The wonderful thing about science is that, were it to be personified, it would make a great poker player. The reason for this is that, quite simply, there is always an obscure exception to every rule that no-one will know about, until the correct conditions are created for the rule to be broken while experimenting on something completely different.
Science keeps a carefully straight face while humans go around making statements like 'The world is flat and that's the absolute truth' while Science, at least the personification of the concept of science, is sitting somewhere laughing its head off.
What I mean by that is as follows: Just as five hundred years ago, the human race knew that the world was flat, last month1 we knew that the speed of light2was the highest possible velocity for anything. Faster than light was impossible. But why the past tense? Well, according to a American research scientist of Chinese descent, one Dr Lijun Wang, Einstein got it wrong.
Achieving The Impossible:
He discovered that if a pulse of light is put through a chamber containing Caesium gas, then the effective speed of the pulse becomes what he describes '300 times the speed of light3'
The exact results of the experiment were that before the light pulse had fully entered the chamber, it had already passed through the entire chamber and a further sixty feet across the laboratory. In other words, it had travelled a fraction of a second backwards in time. Four dimensional travel has been discovered.
So What Are The Implications?
Well, for the moment, the ramifications are limited to communications technology. The results of this experiment mean that any information that can be coded as light... such as cable television signals or cable telephone... can be transmitted instantly to anywhere in the world. E-mails would reach their destination as soon as you click the 'Send' button. Internet sites would download instantly. Interviews with people in another country wouldn't have the annoying time delay that makes interviewees look so stupid on 'The Nine O'Clock News'.
What bothers physicists about light travelling forward in time is just this: it could carry information. This would breach one of the basic principles in physics- causality- which says that a cause must come before an effect. So we could actually see the advent of CAMTIM4.
And In The Future?
Back to the 'Brave New World'. At some point, humans will learn how to record each other's make up on a cellular and genetic level, which can be fed into a computer and a perfect virtual replica can be created. From here, it is a short hop to being able to turn a human being into an electronic signal which can be turned into light, and sent instantly to anywhere where there was a receiver. The human could then be reconstructed. No planes. No rough trips in leaking ferries5.
Instant travel. And who knows, depending on how much can be done with the light pulses, maybe even backwards and forwards in time.