What if Scientists Developed the Ability to Travel Faster Than Light Speed?

Published 30 Mar 2017

Ever since the invention of the airplane, the world has become seemingly smaller because of the short time period needed to get from one place to another. People have given the name “global village” to the world as a result of contemporary traveling technology. However, if scientists were to develop an ability that would allow everyone to travel faster than light speed, all the countries on the planet would become united due to the extreme convenience of transporting. The speed of light is 300,000,000 meters per second, which is fast enough to travel around the Earth, with a circumference of 39,842,480 meters, which is seven times in a second. People who were to travel faster than light speed could easily go from Asia to the United States within one tenth of a second. They could attend universities in Asia while living in the United States. They also would not have to spend time waiting for long-distance mails. Every place on the Earth would be reachable to anyone. Like the name “global village,” the world would become a small community where everyone could get to anywhere anytime. In a community, borderlines would not be necessary; therefore, all countries would be united.

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Space travel, or space exploration, is an important project of some research institutes, most notable of which is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). For them, some projects like the Mars exploration program are difficult and time-consuming due to the extremely long distance (36,000,000 miles) between Earth and Mars. According to the calculation by NASA, a spacecraft from Earth has to cruise at least six months before it can reach Mars. This time-consuming task limits the ability to explore well the mystery of another planet. However, if people have the ability to travel faster than light, space research or planet exploration would advance to a higher level than it is today. Take the Mars exploration program as an example, a spacecraft with a speed of light would only require 192 seconds for a one-way trip from Earth to Mars. Research institutes would know if the spacecraft’s landing on Mars is successful just in three minutes instead of waiting for six months.

Without the waiting period, they would have more time to immediately notice any possible problem in landing or any minor functioning error in the detecting robot, such as Spirit and Opportunity. Thus, problems would be solved right away and institutes can then send another spacecraft to Mars. The infinite opportunities to improve the next planet explorations would lead research institutes to have an ultimate level of knowledge and techniques for space exploration.

Furthermore, the resulting advanced knowledge and techniques for space exploration would make commercial space traveling available to regular persons. Because of the high cost of space traveling, only five people have gone to space until this year. No astronaut or space traveler has traveled to other planet because it is a time-consuming voyage. With the ability to travel faster than light speed and the consequent superior knowledge in space exploration, space travel would become more popular and affordable commercially. People who have always dreamed of space adventure or voyage to other planets could now travel to Venus, Mars, Jupiter, or even other galaxies without enormous spending and cruising through space for years.

According to Newton’s classical relativity theory, when two objects are moving toward the same direction, the object with a higher speed observes and feels that the slower object is moving backward. Similarly, an object that moves faster than light observes and feels that the time is moving backward. Therefore, if scientists were to develop the ability to travel faster than light, people would have the ability to travel to the past. A journey to the past opens another type of traveling for tourists who would like to see how Rome was built or how dinosaurs became extinct. Archaeologists would also be able to solve mysteries from the past easily. As a result, people would have a complete understanding of history.

However, traveling to the past could create gaps in knowledge or technologies. All the current knowledge and technologies are discovered or invented based on previous researches or inventions. If tourists were to bring some contemporary research knowledge to the past, the knowledge could definitely bring the past certain conveniences, yet they could also discourage people to do research. As a result, many valuable and fundamental researches would vanish in the future and therefore the gap of knowledge and technology would appear.

Another consequence of going back to the past, as a result of faster-than-light travel, is a complete change in the future. In the book Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman describes specifically how a small alternation to the past event could lead to changes in multiple events for the following generations. For example, if a person were to accidentally stop Peter Klausen from buying ointment for Mrs. Klausen, Mrs. Klausen, being angry with Peter, would not go for a trip to Lake Geneva where she was supposed to meet and introduce her future daughter-in-law to her son Richard. Then all the changing events would prevent the birth of Richard’s grandson Hans Klausen, without whom the forming European Union would not happen (Lightman 15). The present is extremely sensitive to the past, and even the most minor change to the past could excite a huge chain reaction that can affect the present completely.

Since traveling faster than light speed could be a powerful tool that can change the past, many time travelers would have strong desire to go back in time and change anything according to their own wills. People who are not satisfied with their present situation would go back in time to change unfortunate events or bad memories. Most probably, government agencies in the United States would send back the troops to September 11, 2001 in New York to prevent the 911 tragedy. On the other hand, terrorists would travel back and place bombs at a time when people would be less aware of the attacks. Some people would even go back to year 1889 and murder Adolf Hitler during his infancy to prevent the Holocaust, which occurred between 1939 and 1945. Whether people would change the past according to good or bad intentions, the time traveling ability would endanger the present since certain changes to the past could possibly lead to the destruction of the future.

Just like going back to the past, people could also visit the future with the ability to travel faster than light. In the world where time is steady and absolute (Lightman 37), people could go beyond light without feeling that the time is moving backward. The point where light has not arrived is called the future. In the future, those time travelers would see their destinies. Then they would go back to the present and try to do everything to achieve or to change their destinies. However, if they were to find out that the future is fixed and every action is predestinated (Lightman 160), people would separate into two groups. One group of people would just stop doing anything and wait for their destinies; another would keep working harder and fight for their destinies. These two different types of people would then separate further and further because of their different attitudes toward life.

The ability to travel faster than light speed could be too powerful. It could make people travel to anywhere in seconds, and it also allows people to go back to the past and visit the future. Therefore, if indeed scientists were to develop the ability to travel faster than light speed, it is not unlikely that they would keep the ability for themselves only instead of sharing the knowledge to all the people in the world. In this case, they would be the only ones who could transport instantly, the only ones who could control the present by changing the past, and the only ones who could tell people’s destinies by peeking at people’s future. The power could be too great that people would have to be submissive to scientists. Scientists would then become the ruler of the world.

Lastly, there could be negative physical effects if people were to travel with a speed faster than light. According to Einstein, object turns into energy when it accelerates to light speed. Therefore, everyone who experiences faster-than-light travel would have to be transformed into energy and then to be converted back to the physical form. During the transportation, some energy would be lost. Time travelers could lose their eyes, ears, or hands after the conversion from energy back to physical body. Even if the energy would not be lost during the transportation process, organs or body cells would be arranged differently after the conversion and therefore the physical appearances of the time traveler would be far different than before. As a result, if scientists were to develop the ability to travel faster than light speed, people would look differently every time they made a trip to other places, planets, the past, or the future.

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