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Faster Than Light: Superluminal Loopholes in Physics Paperback – November 30, 1989
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From Publishers Weekly
Even though most physicists believe that the speed of light is as fast as anyone or anything can go, Einstein's theory of special relativity does not rule out faster-than-light (FTL) travel. On the contrary, it seems to indicate that certain superluminal or FTL effects would permit us to re-experience the past: time travel would become a reality, not science fiction. Through this crack in the cosmic egg steps Herbert, a Stanford physicist and author of Quantum Reality , who summarizes clearly current speculation and theory about faster-than-light travel. Along with space warps, black holes and tachyons (hypothetical FTL particles), he looks at the so-called "quantum connection"an alleged force said to instantaneously link any two subatomic particles long after they have bumped into each other. Free of the woolgathering that tints much writing on the "new physics," this brave, exciting book should send scientists back to their drawing boards; for the nonspecialist reader, it reveals a world much stranger than Star Trek.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Nick Herbert is the author of Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics, Faster Than Light: Superluminal Loopholes in Physics, and Elemental Mind: Human Consciousness. Dr. Herbert holds a PhD in experimental physics from Stanford University. He has taught science at all levels, from graduate school to kindergarten. With his wife Betsy, he developed a hands-on home-schooling science curriculum.
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Modern Physics. I highly recommend it.
The reader should also be aware that this book was originally written in 1988, and this paperback edition has not been updated to include the ramifications of string theory or M-theory. This book should therefore be followed with "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene.
Buried at the heart of this question is perhaps another, more interesting question being: Do we even have the physiological ability to accurately perceive how time passes?
Like the first question, this book provides some interesting food for thought on the second question as well. As has been pointed out by other reviewers, this book from 1988 certainly should not be read alone and to the nominated other suggested works of Brian Greene's Elegant Universe and Fabric of the Cosmos I would also add Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics (which questions the efficacy of string theory itself) and also David Darling's Teleportation the impossible leap which is a more recent treatment of the developments relating to using quantum entanglement as potential means for interstellar/instantanious communications.
But back to basics: Do we accurately perceive time?
It's been an incident of scientific progress that great errors occur when natural human insights are imported into scientific theory without the benefit of testing. Two cases in point are the Ptolemaic model of the universe wherein the simple observer assumption that the earth is at the center of the universe and that everything revolves around it is taken as scientific fact and also the Aristetalian dichotemy between body and soul, itself another simple observer assumption that the soul exists independently of the body.
Conversely it's also been an incident of scientific progress that when one is willing to come forward and seriously challenge convention, there is a potential for great scientific advance. Again, citing the Ptolemaic model, the Copernican revolution was seriously revolutionary because it challenged the observer assumption that we alone in the universe were motionless while the rest of creation alone moved. And again, citing the Aristetelian model, the soul/body dichotemy has come under attack based on recent developments in evolutionary psychology which have shown the close correspondence between changes in brain physiology and alterations in human behavior. (If there is a soul then why does the loss some brain cells so radically effect human behavior. See Phantoms in the Brain by V.S. Ramashandran.)
It is in these regards that the question of the human perception of time has had a particular salience and power. And until 1957, no less than Richard Feynman was betting that our perceptions of time were way off. To understand why Feynman made and lost his bet we need to review some basic physics.
There are four fundamental physical forces which govern the universe. Acting at macroscopic scales we have gravitation and electromagnetism. Significantly by 1957 testing had shown that each force was time symetrical. In other words, the processes by which it operated worked the same in forward and reverse. At the microscopic level, the strong nuclear force was also found to be time symetrical.
So when Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang decided to test the weak nuclear force, Feynman bet that they would also find this force to be time symetrical according to Steven Pollock, physics professor from University of Colorado at Boulder.
And he lost because the Lee/Yang experiment showed that the weak force was indeed after all not time symetrical which meant that nature indeed after all did have an arrow of time.
Now that having been said, as pointed in this book, there are good reasons to believe that our perception of the speed of the passage of time does vary from the actual physical phenomenon. Likewise, as pointed out by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in Sirens of Titan and also Slaughterhouse Five there is also a question about why we see time so linearly.
His time traveling Tralfamadoreans saw humans as extended millepeds with baby's feet on one end and geriatric feet on the other and since we exist in all those time frames the question remains as to why we do not similarly experience reality. Like Capernicus questioning the movements of the earth or modern psychology divining the engines of consciousness the question is not a frivolous one but rather, among others provides fodder for scientific discovery.
And now back to the initial question: Is time travel possible?
In this regard, it bears noting that Herbert cleverly titled his book Faster than Light because modern physics does indeed support the movement of faster than light activity at the quantum level. However, like a modern insurance contract, the devil is in the details. This is because mere faster than light travel at the quantum level does not guarantee a basis for human exploitation for time travel purposes.
So at the end of the day, Herbert's book ends up saying what Stephen Hawking says in A brief history of time and what Kip Thorne says in Black Holes and Time Warps...you can't get there from here.
However, like those books this one keys into that very human, very scientific inquiry and asks why not?
Dr. Herbert's book keeps a fine level and apart from the slight shortage of diagrams, appears to have escaped any marked "dumbing down" at the hands of editors, but I add a cautionary remark. Removing visual aids apparently makes a book "easier to read," hence more marketable--an editor may reason that the reader won't have to concentrate as much. But there's a point--quickly reached in Physics --where the truncated product becomes too superficial to reward a careful and intelligent reader. So, unless handled with great care, this commercial approach throws out the baby with the bathwater, crippling the very "product" it was supposed to serve.