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Faster than light media

  1. Mar 23, 2009 #1
    I understand that in our universe, the speed of light represents a limit which objects of mass cannot reach. I also understand that at sufficiently high energies, the electromagnetic force becomes unified with the weak force to make the electro-weak force.

    Now my question is, is energy transmitted faster than light through an electro-weak field? What about a strong field? Etc. etc. It seems to me that energy would be transmitted faster through these fields, and that if it didn't, particles would not be able to exist (my extended interpretation of Fermat's Theorem). If this were the case, I would presume there would be serious implications regarding the time-evolution of the universe from the Big Bang.

    No detail goes unappreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    No and no. Etc. etc.

    Which theorem? And is this in the peer-reviewed literature anywhere?
  4. Mar 23, 2009 #3


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    Within the standard model, all the fundamental forces are mediated by guage bosons, massive or otherwise, which are constrained to travel <= the speed of light.

    e.g. the exchange of photons between electrons leads to their mutual electromagnetic replusion. Clearly the force transfer occurs at the speed of light.
  5. Mar 23, 2009 #4
    It is good to remember that the universe has a maximum speed limit for motion in inertial frames, and light moves at this speed because photons are massless. For the stong force, the gluons are massless, and so they move at the maximum speed, so we could call it the "speed of glue." The 'weak field' , on the other hand, is made of W and Z particles which do have mass, and anything with mass propogates slower than the speed of light (glue).

    Absolutely not, no, never.

    If you phrase it in terms of a question, "can I use Fermat's principle..." (you do mean principle instead of theorem, right?) then maybe the PF moderators will let you discuss that 'extension' (I would read it) but if you say that your own intuition has led you to a faster-than-light conclusion then no will take that seriously.
  6. Mar 23, 2009 #5
    Thank you, confinement, and everybody else, all these answers helped a lot. I'm not sure whether I mean Fermat's principle or Fermat's theorem, because I learned about it in a Calc II text. They called it Fermat's theorem, and it says, "Light will always take the path over which it can travel the most distance in the least time." Which would be a straight line in a vacuum. It was 100% my own intuition that led me to my "extension" of Fermat's theorem. I do not expect it to be taken seriously, I'm looking for enlightenment on where I'm thinking wrong.

    If light would always travel the greatest distance in the least time, then it seems that if it were to enter a particle, then the speed of light within the particle must be greater than in the vacuum. I first tried to explain the absorption of light by a particle by collisions of light with particles, where in that specific instant of time, the light would have to choose the path that enters the particle, and the particle remains stable because it would take a longer time to exit the particle than to remain within.

    Basically my first way of thinking about it is that light simply can just travel faster within the particle, and the second way says that it's just circumstantial that the light is staying within the particle. Is either of these ways of thinking correct? From what I've gathered so far, my first way is wrong. I'm just here to ask questions.
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