# The maximum speed of transfer/propagation of information

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I understand the c  fills this role but I would like to ask if that is  a purely experimental finding or if there is an underpinning of a theory to it.

The argument I think goes like this. There has to be a maximum speed of information transfer ,otherwise things would occur  at the same time.

Now we do have a maximum speed that has been observed and it is the speed of any massless object in a vacuum.

Connect the dots and they are the same speed...

Any more to it than that? Could it actually be higher if we came across objects that actually traveled faster than c in a vacuum?

By the way ,if dolphins communicate by sonar  how would their communication systems be affected if we gave them mobile phones? (a good analogy?)

Edited by geordief

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It's a combination of both. The limit of c must be obeyed if you want causality.

As they say: relativity, causality, faster than light. Pick two.

There is theory that shows how, if you assume relativity is correct,  FTL breaks causality. We already have good evidence that relativity is how nature behaves, so that's a reasonable assumption. And causality seems to be correct, as well.

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On 8/1/2018 at 5:14 AM, swansont said:

... FTL breaks causality...

I've read this over a couple of times and I'm failing to see the point, at least in this amazingly well written article.

It says for example, "...they could call Earth before Earth placed the call. They could even tell Earth "hey, don't make that call to Proxima Centauri we just saw you make." Then what?"

What makes the relativistic ship crew believe that they could affect the order of these two FTL events when they received them at light speed. Earth could just answer "We made that call years ago, and Proxima already prepared for the event months ago, and they are ready. Didn't you hear our FTL comms?". If the ship could have received the FTL communication, it would have received it first, then "see" the call arrive at Proxima, then "see" the call originate from earth.

Let's even consider that there's no instant communication, but Earth sends an FTL ship to inform Proxima. Say, that ship travels at faster than light, rather than whatever one may call "infinity" or "instantly" (I suspect that there could be issues with what "infinity" means when you consider relativity in FTL environment). The relativistic ship would "see" the FTL ship first, out of nowhere, then it will "see" it traveling backwards towards Earth AND forward towards Proxima at the same time! The ship would be "seen" to arrive at Proxima before the event of ship launch is "seen" to happen on Earth. Even then, I'm failing to see any problems. It almost sounds to me like the Einstein's train problem/paradox where simultaneity is relative.

The tachyonic anititelephone paradox has been bothering me for a while, but my knowledge of physics is limited so I could not comprehend it. I would really appreciate if someone could explain (his without Minkowski or complex formulas).

Thanks

Edited by kamenjar

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13 minutes ago, kamenjar said:

I've read this over a couple of times and I'm failing to see the point, at least in this amazingly well written article.

It says for example, "...they could call Earth before Earth placed the call. They could even tell Earth "hey, don't make that call to Proxima Centauri we just saw you make." Then what?"

What makes the relativistic ship crew believe that they could affect the order of these two FTL events when they received them at light speed. Earth could just answer "We made that call years ago, and Proxima already prepared for the event months ago, and they are ready. Didn't you hear our FTL comms?". If the ship could have received the FTL communication, it would have received it first, then "see" the call arrive at Proxima, then "see" the call originate from earth.

Let's even consider that there's no instant communication, but Earth sends an FTL ship to inform Proxima. Say, that ship travels at faster than light, rather than whatever one may call "infinity" or "instantly" (I suspect that there could be issues with what "infinity" means when you consider relativity). The relativistic ship would "see" the FTL ship first, out of nowhere, then it will "see" it traveling backwards towards Earth AND forward towards Proxima at the same time! The ship would be "seen" to arrive at Proxima before the event of ship launch is "seen" to happen on Earth. Even then, I'm failing to see any problems. It almost sounds to me like the Einstein's train problem/paradox where simultaneity is relative.

The tachyonic anititelephone paradox has been bothering me for a while, but my knowledge of physics is limited so I could not comprehend it. I would really appreciate if someone could explain (his without Minkowski or complex formulas).

Thanks

You are only supposed to have one outcome of an event. With FTL you could have more than one outcome.

You have the call to Proxima. Let's say that call causes some event, which can only happen of there is a call. Then the callers on Earth get the signal not to place the call. They don't place it. And yet, the event has happened, even though the cause of it is absent.

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7 minutes ago, swansont said:

You are only supposed to have one outcome of an event. With FTL you could have more than one outcome.

You have the call to Proxima. Let's say that call causes some event, which can only happen of there is a call. Then the callers on Earth get the signal not to place the call. They don't place it. And yet, the event has happened, even though the cause of it is absent.

Please read my reply more carefully. You are failing to see that I pointed out (at least per how I perceive the order of events) that the relativistic ship simply cannot affect either of the two events (call being placed, and call being received), because they already did happen in the past of the event of the ship receiving them,

Edited by kamenjar

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Never mind a spaceship to Proxima Centauri...

I throw a baseball at you faster than the speed of light.
Because light takes a certain amount of time to reach my eyes, you have already been hit, and have fallen on the ground, even though I still see you standing. You are, then, no longer where I aimed the baseball.
So you didn't get hit by the baseball.
But then you wouldn't have fallen.
So you did get hit.
And on. and on, and on...

It is a paradox, like time travel, which yields results at odds with each other, where there should only be one result for causality to hold.
( as Swansont has already explained )

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Quote

You are only supposed to have one outcome of an event. With FTL you could have more than one outcome.

Where do you get that from?

Quote

You have the call to Proxima. Let's say that call causes some event, which can only happen of there is a call. Then the callers on Earth get the signal not to place the call. They don't place it. And yet, the event has happened, even though the cause of it is absent.

How can the callers on earth get the signal to place the call before placing the call?

As I see it there are 4 main observers

1-Earth, 2-Proxima, 3-Ship, 4-Universe.

time moves relative to 1,2,3 as a factor of 4. eg. 1 second on earth could be 4 seconds on Proxima but 3 seconds relative to the universe.

Relative to the universe the earth always makes the call first, then Proxima receives it,  the light travels a certain distance and then the ship observes the earth before the call is made, the ship then calls the earth to talk about the call to Proxima because it has already made the call.

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16 minutes ago, MigL said:

Never mind a spaceship to Proxima Centauri...

I throw a baseball at you faster than the speed of light.
Because light takes a certain amount of time to reach my eyes, you have already been hit, and have fallen on the ground, even though I still see you standing. You are, then, no longer where I aimed the baseball.
So you didn't get hit by the baseball.
But then you wouldn't have fallen.
So you did get hit.
And on. and on, and on...

It is a paradox, like time travel, which yields results at odds with each other, where there should only be one result for causality to hold.
( as Swansont has already explained )

Would things just interact as they do physically in a ftl scenario, like the baseball hits the other person, but there is just a time delay in the signal arriving about the event? The signal being just information.

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1 hour ago, kamenjar said:

Please read my reply more carefully. You are failing to see that I pointed out (at least per how I perceive the order of events) that the relativistic ship simply cannot affect either of the two events (call being placed, and call being received), because they already did happen in the past of the event of the ship receiving them,

Here's how the causality reversal could happen.  You need two ships traveling at relativistic speeds and a means of instantaneous information transfer.

The ships in this example are moving at 0.866 c relative to the Earth and Alpha C.   One ship is trailing the other

We assume that Alpha C and the Earth have synchronized their clocks in their rest frames, and that the ships have likewise synchronized their clocks.

However, by the Rules of SR, the Earth-Alpha C frame will not measure the ship clocks as being in sync, neither will the ship frame measure the clocks on Earth and Alpha C as being in sync.

The following diagram illustrates this.

The top two images show events according to the Earth-Alpha C frame. And the bottom one events according to the Ships' frame. For the purpose of making things neater numerically, we will assume a distance of exactly 4 ly to Alpha C.

We assume that the year 3000 has just started when the trailing ship passes Earth and that the trailing ship also records the same time on its clocks.

The distance between the ships will be contracted to 1 ly ( it is 2 ly as measured by the ships.)  The year 3000 has just started at Alpha C, but the for the lead ship it is still ~1.7 years from starting by their clock.

When the lead ship reaches Alpha C, it is ~3.5 years later by the Earth and AC clocks, and ~ 1.7 years later by the Ship clocks ( I'm doing a fair amount of rounding out here)

The lead ship has now reached the start its year 3000 anf the trailing clock now read ~3001.7.

If we switch to the frame of the ships, we see something different.  Now the distance between the ships is 2 ly and the distance between Earth and Alpha C has length contracted to 2 ly.

This means that just as the trailing ship passes the Earth, the lead ship is just passing Alpha C. Both ship clocks are in sync and read the start of the year 3000. The clock on Alpha C now reads 3003.5

So let's assume that t Alpha C (In the AC year of 3003) hands off a message to the ship passing it, which sends an instantaneous message back the trailing ship, It leaves and arrives at both ships in while both clocks read the year 3000.  The ship passing Earth hands of the message to Earth, which is in its year 3000.  But in the Earth-AC frame it is also the year 3000 at AC, so if the Earth now sens the message back to AC instantaneously, it arrives in the AC year of 3000 or 3.5 years before it was sent.

Now we used instantaneous messaging in this case, as it made illustrating the problem simpler, but any FTL transmission of information causes the same basic problem.

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2 hours ago, MigL said:

I throw a baseball at you faster than the speed of light.
Because light takes a certain amount of time to reach my eyes, you have already been hit, and have fallen on the ground, even though I still see you standing. You are, then, no longer where I aimed the baseball.
So you didn't get hit by the baseball.
But then you wouldn't have fallen.
So you did get hit.
And on. and on, and on...

It is a paradox, like time travel, which yields results at odds with each other, where there should only be one result for causality to hold.
( as Swansont has already explained )

First of all, you have no proof that I existed at the time when you threw the superluminal ball. You just saw me standing and assumed that I existed.
The only proof or disproof of my existence that you can have is in the future, when looking at t0=time when you threw the ball.
Therefore you can not make any assumptions about hitting me in the first place, until you either get the light form an event of me falling, or light from an event of me dodging your ball.
I don't see a paradox there.

1 hour ago, Janus said:

Here's how the causality reversal could happen...

And thanks Janus for the detailed description. I'll try to comprehend it better,  but in my (inverted) mind, the diagram looks flawed. In the first line, it shows both and earth AC at year 3000, which is fine -- you can choose any way you want to synchronize clocks -- But do you mean that in the first row a) GPS-like -- AC is seeing light from earth that is 4 years old (form 2996 celebrations) and the same way for Earth (At time of earth label 3000 it is celebrating year 3000 and seeing celebrations form Proxima of year 2996), or b) is set to Earth's light flow reference (frame) Earth sees AC's celebrations of year 2992 and AC sees celebrations of year 3000 from earth.

Now again, you can choose any convention you want, but in case of:

a) Why wouldn't the leading ship celebrate the year 3000 at the "same time" (now "same time" is a problem to define for sure), and set its label to 3000, so it celebrates at the same time as planets? If years are "synchronized" (ala GPS), why would any of the ship's clocks read other than 3000 GPS time (like we do on Earth).

b) The time at AC is set wrong because if the leading ship is seeing the light from earth from 2998.3, there is just no way for AC to see light from 3000 "at the same time" that the leading ship sees the old light from Earth. It would seem that AC sees the light from earth arrive before the ship does, but the ship is inbetween Earth and AC.

Now if we were to set the time labels accordingly, does everything still make sense?

2 hours ago, fiveworlds said:

Where do you get that from?

My bad. I wanted to say that you "see" (with your eyes) two events (lifetimes) leading out of one single (real) event. If a superluminal ship was to appear in vicinity of earth (but actually emit light the whole time while traveling) and stop to earth's orbit. We would see two things:

1) Trail of the ship going backwards towards their origin.

2) Ship standing in Earh's orbit.

Does that make sense?

2 hours ago, fiveworlds said:

1-Earth, 2-Proxima, 3-Ship, 4-Universe....

You mean the ship is not in between Earth and Proxima? The article didn't seem to say that.

Edited by kamenjar

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48 minutes ago, kamenjar said:

You mean the ship is not in between Earth and Proxima? The article didn't seem to say that.

No I mean the article says you have a phone to call Proxima from earth. So why isn't there faster than light video communication too. One person could observe all the events happen in the correct order via faster than light video communication and no time travel would take place.

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5 hours ago, kamenjar said:

Please read my reply more carefully. You are failing to see that I pointed out (at least per how I perceive the order of events) that the relativistic ship simply cannot affect either of the two events (call being placed, and call being received), because they already did happen in the past of the event of the ship receiving them,

Which is not how causality works. You don't do things, or events don't happen, because a result mandates it.

Meaning that FTL breaks causality.

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3 hours ago, MigL said:

Never mind a spaceship to Proxima Centauri...

I throw a baseball at you faster than the speed of light.
Because light takes a certain amount of time to reach my eyes, you have already been hit, and have fallen on the ground, even though I still see you standing. You are, then, no longer where I aimed the baseball.
So you didn't get hit by the baseball.
But then you wouldn't have fallen.
So you did get hit.
And on. and on, and on...

It is a paradox, like time travel, which yields results at odds with each other, where there should only be one result for causality to hold.
( as Swansont has already explained )

I think you require FTL in at least two different frames to break causality.

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26 minutes ago, swansont said:

Which is not how causality works.

From Wikipedia:

Quote

In Einstein's theory of special relativity, causality means that an effect can not occur from a cause that is not in the back (past) light cone of that event. Similarly, a cause can not have an effect outside its front (future) light cone. These restrictions are consistent with the grounded belief (or assumption) that causal influences cannot travel faster than the speed of light and/or backwards in time.

Here we already have an assumption (a thought experiment) that the event of using superluminal communication violates this principle. This is how the universe works and I accept that. There is a reason of course why Einstein's predictions have been proven to be correct - because they are. We have not figured out and probably never will figure out how to communicate/travel FTL. However, I just prompted this discussion by my lack of understanding of what is it about it that makes FTL communication thought experiments claim that  FTL communication "sends events to the future". I guess I have my answer now. Well if future is defined by the light cones, then of course it invalidates causality as it is defined! What I'm saying, I guess, is that it seems to me that if we talk FTL communication/travel we can figure out if alternative ways to define "future" and "simultaneity" in some coherent way are possible. I was hoping bright minds on this forum could help.

I am just using a thought experiment that violates this principle, but I don't see how it violates logic.

I also realize that this topic is in the wrong forum

Edited by kamenjar

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54 minutes ago, kamenjar said:

And thanks Janus for the detailed description. I'll try to comprehend it better,  but in my (inverted) mind, the diagram looks flawed. In the first line, it shows both and earth AC at year 3000, which is fine -- you can choose any way you want to synchronize clocks -- But do you mean that in the first row a) GPS-like -- AC is seeing light from earth that is 4 years old (form 2996 celebrations) and the same way for Earth (At time of earth label 3000 it is celebrating year 3000 and seeing celebrations form Proxima of year 2996), or b) is set to Earth's light flow reference (frame) Earth sees AC's celebrations of year 2992 and AC sees celebrations of year 3000 from earth.

Now again, you can choose any convention you want, but in case of:

a) Why wouldn't the leading ship celebrate the year 3000 at the "same time" (now "same time" is a problem to define for sure), and set its label to 3000, so it celebrates at the same time as planets? If years are "synchronized" (ala GPS), why would any of the ship's clocks read other than 3000 GPS time (like we do on Earth).

b) The time at AC is set wrong because if the leading ship is seeing the light from earth from 2998.3, there is just no way for AC to see light from 3000 "at the same time" that the leading ship sees the old light from Earth. It would seem that AC sees the light from earth arrive before the ship does, but the ship is inbetween Earth and AC.

Now if we were to set the time labels accordingly, does everything still make sense?

a) Because, "at the same time" means something different for the ships than it does for Alpha Centauri and the Earth.  This the the relativity of simultaneity.  Which is a result of the invariant nature of the speed of c. All frames measure c has having the same value relative to the frame from which it is being measured.  So imagine you are trying to synchronize the two clocks at Earth and AC.  You could set off a flash of light at a pint halfway between them and when the flash reaches each clock, it is started, like this. the flash expands outward from a point that remains halfway between the two clocks.  Here the AC clock is the one one to the left.

However,  according to the Ships,  that same flash of light expands outward at c from a point that remains at rest with respect to them, and they would conclude a different result.  For them both Earth and AC are moving at 0.866c to the right.   Thus AC runs into the expanding flash of light first and its clock starts running, and then later the light reaches the Earth clock and it starts running.   Both clocks still run at the same rate while running, but are offset from each other.

The same thing happens when you try and sync the ship clocks to each other, According to the ships their clocks start at the same time  and remain in sync with each other, but according to the Earth and AC, the Trailing ship's clock starts first and remains ahead of the trailing ships clock once both are running.

The relativity of simultaneity is a fundamental concept in Relativity, and one you really have to grasp before you can understand the tachyon phone scenario.

b. The times given are not what someone would visually perceive, but what time they would say it was at any of those clocks after they accounted for the light travel delay.

So for instance, when the trailing ship is next to the Earth,  both the trailing ship and Earth would visually "see" the AC clock as reading 2996, but would come to different conclusions as to what time it actually was at AC at that moment.

The Earth can say " AC is four ly away and has remained that distance between the time the light left and it arrived. Thus it took the light 4 yrs to reach me and I'm seeing light from four years ago, and thus if I am seeing 2996, it is actually 3000 at AC.

The trailing ship has figure to it out this way:  Right now, AC is 2 ly away.  However, it is approaching me at 0.866c.  The light was traveling at c (relative to me) during its trip and left AC some time ago, when AC was much further than 2ly away( nearly 15 ly)*.   So I have to work out how far away AC was when the light left, divide that by c to get how long it took the light to get to me (15 yrs) by my clock, factor in the fact that the clock at AC is time dilated ( running slow compared to my clock) to work out how much time ticked off on AC's clock while the light was traveling (0.866c gives a time dilation of 1/2, so this works out to 7.5 yrs.) And finally, use that to determine what time it is a now at AC considering  that I now "see" it reading 2996. (2996+7.5 = 3003.5)

*I am assuming that both ships have had a relative velocity of 0.886 for a long time before they pass the Earth. This is to avoid bring acceleration and non-inertial frames into the scenario, which opens a whole new can of worms;  One that is best left until you are really comfortable with Relativity as it works with purely inertial frames

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On 8/1/2018 at 12:00 PM, geordief said:

I understand the c  fills this role but I would like to ask if that is  a purely experimental finding or if there is an underpinning of a theory to it.

I would say it is theoretical. But of course by theories that are empirically proven.

Historically, the value of c was first measured by Rømer, using cyclical deviations of the orbital times of the moons of Jupiter. Then, when Maxwell was able to unite magnetism and electricity mathematically, he derived that electromagnetic waves should exist, and the velocity was exactly the measured velocity of light, and he concluded that light must be an electromagnetic wave. However, Maxwell's equations do not specify the velocity relative to what. It is just c. Sec. Period. Full stop.

Many physicists around 1900 were aware that this was a problem, and many ad hoc hypothesis were proposed solving this problem (or also to explain why the Michelson-Morley experiment to measure the speed of light in different directions of the movement of the earth gave a null result: they could not measure such a difference). You can still recognise this by some names: length contractions are also known as Fitzgerald contraction, and the equations to convert time and space from one frame of reference to the other are called 'Lorentz transformations'. Poincaré also derived them (he called them 'Lorentz transformations'), but they were all still based on a preferred frame of reference, i.e. where everything is in absolute rest. It was Einstein who derived exactly the same equations based on the simple principle that all inertial frames are equally valid, i.e. there is no frame in absolute rest. So it is theoretical, but firmly based on very simple principles.

On 8/1/2018 at 12:00 PM, geordief said:

The argument I think goes like this. There has to be a maximum speed of information transfer ,otherwise things would occur  at the same time.

I don't think this is correct. This might be a way to understand it:

Normally, when discussing special relativity, people say that you get Newtonian mechanics at slow speeds. But one can also go the other way: it is just equivalent to suppose that light speed is infinite. If you do this with the Lorentz transformations, you just get the classical Galilean transformations, as we can use them in daily life. (Everybody's time is the same, you can just add velocities, etc etc). But still, causality is not a problem in Newtonian physics.

Only when you presuppose special relativity, causality becomes a problem with faster-than-light velocities. So you get at Swansont's bon mot:

On 8/1/2018 at 12:14 PM, swansont said:

relativity, causality, faster than light. Pick two.

Try it. Pick two, and see that it is inconsistent with the third. Which combination would be Newtonian mechanics? Why?

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7 hours ago, Eise said:

I don't think this is correct. This might be a way to understand it:

Normally, when discussing special relativity, people say that you get Newtonian mechanics at slow speeds. But one can also go the other way: it is just equivalent to suppose that light speed is infinite. If you do this with the Lorentz transformations, you just get the classical Galilean transformations, as we can use them in daily life. (Everybody's time is the same, you can just add velocities, etc etc). But still, causality is not a problem in Newtonian physics.

Only when you presuppose special relativity, causality becomes a problem with faster-than-light velocities. So you get at Swansont's bon mot:

Try it. Pick two, and see that it is inconsistent with the third. Which combination would be Newtonian mechanics? Why?

I have often wondered whether c might be another  way of seeing a speed as infinite. but I think I have decided in my own  mind against that

(1) for the reason  I gave above  but also

(2)  because I am supposing that the  process of transfer of information and the process of  cause and effect are identical.

I feel that there is nothing to distinguish information  carriers from any other form  of matter.

So in the same way that information cannot be everywhere at the same time , the information carriers (along with any form of matter) must travel at a finite speed.

Why this should be the c that has been measured I do not know....

Well ,that is how I have reasoned this out over the past period of months or years  and I accept it may  be(badly)  flawed  and that I may have to fill it a few (or many ) gaps  to find an explanation that I will be  comfortable with.

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On 8/10/2018 at 5:10 PM, geordief said:

I have often wondered whether c might be another  way of seeing a speed as infinite. but I think I have decided in my own  mind against that

Well, compared with velocities in daily life, you can assume that the speed of light is infinite. That's the reason that Newtonian mechanics works so well.

On 8/10/2018 at 5:10 PM, geordief said:

(because) I am supposing that the  process of transfer of information and the process of  cause and effect are identical.

I do not see the 'because'. But measuring some material or energetic phenomenon, implies definitely that you got some information. On the other side, something must bear the information, be it a single photon, or a newspaper.  So there might be a huge difference between matter and energy on one side, and information on the other, but they are strongly related. And relativity is clear about it: to 'conserve causality' no information, energy, or matter can travel faster than light.

On 8/10/2018 at 5:10 PM, geordief said:

So in the same way that information cannot be everywhere at the same time , the information carriers (along with any form of matter) must travel at a finite speed.

Again: this is not so in Newtonian mechanics, and it is no problem. One could say, Newtonian mechanics is relativistic mechanics where the speed of light is infinite. (I assume now Markus will come and say that this is not quite correct... But I think as a rule of thumb it works pretty well).

On 8/10/2018 at 5:10 PM, geordief said:

Why this should be the c that has been measured I do not know....

Nobody knows. It must be measured. But  some constants of nature are related: the constant that determines the power of the magnetic field, the constant that determines the power of the electrical field, and the speed of light are mathematically related. Therefore Maxwell was able to derive the velocity of electromagnetic waves and concluded light must be an electromagnetic wave too. He derived this mathematical relationship from his equations:

(vph = speed of light)

From here.

Edited by Eise

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1 hour ago, Eise said:

I do not see the 'because'.

Just on that point (before looking at your post in more detail) it may refer back to why I thought this (not so much trying to justify  it:perhaps I may be able to do that,I don't know yet)

btw I think there may be a difference between "infinite for practical purposes" and actually infinite  which might really occur if the values of permeability/permittivity were zero.( which would imply in my mind a  different kind of vacuum that that which has been observed)

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11 minutes ago, geordief said:

btw I think there may be a difference between "infinite for practical purposes" and actually infinite  which might really occur if the values of permeability/permittivity were zero

Yeah, that would not work of course. Therefore I said 'Newtonian mechanics'. As soon as you take the valid Maxwell equations into the account, you get in all kinds of problems. To solve these, you get special relativity.

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6 hours ago, Eise said:

I do not see the 'because'. But measuring some material or energetic phenomenon, implies definitely that you got some information. On the other side, something must bear the information, be it a single photon, or a newspaper.  So there might be a huge difference between matter and energy on one side, and information on the other, but they are strongly related. And relativity is clear about it: to 'conserve causality' no information, energy, or matter can travel faster than light.

I think there are theories where information is treated as "bits" rather than as aggregates(and interpreted by the mind) .Sadly I am not familiar with them

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On 8/13/2018 at 7:09 PM, geordief said:

I think there are theories where information is treated as "bits" rather than as aggregates(and interpreted by the mind) .Sadly I am not familiar with them

I don't think the 'bits' are relevant for understanding that 'information' supposes something that bears the information, and because nothing can be faster than light, so information cannot be as well. So don't be sad...