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Jean Philippe Fournier

Breaking the Universal Speed Limit: The Future of Space Travel

Have you ever looked up at a starry sky and wondered how those tiny specks of light would look up close? Perhaps you’ve thought about visiting those stars, maybe even perusing the countless planets orbiting them. You may have even secretly promised yourself that one day, you’d visit them all, like a certain young, starry-eyed (pun intended) kid named Anakin Skywalker. Of course, we all know the story about that guy: He eventually did get to visit many of these places, and became one of the most important people in galactic history (not to ruin the story for those who have yet to see Star Wars… that of which I highly recommend)! Some people just have all the luck, don’t they? Unfortunately, I wouldn’t count on someone (or something…) swooping down in a fancy starship and carrying you to these places just yet. In fact, if we are led to believe in the constraints of current physics, humanity is largely limited in the range of planets and stars we could even hope to visit. Such restrictions have been historically blamed on what physicists title the universal speed limit: the speed of light. By this, I refer to the idea that while it could be possible to visit star systems only a few light years (the distance traveled in a year at the speed of light) away, those exotic planets and stars could be unreachable for the extent of an astronaut’s existence. The only way to reach those far flung places within a single human lifetime would require traveling faster than the speed of light: exceeding the universal speed limit. While there aren’t space cops to stop you from doing this, there’s something else preventing you from even trying it: special relativity. As Albert Einstein proposed, according to the relationship between… Read More