) is that the strings all vibrate. In fact, every particle and field has a vibration frequency. It is one characteristic attributed to the ‘spin” of a particle. With sufficient energy, it may be possible to create harmonic vibrations to these particles. One aspect of the cloaking device mentioned above is that they use destructive interference to null out the electromagnetic fields of one path and replace it with emissions from another path. This allows them to hide an object while substituting other sensor data that simulates the object not being there at all. The essence is that by controlling the vibrations or frequency on the nano-meter scale, they can manipulate light. Is it possible to extend this thinking to the Higgs field? If so, we might be able to manipulate the Higgs field on, in and around a surface.

It is hard to imagine that something like Bernoulli’s Principle of fluid flow would work on the scale of the Higgs field’s interaction with a surface moving at high speed but it serves as a possible analogy of an area of exploration. Actually, this is not at all that unreasonable.


I have flown in some big military planes. The C-130 has an overhead escape hatch near the flight deck. When we flew in the South Pacific, on a hot day, we would open this hatch and stick our heads out. There is something called laminar air-flow around the aircraft. As the plane moves thru the air at 250 MPH, the air going past it is moving at about that speed (assuming no wind), however, in the last 6 to 8 inches as you move closer to the surface of the plane, the wind slows down (relative to the aircraft) due to friction with the surface. This speed drops rapidly in the last 3 or 4 inches so that the wind passing over the fuselage within the last 2 inches is moving relatively slowly – about 30 to 60 MPH. You can stick you head up enough to get your eyes above the edge of the hatch and it won’t even blow your sunglasses off. I’ve done it.


What if the Higgs field could be warped by sub-nano-level wave manipulations or react in a manner similar to the laminar air-flow around an aircraft but do it on a space ship? What if we helped it a little by moving that field out away from the ship’s surface just a little? Here’s how.


As with recent studies in the use of standing waves to isolate and manipulate objects, it may be possible to seek and find a harmonic frequency that will create compressions and rarefactions in these particle vibrations or fields. If the surface of a vehicle were the emitter and it was properly synchronized, the rarefaction of the standing wave of the harmonic vibrations would create a layer of empty space (rarefactions) around the vehicle totally devoid of Higgs bosons and therefore have no Higgs field, i.e. a warp field.


To understand the impact of reducing or eliminating the Higgs field, let’s look at an example.


Since light is made up of photons and photons in motion have mass (they have no known rest mass), and since photons travel at the speed of light, turning on a flashlight in the absence of a surrounding Higgs field would instantly move the flashlight to the speed of light. The reason is that the photons coming out of the light beam have mass and are moving at the speed of light. This is mass moving all in one direction. The equal and opposite reaction is for the flashlight to move in the direction opposite from the way that the light beam is pointing. Normally the very tiny mass of the photons would have very little effect on the relatively heavy flashlight but if the flashlight had no mass at all, it would be like putting a rocket engine on a feather. The photons would seem to have the effect of a powerful blasting rocket engine making the mass-less flashlight accelerate to speeds nearly equal to the photons moving in the opposite direction.


Since our imaginary vehicle with the vibrating surface also has no mass at all in the absence of a surrounding Higgs field, it could be any size and the same flashlight could also move it to the speed of light.

But what about the people?


Now you ask how could you possibly withstand the acceleration from zero to the speed of light within a second or less. That is easy if you have no mass also. Momentum, inertia and even gravity depend on an object having mass. If you have no mass, you cannot have inertia or momentum.


Imagine for a moment throwing a heavy ball. When you let go of the ball it continues in the direction it is thrown. Now imagine throwing a feather. Actually it is quite hard to throw a feather because the moment you let go of it, it will stop moving forward and drift slowly downward. It has so little mass that any inertia or momentum it has would be quickly overcome by air resistance – regardless of speed.


If you were in a giant space craft but had a device that could create the absence of a surrounding Higgs field, you would have no mass. No momentum and no inertia and no reaction to gravity. A 90 degree turn at 1,000 mph (or any speed) would not be a problem because you cannot experience the “g” forces that an object with mass would experience. Hence, it is possible to make these radical turns and fantastic accelerations without killing everyone.


If, as we have speculated, it is the Higgs field particles (bosons), like air particles, that are artificially creating what we see as being the barrier to going faster than the speed of light, then when we shine that flashlight and the photons come out, they will travel faster than the speed of light until they enter the Higgs field and then they will slow back down to the speed of light. Since we are using the light (photon) thrust in the absence of a surrounding Higgs field, the flashlight might also accelerate the imaginary vehicle with the vibrating surface that has no mass to speeds faster than the speed of light.


Alternatively, imagine a warp field creating a massless vehicle that is powered by the graviton-beam engine described earlier in this report. If you can control this warp field, you can create any degree of mass you like. So you tune it to have the mass of a feather and then tune the graviton-beam to have the attractive or repulsive force of a planet-size object or perhaps the force of a black hole. Now you have as much power as can be obtained and controlled trying to move an object at speeds greater than the speed of light.

The September 2002 Jupiter event allowed Ed Fomalont of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia to prove that gravity’s propagation speed is no greater than lightspeed. This is because gravity, so one theory says, interacts with the Higgs field as a direct result of the Equivalence Principle in the context of Lorentz symmetry, and so it can be said that the nature of the gravity field can be attributed to the Higgs-Goldstone field. This has been postulated from several math and experimental directions and is generally accepted as fact.

The idea is that the Higgs-Goldstone boson may account for gravity and mass is what makes the use of some kind of warp field a possible solution for faster-than-light travel. Note that this approach does not rely on the deformation of space-time, worm-holes, multi-dimensional space or even violations of the equations of general relativity. Remembering that Einstein’s math was based on an inertial frame and this proposition removes that frame of reference.

General relativity (GR) explains these features by suggesting that gravitation forces (unlike electromagnetic forces) is a geometric effect of curved space-time, in which the effects of the space-time distortion is what propagates at light speeds. Problems with the causality principle also exist for Gravitational Radiation (GR) in this connection, such as explaining how the external fields between binary black holes manage to continually update without benefit of communication with the masses hidden behind event horizons. These causality problems would be solved without any change to the mathematical formalism of GR, but only to its interpretation, if gravity is once again taken to be a propagating force of nature in flat space-time with the propagation speed indicated by observational evidence and experiments. Such a change of perspective requires no change in the assumed character of gravitational radiation or its lightspeed propagation.

Although faster-than-light force propagation speeds do violate Einstein special relativity (SR), they are in accord with Lorentzian relativity, which has never been experimentally distinguished from SR-at least, not in favor of SR. Indeed, far from upsetting much of current physics, the main changes induced by this perspective are beneficial to areas where physics has been struggling, such as explaining experimental evidence for non-locality in quantum physics, the dark matter issue in cosmology, and the possible unification of forces. Recognition of a light-speed Higgs field propagation of gravity, as indicated by recent experimental evidence, may be the key to taking conventional physics to the next plateau.

Although certainly in the realm of wild speculation, it is still not beyond imagination nor in conflict with proven science that the graviton beam engine described in another article in combination with a massless vehicle wrapped in a warpped Higgs field could achieve speeds well in excess of light.


As crazy as this sounds, this is completely consistent with our present knowledge of physics. No, it is not proven but it is not disproven and even in its speculative form, it can be seen as compliant with existing math and theories.


The missing element is a sufficient energy source to manipulate Higgs bosons and a control mechanism to create the harmonic vibrating surfaces. It is easy to imagine that in 50 or 100 years we will have the means to do this.


It is also easy to imagine that a civilization on a distant planet that began its life a few million years before we did, could easily have resolved these problems and created devices that can be used in interplanetary travel.

One thought on “How to Travel at the Speed of Light…or Faster.

  1. Justin

    This is EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking about since I found out about the Higgs field/boson, however. I’m not certain I agree with your suggestion that a ship that has lowered its mass to that of a feather, could achieve FTL travel. I was under the impression that mass, accelerated to the speed of light, regardless of amount, would be increased to infinity.

    It is my personal opinion that literally everything is possible. If what this article suggests is true, all reality may be virtual. Thus leading to infinite possibilities:

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