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Science and Technology "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan.

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Old January 21 2008, 09:21 PM   #1
Plum
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Location: Out on the water...
subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

... this is the weirdest science news I've read in a while. I can't see this as being real, frankly. But I thought I'd share and see what others thought.

LANL scientist makes radio waves travel faster than light
Sue Vorenberg | The New Mexican

1/18/2008 - Singleton has created a gadget that abuses radio waves so severely that they finally give in and travel faster than light.

The polarization synchrotron combines the waves with a rapidly spinning magnetic field, and the result could explain why pulsars — which are super-dense spinning stars that are a subclass of neutron stars — emit such powerful signals, a phenomenon that has baffled many scientists, Singleton said.
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Old January 21 2008, 09:29 PM   #2
T J
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

Wonderful, it's about time we got something to go faster than light.
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Old January 21 2008, 11:28 PM   #3
Christopher
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

The article is misinterpreting the actual functioning of the device. It doesn't make radio waves go faster than light -- it just makes a polarization pattern in the waves propagate along the device faster than light can. No actual mass, energy, or information is travelling faster than light, just a pattern.

The developer of the device even mentions an analogy for this in the article, referring to how you can make a point of laser light on the Moon fired from the Earth change position faster than light just by sweeping it sideways. No actual thing is moving FTL, because the reflected photons that make up the spot of light at one instant are not the same as the ones that make it up later, after it's moved. Only the pattern is technically moving FTL.

So there's no way this device could allow FTL communication or "subspace radio." The only thing Singleton is proposing is that this "sonic boom" effect with the polarization wave, basically a constructive interference pattern, could reinforce radio transmissions so they could travel farther, not faster. Or rather, so that their intensity would drop off as the inverse of distance rather than the inverse square, so they would be stronger at a greater distance. This could theoretically allow broadcasting with much lower power, or could allow cell phones to transmit directly to satellites. (So it wouldn't be subspace radio, but it might allow something like "Kirk to Enterprise.")

However, other scientists are skeptical that Singleton has actually demonstrated something new or practical. Here's a less error-prone article:

http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/19957

As I always say, whenever you read science news from a source that doesn't specialize in science reporting, it's a safe bet that they got it wrong. Particularly with "faster than light" claims. It seems that every few months for the past several years, something's been announced about effects that allow some component of an optical wave to have a phase velocity that exceeds the group velocity c of the overall wave, something that's implicit in the equations of light that have been around for a century, and the reporters always misinterpret it as a "faster than light" breakthrough. And then a few months later they forget completely about the last announcement and report the next one as though it's just as unprecedented. But they're all just variations on the same basic Einsteinian physics and don't actually mean what the reporters hype them to mean.

Well, to be fair, I guess some of the blame goes to the scientists themselves, who write their press releases in those terms to make them sound all exciting to the public, because talking about phase velocity exceeding group velocity doesn't excite the reporters as much as "light faster than light" and thus doesn't draw as much attention and possible funding opportunities to the place where you work.
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Old January 21 2008, 11:51 PM   #4
Plum
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

^^^
You rock Chris, thanks for the info.
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Old January 22 2008, 01:11 AM   #5
FordSVT
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

Christopher said:

As I always say, whenever you read science news from a source that doesn't specialize in science reporting, it's a safe bet that they got it wrong.
The minute he started talking about the laser moving on the moon, I knew something was up with the article's interpretation of what he was saying. This isn't the first time a particle or wave experiment was misinterpreted as having properties "faster than light".

What you say is true, but unfortunately it doesn't just apply to science reporting. Almost any topic I'm intimately familiar with that is reported by a mainstream source is full of errors and misinterpretation. IMO, that doesn't bode well for ANY of their reporting.

Financial, social and political news are the only things they staff for these days, and even then you've got to sort through the bias.
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Old January 22 2008, 07:10 AM   #6
M'Sharak
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

Christopher said:

As I always say, whenever you read science news from a source that doesn't specialize in science reporting, it's a safe bet that they got it wrong.
Yeah, even when the byline has "Science Reporter" behind it, a good-sized grain of salt is usually in order.
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Old January 22 2008, 12:09 PM   #7
Ronald Held
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

As long as no information is being transfered FTL, it is not going to be of any use as a subspace radio.
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Old January 22 2008, 06:12 PM   #8
Meredith
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Re: subspace radio (FTL) waves possible? What???

Any updates on the Heim drive?


Or shall I say the "Heim-per Drive"
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