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Wild New Physics Theory Explains Why Time Travel Is Impossible

Gently gliding through the vast expanse of space, light maintains an unwavering pace, covering a consistent 299,792,458 meters every second – neither more nor less, reports

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However, the narrative undergoes a dramatic shift when this electromagnetic wave encounters the electromagnetic fields surrounding particles of matter. Navigating this intricate terrain, the speed of light can decelerate significantly.

We witness this phenomenon when light refracts while passing through a glass of water or when the myriad colors of a rainbow disperse.

Physicists have long utilized 19th-century equations to explain this phenomenon in the context of light and electromagnetism. Yet, they still grapple with fully comprehending the sudden alteration in light’s velocity as it transitions between different mediums in terms of physical waves.

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A trio of physicists hailing from Tampere University has proposed a potential resolution to this enigma, but not without reevaluating some fundamental principles concerning the journey of a light wave through the dimension of time and space.

“Basically, I found a very neat way to derive the standard wave equation in 1+1 dimensions,” says the study’s first author, Matias Koivurova, now at the University of Eastern Finland.

“The only assumption I needed was that the speed of the wave is constant. Then I thought to myself: what if it’s not always constant? This turned out to be a really good question.”

The speed of light – or c to use its shorthand – is a Universal limit for information moving through a vacuum. While matter can effectively slow down a particle’s overall journey, the special theory of relativity says this fundamental property cannot truly change.

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Yet sometimes physics demands the occasional flight of fancy in order to explore new grounds. So Koivurova, together with his colleagues Charles Robson and Marco Ornigotti, put aside this inconvenient truth to consider the consequences of a standard wave equation where an arbitrary light wave can accelerate.

Initially, their solution didn’t make a whole lot of sense. It was only when they added a constant speed back in as a frame of reference that pieces clicked together.

Send a spaceship into the depths of space at speed, and its passengers will experience time and distance differently to the observers watching their journey from afar. This contrast comes courtesy of relativity, a theory that’s been tested successfully time and time again on all manner of scales.

By framing an accelerating wave against a constant light speed, the strange effects of the team’s novel solution to the standard wave equation looked just like those imposed by relativity. Their realization had profound implications for a debate over whether the momentum of a light wave increased or decreased as it crossed into a new medium.

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“What we have shown, is that from the point of view of the wave, nothing happens to its momentum. In other words, the momentum of the wave is conserved,” says Koivurova.

No matter what the wave is, whether it’s in an electromagnetic field, a ripple on a pond, or a vibration down a string, measures of relativity and the conservation of momentum need to be factored into the equation as they pick up speed. This generalization was to have another rather remarkable, if slightly disappointing consequence.

Whether it’s our intrepid space travelers zooming towards Alpha Centauri at a fraction of the speed of light, or their bereaved family aging slowly back on Earth, each of their respective clocks tick away in what is regarded as proper time. The two times might disagree on the length of a second, but each is a reliable measure of the passing of the years inside their own frame.

If all waves also experience proper time care of relativity, the physicists argue, any physics governed by waves ought to have a strict, temporal direction. One that can’t simply be reversed for any one part.

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So far, the equations have only been solved for a single dimension of space (and time). Experiments would also need to be conducted to see if this perspective of waves holds true.

If so, our collective trip through the Universe is truly a one-way street after all.

This research was published in Optica.

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Zoe Mitchell

Zoe Mitchell is an independent researcher and writer on extraordinary topics. She has a passion for delving into the realms of UFOs, paranormal phenomena and the enigmatic.

Zoe has a degree in journalism and a keen interest in history, mythology and folklore. She believes that there is more to reality than meets the eye, and that the truth is often stranger than fiction.

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