Scientific Correctness: Zippy Travel


Here is the report on our SCIENTIFIC CORRECTNESS SURVEY #2. The 
question was:

Is faster-than-light travel possible?

This survey drew an onslaught of opinions. 

The vote was a landslide (72%) for the YES side. Thus, another 
controversy is put to rest. Henceforth, it will be scientifically 
correct to believe that faster-than-light travel is possible.

Opinions ranged from positive to negative, and from simple ("Yes") 
to hideously complex. While the results are interesting, the 
variety of methods used to obtain them is dazzling.
                                *       *       *
Some readers used fuzzy logic:
I have never really believed that light actually goes at the speed 
of light. Have we any proof? I worked out that it should go at 
root two times the speed of light (c) making the constant itself 
irrelevant.
        --Graeme Winter
                                *       *       *
Other readers used higher-level fuzzy logic:
This is an interesting question, coincidentally I was driving 
through a Minnesota blizzard last week when my wife told me to 
slow down because I was 'over driving my headlights.' I was so 
excited I almost spilled my coffee because I thought that she 
meant I was traveling faster than the speed of light, but then I 
realized that she meant that because of the poor conditions, the 
stopping distance for my car was greater than my visibility.
        --Don Berryman
                                *       *       *
One reader used tangential logic:
Since light has yet to dawn on school boards here in Texas, we are 
unable to answer this question.
        --Julia Frugoli
                                *       *       *
Some took a theoretical bent:

Yes, but no matter what the destination, you always arrive at 
night.
        --Dick Baker

My fraternity brother Charles Jones (MIT '63) created a faster-
than-light vehicle in 1960. A beam of light is reflected in a 
mirror. Approaching the mirror, the light's velocity is (+)c. 
After reflection it is -c. Ergo at the instant of reflection, its 
velocity is 0. When the vehicle passes the mirror, it goes faster 
than light.
        --A. D. Snider
                                *       *       *
Others relied on advanced theories:

Faster than light travel IS possible but only if you are facing 
backwards.
        --Charles Belair

It depends on how fast the light is going.
        --Michael Castleman
                                *       *       *
Some readers cited empirical evidence:

Of course. It is demonstrated every week in "Star Trek: The Next 
Generation". They also demonstrate crystal power, telepathy, 
reversal of the polarity of neutron fluxes in starboard power 
couplings, and other facets of modern science.
        --Stephen Trier

No. No no no no no no. Most people think Star Trek has solved the 
problem of faster-than-light travel. I am much more fascinated by 
Star Trek's solution to the sound-in-a-vacuum problem.
        --Karen Lingel

"Yes!" E-mail uses delivery through electrical circuits, therefore 
traveling at the speed of light (one of the reasons for its 
popularity over the historically traditional US Postal "Service"). 
America OnLine uses these same electrical circuits. It is well 
known that almost anything travels faster than AOL these days.
        --G. Borochoff
                                *       *       *
Not everyone relied on intellectual arguments. Two readers, 
Charlie Cerf and Peter Thorp, sent in variants of the same 
classical argument:
        There was a young lady called Bright
        who could travel much faster than light.
        She departed one day 
        in a relative way
        and returned on the previous night
                                *       *       *
Practical experience, too, was useful in solving the question:

Of course faster-than-light travel is possible. However, the 
probability that your luggage will wind up at the wrong 
destination increases as the cube of the velocity. 
        --Bob O'Hara

Yes. Faster than light travel is possible and can be readily 
demonstrated by making the mistake of having two dates show up at 
your place at the same time. I've done this and witnessed first 
hand the flight, which happens so fast that you can't see it.
        --P. Hughes

Yes, but tickets must be purchased at least three weeks in advance 
and a Saturday night stay is required.
        --Kristina Pawlikowski

After my cat decided it was play time at 3 AM, he was forcefully 
accelerated from the bed. Quickly, his velocity reached the of 
light resulting in a mid-air white hot flash of spontaneous 
combustion (matter to energy.) Conversely, all internal energies 
(neuroelectrical, biochemical, etc.) were converted to matter. A 
strange ash covered the room, very similar to scoopable litter. 
The other possibility is that he landed on my camera equipment and 
has been hiding ever since.
        --Don Copeland
                                *       *       *
Finally, one response defied categorization:
Of course, as a physics teacher I tell my students that faster-
than-light travel is impossible, but that's just to crush their 
spirits.
        --LaNelle Ohlhausen






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