back to article US gov boffins achieve speeds faster than light

Scientists working in a US government laboratory say they have managed to transmit a signal from point to point faster than the speed of light in a vacuum - in a development apparently violating the laws of physics. According to a statement issued by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): According to …


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  1. h4rm0ny

    Science Fiction

    And this is why Hollywood and TV Sci-Fi is filled with meaningless technobabble. Because if real cutting edge science were used, people would just go "yeah, four-wave superluminal travel, right".

    In short, reality is cooler than fiction!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Science Fiction


      1. Evan Essence
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Science Fiction

        @Big Dumb Guy 555 LOL!


      2. The People

        Re: Science Fiction

        Nice bit of trollery there ;)

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Science Fiction

          > Nice bit of trollery there ;)

          Not so much trolling as B1FFing,[1] I'd say; you'd have to be pretty ignorant of 'net culture[2] to mistake that for a troll, much less a serious comment. (I have to wonder how many of the currently 33 downvoters fall into one of those two categories.)

          Of course traditionally B1FF-text includes digit-substitutions (though those now are primarily identified with 133t-speak), long sigs, etc. But its primary characteristics are an obviously stupid comment (as opposed to true trolling, which should realistic enough to fool a number of victims), and block capitals. Also, B1FF is traditionally produced with a filter, and BDG's probably just using Caps Lock; but that's an implementation detail.

          But yes, nicely done.


          [2] I.e., a noob, to a first approximation.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Science Fiction

        ignorant huh?....oh the irony...

      4. GitMeMyShootinIrons

        @Big Dumb Guy

        It would appear that grammar is not your friend. I can forgive this as you are somewhat at a disadvantage, not being from the home of Shakespeare or Dickens.

        On the other hand, it would appear that the Caps Lock key is your friend. Might I suggest either a new keyboard, or perhaps some education on it's use?

        1. proto-robbie

          Re: @Big Dumb Guy

          Those pesky apostrophes...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Big Dumb Guy


        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Those pesky apostrophes 2...

          1. Frumious Bandersnatch

            Re: @GitMeMyShootinIrons

            Those pesky apostrophes 2...

            Back in my day we had a thing called "". Kind of hard to forget when there's an entire newsfroup dedicated to it.

            1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

              Re: @GitMeMyShootinIrons

              In my defence, I was going to write something like "It's got an off position", but I thought it sounded a little blunt.

              However, I stand corrected and will stand in the corner in shame.

            2. Lallabalalla

              Re: @GitMeMyShootinIrons



              can we just give up on the pedantry now?!

        3. Captain DaFt

          Re: @GitMeMyShootinIrons

          But if he turns off the capslock, he loses the shiny, shiny light on the keyboard that fascinates him!

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Science Fiction. Big Dumb Fun for Some

        Seems like this Guy's keyboard has been on the fritz since he (she) returned to the fray April this year after a ten month hiatus. An extra long stay in troll-camp praps?

      6. Darren Gallagher 2

        Re: Science Fiction

        Atrocious grammar, a fondness for capital letters, and sweeping statements so ironic in it's creation. This leads me to believe you're American.

        I think you'll find that we British are patronising, rather than ignorant.

        We have a fondness for penguins too.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Science Fiction

          "sweeping statements so ironic... This leads me to believe you're American."

          So ironic indeed.

      7. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Science Fiction

        C'mon BDG. You're losing it. A genuine 'Merkin fuckwitt would have written "FASTER THEN LIGHT"

        Must try HARDER!

      8. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Science Fiction

        I feel for you, BDG - trying to preserve the culture in the face of ignorance and dogmatism. (I refer to the Reg readership, of course.)

    2. 404

      Re: Science Fiction

      I prefer Bifrost.... or Rainbow Bridge....

      -> obviously a Thor/Asgard fan


      1. Fibbles

        Re: Science Fiction

        I thought that was an einstein-rosen bridge?

        1. DavCrav

          Re: Science Fiction

          "I thought that was an einstein-rosen bridge?"

          Eureka, I think he's got it!

        2. MacGyver

          Re: Science Fiction

          No, I'm pretty sure you take the rainbow-bridge to candy-mountain Charlie.

          1. tomban

            Re: Science Fiction

            Shun the non-believer, shun, shuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do you

      Believe in Santa?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do you Believe in Santa?

        Can you prove he doesn't exist, rather than just being on holiday?

  2. Thomas 18

    This is not science

    It's Science!

    And thus, I approve.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Please correct me...

    ... or the article if I am not mistaken. But AFAIK no information was sent. It's not a "travelling faster than the speed of light" trick, it's just a trick.

    For example, get person A to hold up a card saying "What would you like to drink" at time =0.

    While at about 1 ly away, get someone to hold up a card saying "I'll have a pint please" at time =0+10 seconds.

    This looks like you have sent a message faster than light, but really, you set it up ahead of time (you would need about a years setup time if travelling at the speed of light). No information was sent. :P

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please correct me...

      I think the idea is the individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them where each particle responds to the one behind like a Mexican wave.

      I don't understand why you need qubits, you can just smash the laser when the Vogons show up and the wave will go back to flat line. You have successfully sent a time value for when an event has happened?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

        Indeed. Nothing here is actually moving faster than light, apart from "the place where the currently most-energetic photon is". That's not a thing, it's an abstract concept.

        There's a similar thought experiment where you have two long perfectly rigid poles, each a light-year in length, side-by-side. You start by tilting one slightly relative to the other, so that instead of being parallel, they are touching at one end like so: |\ and about ten centimeters apart at the other end. Then you move the tilted pole ten centimeters sideways, so that it passes right over the other one and ends up on the other side of it: \| and now they're touching at the opposite end to where they were initially in contact. You've only moved the whole rod ten centimeters, so you can do that quickly (thought experiment and idealised perfectly rigid rods, remember), but the point of contact between the two rods has travelled an entire light year in those few seconds.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

          Sure, but who has a stiff rod that long?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

            "Sure, but who has a stiff rod that long?"

            There's an after-market seat for BMW motorcycles that can help with that:


        2. Blitterbug

          Re: >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

          Yes, a moving shear point can appear to defy physics. In fact this is what I first thought the article was about at first scan; some variation on using the shear point trick. But seems not.

        3. 0laf


          All I need are two infinitely rigid rods and I can tap out Morse at superluminal speeds thus depriving intergalactic BT of excessive connection fees.

          Oh two infinitely rigid rods and someone to speak to, who knows Morse.

          1. magrathea

            Re: Soooo

            Infinitly rigid rods are forbidden by relativity. The wave of that displacement can only travel at less than the speed of light

        4. brooxta

          Re: >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

          Hmm. That's actually the whole point of the speed-of-light-is-a-maximum thing and the reason why it's such a fundamental concept in our understanding of physics today. It governs even the rigidity of your rods. It's WHY you can't have infinitely rigid rods. The point of contact will not move that fast because you can't have rods that stiff because the speed of light is a maximum.

          Actually, I believe the relevant limit you want to consider when it comes to rods and communicating information along them is not the speed of light, but the speed of sound in that material. Which will be rather significantly slower.

          The experiment described in the article is a bit different. Frames of reference anyone?

          Funny how in our thought experiments we so quickly latch on to the possibilities of the infinite/eternal and yet so often we refuse to acknowledge any such influence in our worldviews ...

        5. daveeff

          Re: >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

          And how much thought went into this thought experiment?

          Obviously you aren't going to get rigid poles a light year long in practise but less obviously you aren't going to get them in theory either because of the very law it is trying to disprove. It takes takes time for the molecules adjacent to one to end to move when the end moves & so on all down the pole. I suspect given the stiffest pole possible (now that should get spam filtered) it would take about a year for the far end to catch up (if it were a light year away). See my comments on moving lights.

          Given " two long perfectly rigid poles" information can travel faster than the speed of light - given a moped that does 5x10^8m/s pizza can travel faster than the speed of light.

          Where's the icon for "I believe your premise is false" or indeed "Garbage In, Garbage Out".

          1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: >"individual particles are still moving at the same speed but there is a ripple through them"

            Actually a 1 light year rod would buckle under its own gravitational load.

    2. Werner McGoole

      Publicity seeking scientists spin their result for the press

      Actually, there's no need for infinitely rigid rods. You can demonstrate this "science" with two fingers. Raise one to a certain height and raise the other to a slightly lower height. Now quickly raise the second one to be higher than the first.

      Did you see what happened? The finger height maximum moved instantaneously from one place to another.

      OK, you can quibble about exactly how fast it moved, but separate the fingers by a few light years and there's no doubt it'd be a lot faster than light speed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Werner McGoole

        That's it! I really need to learn some sort of mathematical example for that description. It's hard to describe it on a page, really need a diagram or video.

        ... or some fingers!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Science fiction? Or reapplication of old news?

    "if real cutting edge science were used, people would just go "yeah, four-wave superluminal travel, right"."

    Well at first glance, as a retired physicist, my first thoughts on reading this article (and being unable to read the original) were "why is this different than the well known difference between phase velocity and group velocity", which was cutting edge science back in the 1870s for acoustics (Rayleigh), and in the 1980s and later for electromagnetic stuff (look up superluminal wave propagation).

    If anyone can shed any light...

    1. Thomas 18
      Thumb Up

      Re: Science fiction? Or reapplication of old news?

      It does say "Apparently so much was already old hat,..." so this paper is just describing a better way of doing it.

    2. An ominous cow herd

      Re: Science fiction? Or reapplication of old news?

      I guess it's the "achieve" part that's new, vis-à-vis just theorizing about it.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Science fiction? Or reapplication of old news?

        No it's been 'achieved' about every 10years since the invention of the laser.

        The last lot was a nutty German prof who played a Mozart CD over the link.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Science fiction? Or reapplication of old news?

      I read it as a phase versus group velocity as well and in fact superluminal signals which do not carry information are boringly mundane. The spot from a rotating light beam against a target a very long way away can achieve any velocity. I do not understand the bit about Qbits so I may be very wrong...

      1. daveeff

        Re: Science fiction? Or reapplication of old news?

        "spot from a rotating light beam against a target a very long way away can achieve any velocity"

        Nothing in the "spot" has moved, photon A arrived at point a (1 light year away), rotate the source 180 and photon B arrives at point b (2 light years away from a) only 1 one year+tiny bit later but nothing moved from a to b. No particle no data so no velocity - what is this "signal"?

        "signals which do not carry information" AFAIK: signal=information

        so signal - information > c

        => nothing > c

  5. Andy 70


    TechnicalBen, my take on it is that you have a pre-agreed way to read the numbers off of the light beam at both ends, and you just take advantage of the phase shift of the light beam itself and modulate accordingly to get your information there 'a tiny tiny tiny bit faster than light'.

    nothing is physically travelling faster than light, just the numbers just ride the phase peaks like a surfer on a wave. like a stopped clock surfs a 12hour time wave to be right twice a day. provided you know when to read the cycle, you'll get the information you need. so each end has to know how to read and transmit the information accordingly.

    meh, whatevs. probly wrong init. safe.

  6. amanfromearth

    Can I be the first to say




    for our transatlantic cousins

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if, at any point

    Someone thought "Yikes, CERN will get all the funding this year due to their publicity over faster than light particles, lets do similar and theorise something that industry will want so pump money into us"

    new financial year and all that

    "you canna change the laws of physics" Montgomery Scott, chief engineer USS Enterprise

    1. red hal

      Re: I wonder if, at any point

      You might not be able to change the laws of physics, but you might be wrong about what those "laws" actually are ... pal.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ye canna change the laws of physics...

      he may say it, but doesn't practice it!

      'Theoretically' warp drive is possible last I heard... So why couldn't they warp particles....

    3. bep

      Yes, but

      didn't he say that while he was travelling at eight times the speed of light?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, but

        or was he just appearing to move faster than light by warping time around the craft?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ok, but...

    But if said speed-of-light-inna-vacuum is used to heat a sausage-onna-stick, Dibbler's theory of the amount of curry required per pint consumed is proved invalid. So next week, Cut-Me-Own-Theory will have been achieved, and all without rubilidium chambers and hence it happened - it will have happened - it has will have happened - faster than light. Can I have my gazzillion in funding now please?

    Apologies to Douglas Pratchett and Terry Adams

    1. Colin Brett

      Re: Ok, but...

      "Apologies to Douglas Pratchett and Terry Adams"

      Why apologise? You are merely "standing on the shoulders of Giants"!


      1. Martin 47

        Re: Ok, but...

        Quite, although I was disappointed that there was no mention of 'a really strong cup of tea' especially as one is essential for proper ftl stuff

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Yes, I do believe IT does, in a series of bright flashes and swift crashes too.:-)

    "By performing measurements of quantum discord between fast beams and reference beams, the group hopes to determine how useful this fast light could be for the transmission and processing of quantum information," the NIST announcement says.

    Would such transmission and processing of quantum information deliver virtual teleportation into Free Space Base Territories in Live Operational Virtual Environments* ......... Cyber Commands with Semantic Control of Programmable Assets ...... Virtual Machine Robots for Cosmic Conditioning of Human Beings?

    What do you know of Global Operating Devices and Internet Pioneers in LOVE* with True Love. Would they stumble and fall at the Enigmatic Dilemma or leap boldly forward of all with leading action in HyperRadioProActive IT, to be copied and replicated wherever for similar Personalised IT Clone result.

    Whatever Next? CyberIntelAIgent Beings Assisting Intelligence Communities with Surreal Advanced Systems? Smart Capitalising Money goes long and deep and in for the wild ride on that Doozy, which apparently is presently unplugged from the System spectacularly failing to server and protect the System with Generous Grateful Feeds and Virtually Free Seeds .... for the Gracious Bounties that are Rewarded in the Selfless Giving of Unconditional Aid with Anonymous Help for Everywhere.

    1. kwhitefoot

      Re: Yes, I do believe IT does, in a series of bright flashes and swift crashes too.:-)

      Long time no see! Welcome back, or possibly forward if the signal is superluminal.

    2. MacGyver
      Thumb Down

      Re: Yes, I do believe IT does, in a series of bright flashes and swift crashes too.:-)

      Your post looks like it is either coming from an 8th grader's programming assignment AI, or a broken Spam-bot, broken in the sense that while it contains a great many "buzzwords", it lacks links to work-at-home schemes and penis-enlargement pills.

      It could be you are trying to send us a message covertly with all the misplaced Capital letters; WNCABACSASSCMDSSGGFVFSGBRSGUAAHE, nope, broken spam-bot.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    I'm sick an tired of all these mofo FTL claims on this mofo planet (gunshot)

    Are we mixing the waves again, son?


    "qubits whose value is not simply 0 or 1 but potentially any value from 0 to 1"

    NO! They have a value on the

    1. beast666

      Re: I'm sick an tired of all these mofo FTL claims on this mofo planet (gunshot)

      Calm down dear...


      Do they have a value ON the Bloch sphere or within it as mixed states? I think it is essential that such states are within the Bloch sphere to enable quantum computers to function... But hey what do I know?? Readers please educate me on the righteous path of quantum computing (if it is possible at all(how do you get the data out?))

      PS. I don't know what I'm talking about

    2. MacGyver

      Re: I'm sick an tired of all these mofo FTL claims on this mofo planet (gunshot)

      When you're feeling under pressure, do something different. Roll up your sleeves, or eat an orange.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'm sick an tired of all these mofo FTL claims on this mofo planet (gunshot)

        Or roll up an orange and eat your sleeves. That works quite well if for nothing else than eating your sleeves is quite tiring, and after that and rolling up the orange it's time for a good nap. And a nap does wonders for your disposition.

  11. Schultz

    1-01 in Physics

    This type of claim is akin to moving your ass in one end of the bathtub and exclaiming surprise that the water magically leaves the bathtub in the other end. Faster-than-light? Perpetuum mobile? Cold-fusion? Bring it on!

    The described experiment is not only an old hat, but it is misleading marketing of science. Bear with me for a moment, and you'll understand the magic trick.

    The "information flow faster than light" only works with coherent light. Coherent light can be generated with a laser, and the photon waves that make up the light have well-defined "phases", i.e., they reproducibly sum up to a larger wave, to a smaller wave, or to zero at certain points in space-time.

    You can shift the points of constructive interference (the electromagnetic wave of several photons sum up to a bigger wave) or destructive interference (the electromagnetic waves of photons have opposite sign and destruct one another) by shifting the phase. So you can shift the point where you see the photon towards the back or the front of the laser pulse --> If we observe constructive interference at the back end of the wave in a position A and at the front end of the wave in a position B, it looks like the bulk of the wave moved faster than light!!! But was any information transmitted?

    The information in the described experiment is stored in the photon phases. The phases are inscribed in the laser cavity, which in these types of experiments emits a quasi-continuous electromagnetic wave. So you can pretend that the light jumped from A to B, but the coherent wave has been there is there all along and there is no information flowing from point A to B. If you modify the phases after the cavity, the inscribed phase information will be transmitted with exactly the speed of light.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 1-01 in Physics

      Yep. That's what I was getting at, but I only know the limits, not the reasons. Thanks for mentioning them.

      So it was like they were casting 2 shadows on opposite sides of a room. Shadow A one side, shadow B the other. While you can cast both shadows "instantaneous" to each other, you cannot claim "we might be able to send a message instantaneous from A to B". Anyone watching the shadows sees the light from them (or blocking of light, as it's a shadow ;) ) happen at slower than light timescales. So you don't get the message sent any faster. :(

      Or as mentioned in another post, it's the "light house" effect of a rotating beam of light (but rotating along it's axis this time). While the beam rotates very fast, anyone watching it only gets the beam of light to reach them at speeds slower than light.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Re: 1-01 in Physics

        So the extra distance that the FTL signal will have traveled in the same time as the non-FTL signal would have to be measured in ångstrom.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    I find it remarkable that a bunch of dudes on a forum are able to, with such confidence, dismiss the results of months of work by highly trained individuals who are among the top in a very difficult and specialized field - and this having not only not read the study, but with your only source of information being the heavily simplified and distilled information in one news article on an IT web site.

    You guys are obviously in the wrong business. The field of physics needs you.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Where's your String Theory now?

      Marketing is the same everywhere, everytime, dude.

      Decades of observing the field of physics out of the corner of my jaundiced eye [not to mention some experience in a uni research team] has taught me that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It has been my experience that some people in the IT industry like to categorise other people into tiers of intelligence based on their employment. These IT people are of course in the top tier (even if they specifically only spend their day fixing printers and telling people to switch their computer off and on again) along with the physicists, biochemists, etc. This gives them the ability to comment knowingly on any subject because it couldn't possibly be that some things are beyond their understanding.

      I believe this stems from having knowledge about devices the general public use everyday but generally have no clue about. This breeds arrogance and leads these IT bods to mistakenly believe that because they have a greater mastery of one subject compared to most people they must have a greater knowledge of all 'worthy' subjects than most people.

      1. frank ly

        It stops us from roaming the streets and accosting innocent passers-by with our opinions on various subjects.

        It's a public service by El Reg.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. John H Woods

      @David W

      whilst I appreciate the sarcasm in your amusing post I feel compelled to opine thus:

      The highly trained individuals to whom you refer would (rightly) have zero respect for us if we took them, or any other highly trained individuals, at their word. This is a logical fallacy called "accepting the argument from authority."

      It has been my privilege to meet many top-flight scientists and my feeling is they would be more impressed with even our ill-informed attempts to debunk their approach than the unthinking 'scientists say...' acceptance of the other lay media where their results will be reported.

      1. Fibbles

        @ John H

        I'd say there's a pretty big difference between posing questions based on your limited prior knowledge of of a topic in order to check that the idea is sound and dismissing something completely out of hand even though you couldn't even explain the basic principles of what was being discussed*.

        *See the half dozen posts in this thread that just assume these scientists got their result by way of a timing error like at CERN

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @David W

        John H:

        I'm guessing that said scientists would nonetheless not view a response consisting solely of "bollocks" as worthy of respect, despite the poster's refusal to take them at their word.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I see you're new here. Welcome to the Internet!


    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The more profound the claim

      The greater the burden of proof.

      The claim of being able to send information faster than the speed of light, crops up regularly, and gets dismissed just as regularly. This sounds suspiciously like a number of past ones of those. (do some digging into phase velocity, im a comtard and too lazy to find useful references out there for you)

      There may be a way of FTL information transmission via superposition and the spooky action at a distance. But this has not yet been realised.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You mean like how people could with the FTL neutrino claim?

      It's not the "months of work" anyone is contesting. It's the mistaken descriptions from the media. Or the false conclusions from unrelated evidence. Such as "we think this can be used to send FTL messages" is an obvious false conclusion to the paper. The experiment shows an "apparent" FTL effect. Thus it can never be used to send any information.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Where has this claim of information travelling faster than light had any evidence presented or stood up to any scientific scrutiny whatsoever? Yet you are prepared to take this article at face value simply because it says someone ha a theory somewhere and they might be 'a government scientist'.

      Real science is open to new ideas but it doesn't take something as fact until it is somewhat proven. What are the odds that someone has managed to bypass a basic rule of the universe, versus it is a trick/mistake?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Did I say I was prepared to take the article at face value? Hmm... no. What I said was that it's absurd to *confidently and quickly dismiss it based on very little information*.

        I haven't got a problem with *discussing* it. I have a problem with people arrogantly and offhandedly tossing the whole thing in the bin without even bothering to understand what they're binning.

        Also, science doesn't really "take something as fact" at all - not even relativity, which is, as you describe, a 'basic rule of the universe'. But basic rules of the universe are only basic rules of the universe until they aren't.

        Yes, the odds are low, but that *in itself* is a very bad reason to dismiss the discussion out of hand.

        I suggest reading 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' by Thomas Kuhn (IIRC). It's not perfect, as the nearly-equally-opaque Wikipedia page points out, and you'll want to shoot yourself in the head about fifty times as you slog through it - diagramming the guy's sentences would be a project akin to analyzing the US tax code longhand - but it's worth it for the perspective you gain.

  13. HeNe

    Garden Hoses

    Paragraph 1 says, "...managed to transmit a signal from point to point faster than the speed of light in a vacuum..."

    Paragraph 8 contradicts this, saying, "In four-wave mixing, researchers send 200-nanosecond-long "seed" pulses of laser light into a heated cell containing atomic rubidium vapor along with a separate "pump" beam at a different frequency from the seed pulses... "

    "a heated cell containing rubidium vapor" doesn't sound like a vacuum to me.

    Still, as we cannot yet reasonably-conveniently install and maintain heated, rubidium-vapor-filled garden hoses between Earth and other celestial bodies whose inhabitants with which we wish to communicate, AT&T, BT, et. al. need not worry about any serious competition.

    1. Steve Knox


      I'm pretty sure the article meant:

      "...managed to transmit a signal from point to point faster than the speed of light in a vacuum..."

      rather than:

      "...managed to transmit a signal from point to point faster than the speed of light in a vacuum..."

      which would actually be meaningless because the speed of light is not constant (without respect to the medium through which it is traveling.)

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Miscalculation and correction in..


    WHo wants to bet....

  15. JDX Gold badge

    Normal Vs Quantum information

    What is that about? Seems to me that even if the other side can receive some 'quantum info', the ability to resolve it to readable/known state relies on receiving some information which is bound by c and therefore nothing is actually achieved?

    1. Fibbles

      Re: Normal Vs Quantum information

      What I assumed from the article was that if you sent information with qubits using this method you would be able to infer the state of the qubit before the light making up the qubit arrived. Essentially observing the quantum information without observing it*.

      *I'm no physicist and my grasp of quantum mechanics is tenuous so it's VERY likely I'm talking out of my arse here.

    2. Schultz

      Re: Normal Vs Quantum information

      This story has nothing to do with quantum information, you still think about that other story on 'unbreakable quantum encryption'. That one only comes around every other month.

  16. Khaptain

    Not a sustainable movement - Does it count ?

    If I have understood correctly the movements are only temporary. It is quicker on for half a cycle and slower for the other, thereby averaging its speed to that of the speed of light.

    I see this as being the same as any given point on the outside of a wheel, for half of a revolution that point is travelling faster than the axle but the same point travels slower on the second half of the rotation.

    The importance being that no part of any object can arrive any quicker than any other part of the object for the same distance travelled.

    I am not a physician so I could be completely and utterely wrong, corrections are welcome.

  17. beast666

    Veet For Men

    Am still laughing, and have ordered 4 tubes... watch this space...

    Anyways up, shirley this is the old phase velocity vs group velocity phenomena, you can't send any info via this route. The statistics get in the way, drowning out your superluminal 'signal' in noise till it turns to mush... Which leads me back to the first thing I mentioned. How nice ;)

    Oh and have a look at this, could do with some of these to help with the Veet AND its on-topic!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    resolution of measuring equipment

    How fast was the kit that measured the laser able to operate - does it measure the beam instantly, does it have a nanosecond measuring window. - How fast. By this think of a camera shutter. If the shutter could open and close faster than the speed of light then you would see nothing, if it was slower then light would get thru - not best example but you get a feel for what I'm questioning here.

    So unless the measureing equipment is able to measure near to the speed of light or its margin for error would make this test unviable. Now using a larger distance reduces this error of margin. But without more details its hard to validate. Also do they measure from the center of the edge of the gas vapour as this in itself can have effect. Say you send 4 beams and they interacts and casue a 5th beam to be created and traverse backwards and this happens at a midpoint then you will instantly see it appear to travel faster than light when it is not.

    So many questions, so many answears, so exciting. Science rocks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: resolution of measuring equipment

      "If the shutter could open and close faster than the speed of light"

      What is that supposed to mean ?

      Do you mean if the shutter can open and close faster than light can pass the thickness of the shutter ?

      1. beast666

        Re: resolution of measuring equipment

        I will let you know what this means shortly after I take delivery of my Veet For Men...

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: resolution of measuring equipment

        ok you have point A and point B

        they are 10 units apart

        light moves at say 5 units per second so to get from A to B it would take 2 light units

        to measure the light at point A and point B we have a measureing device of some sorts

        this measure device takes 1 light unit of time to measure any sample

        Given this premise you can see that the speed of measurement can impact the results and in this area .000000001% margin of error is still alot. As such to truely measure things they use large distances to in essence slow things down enough to make that margin of error smaller.

        This is why they tested neutreno's over a distance of nearly the entire planet and still made a error.

        Given this - I find anything done in a lab which is small in terms of how far light can bounce around in it or anything else to be flawed before it even starts.

        Thing I found in life in general that to get a accurate sample you realy want to sample 4x the speed of the data involved (video being a poor but acurate example of this when you want say you film something at 500x500 and also film it at 2000x2000 and reduce it down to 500x500, even with the same lenses etc you will get a better picture from the downsampled 2kx2k film at 500x500 than shooting raw at 500x500). So to mearure the speed of light accurately you would need to be able to measure it at 4 times the speed of light. This is deemed impossible and rightly so, this is why you cheat by in essence slowing down the data and in this case by having a larger distance is how you do it, though you never completely eliminate that margin of error you simply end up shifting that decimal point further and in essence reduce the margin of error.

        As it stands it's like measureing a 10 pixel image with a 2 pixel camera and declaring you see 12 pixels.

        If I still fail to explain myself then I feel assured that the universe is just as bad at explaining itself as well and in that I have good company.

  19. Andus McCoatover

    Tsunami springs to mind...

    Somehow, it seems parallel. But, I'm NOT a physicist.

  20. Andrew_b65

    I can run faster than an aeroplane...

    Heck, even a trolley dolly can push her cart of wares faster than a plane. If she's pushing her cart from the back towards the front, her forward velocity is in excess of the plane's.

    Sure, her velocity relative to the plane is minimal, but relative to the whole universe it is still greater than that of the plane. It's the same on those 'moving pavements' at airports, you can stand still, or walk. If you choose to walk, you're actually moving at a fair old lick due to the combined velocity. You could probably beat Usain Bolt in a 100m sprint if you run.

    If these guys have figured a way of making data carried on the light wave increasing its velocity relative to the wave, then it would be travelling faster than light by moving forward on the wave instead of just being carried by it. Perhaps these experiments could lead to a way of making it easier to control the Beagle 9 Mars lander without that annoying 20 minute delay?

    As observed by a common idiot, being me.

    1. Tom 260

      Re: I can run faster than an aeroplane...

      Just a side note, but the most basic way of avoiding the 20 minute delay on a Mars lander is to put a person in it, no skirting the laws of physics needed there.

    2. DavCrav

      Re: I can run faster than an aeroplane...

      "but relative to the whole universe"

      See Einstein, Albert. Or indeed, Galilei, Galileo (principal of equivalence)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can run faster than an aeroplane...

      You made the universal mistake when it comes to the speed of light and relativity.

      Get your airplane, and speed it up to the speed of light. Now ask the trolley dolly for some "Iced Tea". Your sitting at the front of the plane, the Air Crew at the back. Do they ever reach you? Relativity says no one travels faster than light, not even on our speed of light aircraft.

      There are some videos on in that give a really good description, look them up. :)

  21. beast666
    Black Helicopters

    May the Angels of God forgive me

    In my enlightened state I felt a presence from 3ns in the future... She told me to stop messing around with Rubidium atoms and such and concentrate with the matter in hand. She told me the winning lottery numbers for Friday. Also she said Man U would win the league...

    Wow, it was all a dream... or was it?

  22. Stevie


    a) Information not travelling faster than light.

    2) Prediction: error in sums will be shown by competing team in t-2 weeks and counting...

    ~) IBM probably already has working tech based on this idea, but it undoubtedly requires cooling to 5K or it doesn't work at all.

  23. AceRimmer1980
    IT Angle

    Yanks find loophole in laws of physics

    by deciding that the laws don't apply to them. How is this news?

    1. Local Group

      Re: Yanks find loophole in laws of physics

      Thank you.

  24. Ron 6

    FTL, I don't think so...

    Ok, supposing the pulse is going faster than light. That would indicate that the pulse could reach the destination before the beam of light got there. Any bets on this happening? Maybe they can reproduce the Thiotimoline effect and send data in to the past...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beam me up Scotty. We have to travel at maximum warp to star base 11.

    Fact or fiction?

  26. Graham Wilson

    Yawnnnnn! Big deal.

    Like Cherenkov, phase-type processes don't count for much.

    So you're in a train and run up the corridor. In the end, you're not traveling faster than the train.

    Special Theory's safe.

    Einstein's still on perch.

    1. Local Group

      Re: Yawnnnnn! Big deal.

      I like the image of riding a tricycle up the corridor.

    2. daveeff

      Re: Yawnnnnn! Big deal.

      You run up the train but aren't travelling faster than it???

      The train is a 300yds long, we both get on the last carriage, I walk up the train to the first carriage. It arrives and we both get off. I'm at the ticket barrier, you are down the platform and walk to the ticket barrier.

      I got there first - ie travelled further in the same time, so either I travelled faster than you or time dilated significantly. I can't see time dilation effects occurring at London Midland speeds!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yawnnnnn! Big deal.

        Except the theory of relativity means that if the train was travelling close to the speed of light, time inside the train slows down and you haven't started to run down it before it reaches the station.

  27. GT66

    Seems like more of a cheat than a loophole - like running down the aisle of a moving train. Sure, technically you are moving faster than the train is but you are never going to arrive ahead of the train so ultimately, you are only as fast as the carrier regardless of how fast you are moving on the carrier.

    That said, forgive my layman's understanding of this article if I have completely missed the mark.

    1. Local Group

      You did miss a teeny bit.

      If you run down the aisle of a train you are running in the opposite direction that the train is moving. So if the train is moving at the speed of light and you are running down the aisle you are moving slightly slower than the speed of light. You must start running up the aisle from the back of the train. When you reach the front you will have traveled faster than the speed of light. How cool is that?

  28. A nony Mouse Cow Herder


    Playmobil reconstruction please ? or it didn't happen !

  29. jubtastic1


    But isn't this exactly like saying that the batton in a relay race travels faster than the runner carrying it on account that it starts from his back hand and finishes outstretched before him?

    It doesn't matter if those points are 2mm apart or 2ly, is still only going to make 50ns difference.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I be the first to say...

    Check the GPS connections first THEN announe.

  31. attoman

    Yes its Science and it's VERY specific

    50 nanoseconds faster then the speed of light in a vacuum sounds specific right? However 50ns over 500ns is enormous while 50ns over 500 km is piddling and questionable.

    Why questionable because the Einstein limit is for the THEORETICAL Speed of light in a perfect vacuum. However there is no perfect vacuum and recent tests of quantum foam interactions says there can never be a non-plasmonic vacuum at light speeds and time frames.

    Therefor we do not yet know the Einstein speed of light against which to measure.

    However it is possible we can exceed the speed of light in real vacuums by the proposed method and others.

    1. DavCrav

      Re: Yes its Science and it's VERY specific

      "50 nanoseconds faster then the speed of light in a vacuum sounds specific right?"

      The point of relativity is that the speed of light is fastest in any medium. True, you can slow light down in certain media, but then so will everything else. So whether or not it's a vacuum is unimportant.

  32. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It's science

    It's good.

  33. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Not as fast as they think

    The last group of people who made a rash claim about FTL ended up with egg on their faces and the boss resigning. Apparently *this* information hasn't yet crossed the Atlantic.

    Regarding the substance of the article, conflicts between local theories, theories with an underlying reality, quantum wavefunction collapse and relativity date back to the EPR experiment. We still don't have a satisfactory resolution. I think the current compromise is unchanged from Bohr's original position which is to deny that there is any such thing as an underlying reality.

    If you are happy with that position, feel free to now get excited at the prospect of being able to transmit quantum information as fast as you like, but don't hold your breath waiting for someone to actually build experimental apparatus that can do it on a length scale large enough to permit an unambiguous demonstration.

  34. Colin Millar

    Where in the US?

    Not Indiana I hope.

  35. groovydad

    Not done physics for 30 years but......

    isn't the really cool (and totally counter to our 'common sense') thing about special relativity the fact that whatever the frame of reference, the speed of light is constant ? By which I mean if you travel on a train at 100mph and a train comes directly towards you at 100mph, that train seems to come towards you at 200mph. But..... if the trains are both travelling at the speed of light (not likely but please bear with me) the train coming towards you appears to travel towards you at the speed of light, not twice the speed of light.

    So..... applying the same straight forward formula I would have thought that the peak (or whatever it was, I'm too old to understand this stuff anymore) travelled at no more than the speed of light - at these speeds you can't calculate relative speeds through simple addition or subtraction.

  36. Antoine Dubuc

    Miles Mathis will eat them for breakfeast

    I just can't wait to see what Miles is going to write about this one too.

    You might just find it interesting too.

  37. ForthIsNotDead

    Science Bunkum

    This is article is untrue.

    Everybody knows the only thing that travels faster than light is bad news!

  38. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Meh. So information goes a bit faster than light...

    As we Brits know, monarchy travels instantaneously. When the current monarch dies, the next in line becomes king (or queen) without any delay regardless of how far apart he/she is. Admittedly, you can only transmit one bit of information per royal, so we don't use it for signally much.

    1. daveeff
      Big Brother

      Re: Meh. So information goes a bit faster than light...

      Monarchy may travel faster than light but the information about it doesn't. Yes the heir becomes the monarch the instant the old monarch dies but no one knows that until the death is observed & the (old) heir doesn't know they are monarch until the information reaches them.

      If HRH Prince Charles were put in a sealed box with poison, a radioactive isotope & a cat ... Channel 4 would want to make a reality TV show about it.

  39. Keith 17

    Light travels faster in a vacuum

    I've got a see-through Dyson, and things move around in there very fast indeed.

    But I don't know about this "ripple" nonsense. I hoovered up a bit of a flake once, which is very like a ripple, and it didn't appear to be going round any faster than anything else.

  40. defiler


    Quake. Deathmatch. Now.

    Quake - I'm showing my age now. Sorry - I'll get back to work...

  41. Mr Young


    Could I arrive at work on time before I phone to say I was going to be late? This really is getting confusing now

  42. rwg

    We have similar data on a US global bank and it's high frequency trading platform

    We reported on this in April last year.

  43. 4ecks

    Asprin please.

    Q1) If you can receive the information before it's sent, what happens if you receive it but then don't send it?

    Q2) How long until I can can get FTLTTC instead of just FTTC?

  44. tillm

    In The Long Line Of Revolutionary Human Achievements

    This <b>shurely will be one of the brightest</b>. I rank it in this list:

    1st: Perpetuum Mobile

    2nd: Cold Fusion in a test tube

    3rd: Funny lasers appearing faster than light

    4th: Faster-than-light Neutrions which develop on rusty USB contacts.

    This is a <b>real</b> picture of Burning Snake Oil. Chemically the same as Burning Pork Barrel Fat.

  45. Blue Pumpkin

    I thought bad news was the only thing that travelled faster than light ....

    It certainly went faster than Railtrack, that's for sure.

    .. apologies to Mr Adams

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