# Faster velocity than the speed of light?

• sydfremmer
In summary: In other words, the answer is meaningless.Question 2:If so, p1 and p2 have traveled away from each other with speed greater than the speed of light. How can that be if, as i understand, no objects can have a relative speed larger than the speed of light?Light cannot travel faster than the speed of light, so if two particles are moving away from each other faster than light, they are moving away from each other in a different direction than light.
sydfremmer
Dear Forum Users,

I am a graduate student in Mathematics and not physics, so please bare with me. Also, I know that a similar topic has been discussed before but i could not get a clear answer from reading the previous posts.

And here is the question i have been wondering about:

Suppose we have two particles, p1 and p2, traveling in opposite direction, each with speed 0.6c relative to point "A".

Question 1:
After 1 year, the distance from A to p1 will be 0.6 lightyear, and the distance from A to p2 will be 0.6 lightyear. Thus the distance between p1 and p2 will be 1.2 lightyear - right?

Question 2:
If so, p1 and p2 have traveled away from each other with speed greater than the speed of light. How can that be if, as i understand, no objects can have a relative speed larger than the speed of light?

I am looking forward to see your replies :)

sydfremmer said:
Dear Forum Users,

I am a graduate student in Mathematics and not physics, so please bare with me. Also, I know that a similar topic has been discussed before but i could not get a clear answer from reading the previous posts.

And here is the question i have been wondering about:

Suppose we have two particles, p1 and p2, traveling in opposite direction, each with speed 0.6c relative to point "A".

Question 1:
After 1 year, the distance from A to p1 will be 0.6 lightyear, and the distance from A to p2 will be 0.6 lightyear. Thus the distance between p1 and p2 will be 1.2 lightyear - right?

Question 2:
If so, p1 and p2 have traveled away from each other with speed greater than the speed of light. How can that be if, as i understand, no objects can have a relative speed larger than the speed of light?

I am looking forward to see your replies :)

If you're familiar with coordinate transformations you have to ask what speed does particle p1 see you traveling away and the answer is 0.6c by symmetry and then ask what speed does particle p1 see p2 traveling away and the answer becomes something like 0.9c (actually 0.88c) because you have to use the relativistic coordinate transformation to compute both cases.

In relativity no observer will ever see a particle or object of any type travel faster than light speed and that goes for observers on p1 and p2 that's a given borne out by experiments that have yet to prove relativity wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_relativity

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From the point of view of a person at point A, they will have relative velocities greater than light the same way that two cars driving away from me at 60mph in opposite directions will have a relative velocity of 120mph according to me.

The difference is that from the point of view of a person in either car (which is moving slow enough that SR need not be applied although it technically has an effect), the other one will be moving at 120mph whereas in SR, the two spaceships that you describe will NOT see the other moving at greater than the speed of light. To find the perceived velocity of the other ship, you need the Lorentz transformation of the velocity.

Note, just as the two cars are not driving 120mph (with respect to the earth), there is no frame of reference where either ship will be moving at greater than the speed of light.

OK, so in effect the particles ARE moving away from each other with speed greater than light?

The first paragraph of post #3 is incorrect.

I suspect, syd, that you may not have noted your question 1 is posed with respect
to the 'stationary' point A;question 2 is posed with respect to a different frame, say, p1.
In relativity, different frames observe different results. In SR, different observers are separated not by fixed time and fixed distance but by the Lorentz transforms.

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sydfremmer said:
OK, so in effect the particles ARE moving away from each other with speed greater than light?

RELATIVE TO WHAT ?

You need to get straight on the fact that speed is relative. You can't just say "they are traveling at X speed" --- that is a meaningless statement. You have to pick a frame of reference and stick with it. There IS no frame of reference in which they are moving at > c relative to each other.

sydfremmer said:
After 1 year, the distance from A to p1 will be 0.6 lightyear, and the distance from A to p2 will be 0.6 lightyear. Thus the distance between p1 and p2 will be 1.2 lightyear - right?

This is true in the frame in which A is at rest, but not in other frames. Distance is frame-dependent. Also, "after 1 year" is frame-dependent; you are implicitly picking out events on p1's worldline and p2's worldline which are simultaneous with 1 year having elapsed at A, but which events you pick will depend on which frame you use.

sydfremmer said:
If so, p1 and p2 have traveled away from each other with speed greater than the speed of light.

This "speed" is not the same as the "relative speed" that can't be greater than the speed of light. To determine "relative speed", you have to pick a frame in which, say, p1 is at rest, and then ask what distance p2 covers in that frame in a given time in that frame. Since distance and time are frame-dependent, as above, you can't just use distances and times in the frame in which A is at rest to do this. You have to properly transform distances and times from frame to frame, using the Lorentz transformation. You also have to pay attention to the relativity of simultaneity.

Have you had any experience doing any of the above? If not, I would suggest consulting a basic reference on special relativity.

Naty1 said:
The first paragraph of post #3 is incorrect.

No, it is correct. SR holds that no object can move greater than the speed of light, but the distance between two objects that are moving with respect to a frame of reference can grow at greater than the speed of light with respect to that reference frame. Neither will appear to move faster than light in their own frames.

OK, so in effect the particles ARE moving away from each other with speed greater than light?

No, they are not moving faster than the speed of light in ANY frame. The distance between them may be growing faster than the speed of light from a separate frame, but both will be measured to be moving less than the speed of light.

DrewD said:
No, they are not moving faster than the speed of light in ANY frame. The distance between them may be growing faster than the speed of light from a separate frame, but both will be measured to be moving less than the speed of light.

Just to be clear. Is it correct to say that the distance between them is growing faster then the speed of light?

sydfremmer said:
Just to be clear. Is it correct to say that the distance between them is growing faster then the speed of light?

In your frame of reference 'A', yes. The distance is increasing with a rate of 1.2 lightyears/year, that is 1.2c. I said rate and not speed since it's not the speed of anything. There is nothing going faster than light here.

Thank you all for the replies. I feel that i understand the basic concept now.

By the way, can anyone recommend a good introductory physics book explaining time dilation and related topics

sydfremmer said:
Thank you all for the replies. I feel that i understand the basic concept now.

By the way, can anyone recommend a good introductory physics book explaining time dilation and related topics
It's not an "introductory physics" book, but I really like the presentation of SR in "A first course in general relativity" by Schutz. It doesn't go very deep into it, but it covers all the basics very well.

I don't like that book's presentation of GR however. It's considered the easiest intro to GR, but it's easy because it does everything it can to avoid explaining differential geometry.

Your question in the OP seems to have been answered, but I'll offer my thoughts anyway, since you got the answer in bits and pieces. Perhaps this will make it easier for the next person who asks this question.

The distance between the position coordinates of the two objects in the inertial coordinate system comoving with A is increasing at a rate faster than c. Some people even call that rate the "relative speed" of the two objects. Another term is "separation speed". The velocity of object p2 relative to p1 is however something completely different. This is the ##dx^i/dt## of the line in ##\mathbb R^4## (or the dx/dt of the line in ##\mathbb R^2##) that p2's world line is mapped to by the inertial coordinate system that's comoving with p1. Since you specified that the coordinate velocities of p1 and p2 in the inertial coordinate system comoving with A are in opposite directions, you can calculate the velocity of p2 in the inertial coordinate system comoving with p1 by using the velocity addition formula. In units such that c=1, it takes the form
$$w=\frac{u+v}{1+uv}.$$ In this case, u and w are known, and we're looking for v, so we solve for v.
$$v=\frac{w-u}{1-wu}.$$ Now you can just plug in the values w=0.6 and u=-0.6 to get the result v=1.2/1.36≈0.88.

I think the easiest way to prove that the right-hand side of the velocity addition formula is in the interval (-1,1) for all u,v<1 is to define ##\theta(r)=\tanh^{-1}(r)## for all ##r\in\mathbb R##, and use the identity
$$\frac{\tanh x+\tanh y}{1+\tanh x\tanh y}=\tanh(x+y)$$ and the fact that ##|\tanh x|<1## for all ##x\in \mathbb R##.
$$|w| =\left|\frac{\tanh\theta(u)+\tanh\theta(v)}{1 +\tanh\theta(u)\tanh\theta(v)}\right| =\left|\tanh(\theta(u)+\theta(v))\right|<1.$$

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New question: Will the light from p1 ever reach p2?

sydfremmer said:
New question: Will the light from p1 ever reach p2?

Yes it will.

jedishrfu said:
Yes it will.

Earlier in the thread it said that in A's FoR the distance is increasing at a rate of 1.2 ly.

In FoR P1 & P2 the rate is 0.88cin A's FoR does the light from P1 reach P2? if so how?

Never mind I see the 1.2 ly distance increase from FoR A is useless, 0.6 isn't.

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A related topic that I have a difficulty understand is the expansion of the universy. I read that the universe is expanding such that some galaxies move away from each other faster than the speed of light. If this is the case, does it not mean that some galaxies are moving away from us faster than c?

If this is the case, does it not mean that some galaxies are moving away from us faster than c?

It is difficult to understand. Our everyday notion of distance doesn’t work on cosmological scales, so everyday intuition is useless.
Yes, that is possible in curved spacetime. But it is a different concept than in your original post which is in flat space-time. At the Hubble radius, the recession velocity is c; beyond the Hubble radius galaxies move away from us at greater than c. [We also move away from such observers at greater than c.]

The 'distance' measure used in FRW cosmology model of our universe is most commonly the proper distance, is based on the FRW metric with a rate of change as measured by co-moving observers; this velocity exceeds c for sufficiently large distances.

All this ‘superluminal’ velocity at great distances tells us is how one of many different possible definitions of distance changes; Other metrics that use different co-ordinates may not contain any apparent superluminal recession.

For more, checkout the Balloon Analogy by pHinds from these forums: http://www.phinds.com/balloonanalogy/

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sydfremmer said:
A related topic that I have a difficulty understand is the expansion of the universy. I read that the universe is expanding such that some galaxies move away from each other faster than the speed of light. If this is the case, does it not mean that some galaxies are moving away from us faster than c?

Not in the sense you mean. They are RECEEDING from us at FTL but that is not the same as MOVING. Seems weird, I know. Google "metric expansion". Nothing is moving, it's just that the distance is increasing because space is expanding.

sydfremmer said:
A related topic that I have a difficulty understand is the expansion of the universy. I read that the universe is expanding such that some galaxies move away from each other faster than the speed of light. If this is the case, does it not mean that some galaxies are moving away from us faster than c?
It does. Apparently most of the galaxies that can be seen from Earth are "moving" away from us faster than the speed of light (in the sense that the derivative of the distance with respect to time is >c). But this is a result of expansion of space, and doesn't have a lot to do with motion through space. It's still impossible for a massive particle near such a galaxy to move faster than c relative to that galaxy.

Edit: I agree that "moving" is a misleading word, so I added the quotes in the first sentence, and a clarification.

Here is a great paper, but rather long and detailed:

Expanding Confusion:
common misconceptions of cosmological horizons
and the superluminal expansion of the universe
Tamara M. Davis, Charles H. Lineweaver
http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0310808.pdf

There is an abbreviated version that used to be available in Scientific American, but I haven't seen it lately. [edit: I found my link to UCLA but it not longer works.]

An alternative: Ned Wright...
http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html#FTL

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Thanks again :)

Now I can sleep

Naty1 said:
Here is a great paper, but rather long and detailed:

Expanding Confusion:
common misconceptions of cosmological horizons
and the superluminal expansion of the universe
Tamara M. Davis, Charles H. Lineweaver
http://arxiv.org/pdf/astro-ph/0310808.pdf

There is an abbreviated version that used to be available in Scientific American, but I haven't seen it lately. [edit: I found my link to UCLA but it not longer works.]
Marcus has a working link in his signature. http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/~charley/papers/LineweaverDavisSciAm.pdf

Marcus has a working link in his signature. http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/~charley/p...DavisSciAm.pdf

Alas, that link no longer seems to work either...
I double checked Marcus signature and that link IS the one he uses...

The abstract is here:

at Scientific American the article now costs \$7.95 unless one has a subscription.

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That link is working fine for me. I tried it before I posted it, and I just checked it again.

Curious...I keep getting an error message #404?? via a google chrome browser...at least six attempts now...
ah, the mystery of 'the cloud'...

"That link is working fine for me. "
now that's just plain 'showing off' [LOL]...

What the... NOW I'm getting a 404 error as well. Maybe they reorganized some time after I posted the link last night, and my browser just got the article from the cache when I tried today. Ah, now the website of that entire university appears to be down. They must be making some major changes right now. Maybe the link will work again when they're done, and if not, maybe we can figure out its new URL.

Didymus said:
Either object can go 0.6c for one year and be just fine. But, it it looks at something else traveling in a way that would break the speed limit, God shrinks time and space so you don't cheat.

This is a physics forum. Let's leave the supernatural out of it. Physical laws do just fine.

Naty1 said:
Curious...I keep getting an error message #404?? via a google chrome browser...at least six attempts now...
ah, the mystery of 'the cloud'...

"That link is working fine for me. "
now that's just plain 'showing off' [LOL]...
Uhm...did you copy and paste the abbreviated text for my link instead of just clicking on it? The link in my post is working fine, but if I click the one in your post, I get the 404 error.

Code:
[PLAIN]http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/~charley/papers/LineweaverDavisSciAm.pdf
Code:
[PLAIN]http://www.mso.anu.edu.au/~charley/p...DavisSciAm.pdf
[/PLAIN]

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phinds said:
RELATIVE TO WHAT ?
haha I was waiting for that!

## What is faster velocity than the speed of light?

Faster velocity than the speed of light refers to the concept of an object or particle moving faster than the speed of light, which is 299,792,458 meters per second in a vacuum.

## Is faster velocity than the speed of light possible?

According to the current laws of physics, it is not possible for an object or particle to travel faster than the speed of light. This is known as the universal speed limit and is a fundamental principle in Einstein's theory of relativity.

## What would happen if something traveled faster than the speed of light?

If an object were to travel faster than the speed of light, it would violate the laws of physics and cause a number of paradoxes. For example, it would appear to travel back in time and have infinite mass, which is not possible.

## Are there any exceptions to the speed of light?

While the speed of light is considered the universal speed limit, there are some phenomena that appear to travel faster than the speed of light. For example, the expansion of the universe and certain particles in quantum mechanics have been observed to exceed the speed of light. However, these do not violate the laws of physics as they are not traveling through space.

## Could the speed of light ever be surpassed?

Many scientists and physicists are researching ways to potentially surpass the speed of light, such as through theories like wormholes or manipulating space-time. However, it is currently unknown if this is possible and it would require a major breakthrough in our understanding of physics.

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