Duo Claims Light Speed Broken

It's just a question of interpretation says Aephraim Steinberg


Aephraim M. Steinberg

German physicists are reporting they have broken the speed of light through quantum optics, but at least one expert in the field is disputing their claim.

According to Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, nothing can exceed the speed of light, or 186,000 miles per second. He theorized that the closer we come to traveling at the speed of light, the more time would appear to slow down, a phenomenon he called time dilation. Time dilation would, in theory, allow time travel.

G√ľnter Nimtz and Alfons Stahlhofen of the University of Koblenz, Germany, using a quantum optics phenomenon called photon tunneling, said they have instantly tunneled photons across a supposedly uncrossable barrier, and concluded that the photons must be crossing the barrier at a speed faster than that of light. They tunneled the photons across barriers of various distances, up to a maximum of three feet. Their work is reported in the Aug. 18 edition of New Scientist magazine.


Aephraim Steinberg, physics professor at the University of Toronto, is quoted in the same article as saying relativity hasn't been violated, and that Nimtz and Stahlhofen are just choosing to interpret the results that way.

"The claim is worse than weak; it is silly," writes Chris Lee in a news story about the research on the Web site Ars Technica, "The paper in question has no data at all, so although it asserts that it has measured superluminal velocities, it offers nothing to back that up. It also has very little in the way of experimental detail, so we can't determine with certainty what they are measuring, making it very difficult to evaluate their claims."