If only Einstein's theory of special relativity were extended to work beyond the speed of light, things would be easy. But of course Einstein's theory holds that nothing could move faster than the speed of light. Special Relativity was published in 1905 and explained how motion and speed is always relative to the observer's frame of reference. The theory connects measurements of the same physical incident viewed from these different points in a way that depends on the relative velocity of the two observers.

Professor Jim Hill and Dr Barry Cox at the University of Adelaide say they have developed new formulas that allow for travel beyond this limit. "Since the introduction of special relativity there has been much speculation as to whether or not it might be possible to travel faster than the speed of light, noting that there is no substantial evidence to suggest that this is presently feasible with any existing transportation mechanisms," said Hill. "About this time last year, experiments at CERN, the European centre for particle physics in Switzerland, suggested that perhaps neutrinos could be accelerated just a very small amount faster than the speed of light; at this point we started to think about how to deal with the issues from both a mathematical and physical perspective."

Really, that is all a mathematician needs. Everything else, like the actual universe, is a pesky detail left to physicists.

"Questions have since been raised over the experimental results but we were already well on our way to successfully formulating a theory of special relativity, applicable to relative velocities in excess of the speed of light," says Hill. "Our approach is a natural and logical extension of the Einstein Theory of Special Relativity, and produces anticipated formulae without the need for imaginary numbers or complicated physics."

Their formulas extend special relativity to a situation where the relative velocity can be infinite, and can be used to describe motion at speeds faster than light.

"We are mathematicians, not physicists, so we've approached this problem from a theoretical mathematical perspective," said Cox. "Should it, however, be proven that motion faster than light is possible, then that would be game changing. Our paper doesn't try and explain how this could be achieved, just how equations of motion might operate in such regimes."

So don't plan on re-enacting that "Loopers" movie just yet.

Published in

*Proceedings of the Royal Society A*

Wherher the hyothesis of the existence of faster than light is compatible with special relativity was first investigated in the most-cited paper in the American Journal of Physics was investigated by E.C.G. Sudarshan and his colleagues O.M.P. Bilanuik and V.K. Deshpande a full 50 years ago, in the October 162 issue of the journal. Under the assumotuions that energy is always positive-definite and that the laws of physics are the same for all inertial frames as the credo of special relativity maintains, they were able to show by an insightful physical analysis that such a hypothesis can indeed be maintained without running afoul of special relativity.. An essential ingredient of their theory was the 'reinterpretation principle'. Hill and Cox make out that their paper was the first to have sought consistency with relativity theory and that as applied mathematicians, they did not really bother tioo much about physics. That is decidedly weird as the theory of faster than light pariticles is an inalienable part of physics and before venturing into territory that is professedly unfamiliar to them, the least they could have done is to acquaint themselves with the landmark papers in the field. Had they done so, they would not be in the invidious position of doling out hallf-baked formulae in the forlorn hope that the darts they hurl in the darkness might somehow hit th bull's eye, Such desperate measures were not called for, unless they have a calculated disregard for theoretical physics for reasons best known to themmselves.