Is the Speed of Light the Maximum Speed in the Universe?
The maximum speed in the universe is the speed of light. Therefore, it is inconceivable that one can travel at the speed of light let alone well above it. A fascinating development directly connected to Special Relativity is that the weight or more appropriately, the mass of something increases as a function of its velocity. According to the accepted equations, as its speed approaches the velocity of light its mass goes infinite. It should be understood by the reader that a velocity and a speed are not identical in meaning since a velocity also has a direction. However, for this writing it will be assumed to have the same meaning. Light speed has the following useful statistics that are gathered here in an easy to read table:
1,080 million km per hour : Light Velocity Kilometers per hour 671 million miles per hour mph : Velocity of Light in MPH 299,792,458 m/s : Velocity of Light in Meters per Second 300,000 km per second : Light Speed in Kilometers per second 186,000 miles per second : Speed of Light in Miles per Second
Travel at the speed of light is not permitted according to universal laws. Massive objects like planets, stars as well as tiny particles like neutrons, electrons and protons are all forbidden from surpassing this speed. Many very accurate tests were conducted in the past and the values shown in the table above are well known and accepted by the general scientific community. Because of this it is believed that light speed is a constant value labeled ‘c’ indicating the magnitude for light speed travel in a vacuum. The first letter of the word celeritas was chosen to indicate the constant since it means rapidity.
In 1905, Albert Einstein published his famous work that revolutionized physics; within this radical treatise he proposed some of the most important principles enunciated by any scientist in centuries; therein he required that light speed ‘c’ was independent of a light source’s motion and also independent of the frame of reference of an observer of that light source. His motivation for proposing this many faceted theory was a direct result of the failure of the theory of the ‘lumineferous aether’ or ether to produce a convincing showing in experiments designed to prove the existence of the aforementioned ether. In fact, the data appeared to show that the aether or ether did not even exist!
As the evidence for the non-existence of the ether gained momentum Einstein proposed a fundamental restructuring of our understanding of the universe that would shake the foundations of the accepted order. He postulated that the universe was formed from a four dimensional spatial texture; the slowing down of time and the reduction in size of a vessel traveling at the speed of light and the now ubiquitous E=mc2 equation as well as the constant ‘c’ became the basis of this new theory. This last idea is found in many areas of physics that do not directly touch upon Special Relativity. Thus, any divergence of the speed of light from accepted norms would play havoc with many areas of science.