So I have a question that I was not able to get an answer to that suits my inquisitive mind. Let me get to the meat. I posted this question and sent it to Cecil.
I would like to say that I enjoy your columns immensely. I try to educate myself in every fashion possible and your inexhaustible fount of knowledge is one of my great joys. Pandering aside I do have a question to lay at the feet of the master, (alright perhaps a bit more pandering) and it could either be deceptively deep or I may have had one too many. When reading your columns from previous dates I find that you like many other people smarter than me say that light speed is the top of the heap and we better just get used to it. The theory of general relativity as far as I can grasp it says this is so and Einstein was a pretty bright guy. From what I understand he was basing this assumption off of observations of the universe in combination with his mathematical models. My question then would be is it possible that he is wrong? By this I do not mean the one in a trillion sure I guess it is conceivable, but more is it actually likely? My thinking is that his logic is faulty in that while the speed of light may be the fastest thing we know, is there anything saying there could not be something faster? If I were to have set the fastest speed possible based on my observations of planet earth (assuming I forgot that light exists on the planet), I might assume that the fastest speed possible was a few hundred miles per hour, or possibly if I happened to catch a space shuttle launch a few thousand. Is it likely that there is something out there faster than light that we just did not know about in his time period or now? As I do not personally know anyone with a PhD in physics and Dr. Hawking ignores my correspondence you are the only man capable of helping me. Please enlighten the teeming millions.
Later that day I got this response from SD Dex,
On light speed: it’s not just that it’s the fastest thing we know, it’s that it logically sets the limit for things like time. For example: if you’re moving away from a clock at light speed, the clock face doesn’t change for you (you keep seeing the second hand at the exact same place.) If you’re moving away from the clock at less than light speed (like, 1/2 light speed) then the clock seems (to you) to be running slow, your perception of the movement of the second hand is that it’s slower than “reality.” If you’re moving at faster than light speed, then you see the clock moving backwards. So, the theory of relativity says that time itself depends on your speed. If you’re travelling at light speed, time stands still for you; faster than light speed, time goes backwards. Because of all the paradoxes connected with that scenario, Einstein posited that light speed was the maximum without breaking all the other rules of physics.
This to me sounds like more validation of Einstein and the theory of general relativity, but then I thought a bit more. How does that example set a limit for time? Could time be the fastest thing in the universe? In the example above you are moving away from a clock at light speed and the clock seems to be stopped, well that is because when we look at a clock we are not looking at time itself, we are looking at light bounce off something before it hits our eyes that gives us an approximation of time. So in essence we are actually just outrunning the light bouncing off the clock, not time. So while due to the constraints of the speed of light and the way that we view things time appears to slow or stop, why would the actual force of time do so? Is this people just saying Einstein is right because it is really hard to think about, or am I missing some fundamental law of the universe? Teeming millions Cecil threw this ball at you. Can anyone enlighten me?