Introduction: How to Accelerate to the Speed of Light (theroeticaly)
The speed of light in a vacuum, commonly known as c, is important in many areas of physics. Its value is exactly 299,792,458 meters per second (approximately 186,280 miles per second). According to special relativity, c is the maximum speed that any object or information in the universe can travel.
Going the speed of light is highly improbable and comes with major consequences, so this is all theoretical.
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Step 1: Method 1
A beam coming out of a laser pointer already moves at the speed of light, can you make its dot move that fast? If you point a laser pointer at the top of a distant object that’s 300,000,000 meters tall and then you rotate the laser pointer so it points at the bottom of the object in one second, wouldn’t the dot travel faster than the speed of light?
The dot appears to go faster than the speed of light but in reality the individual particles that make up the dot are absorbed and new particles create a new dot. These particles land side by side in fast enough succession that the dot that they create appears to move faster than the speed of light. This demonstration proves that light cannot travel faster than the speed of light
Well, what if you use a pole instead of a laser beam, wouldn't the tip go the speed of light? You'd be really lucky if any of the force you put in at the start even made it to the tip. The fastest a force can spread through an object is the speed of sound, that’s because each atom needs to bump into the one next to it to transmit that force.
Step 2: Method 2
What if you have a huge pair of scissors with blades 1 light hour long (1,079,252,848,800 meters) and you snipped them together in such a way that the two ends meet in one hour. The the place where the two blades intersects would move at the speed of light, right?
Theoretically, it would, if we could build scissors that long. Although you will also need to solve the problem of spreading the energy through the metal without slowing the energy down. But what if we had blades one meter long (which is possible) and closed them in 3.335640952 x 10-9 (0.0000000033 approx) seconds? Again, in theory we could, but we would need to find a way of closing them that fast.
Step 3: Method 3
To put some back ground in, If you shoot a bullet out of a gun while on a train, the bullet will look like it’s traveling normally to you, but to someone outside the train, the bullet will travel at the speed of the bullet and the speed of the train combined.
A space shuttle travels at 28,000 kilometers per hour. If you were able to launch another shuttle off that shuttle, just like the bullet in the paragraph above, the second shuttle would travel 56,000 kilometers per hour, or double that of the first shuttle’s speed, that’s 0.00005188774% the speed of light.
Following this logic, if you had one shuttle that launched another shuttle which launched another shuttle you would need 10,707 shuttles to reach the speed of light. If you were to arrange them like Russian nesting dolls the earth would not be big enough to hold them.
Step 4: Benefits of Going the Speed of Light
If we could travel at the speed of light, we could prove or disprove theories. Over one hundred years ago Einstein asked if you traveled at the speed of light and you looked in a mirror would you see your reflection. He concluded that you would see your reflection or else it would violate the theory of relativity.
Also we could travel to distant places faster. There are planets that might be able to support human life. If we could travel there in an acceptable amount of time we could expand our civilization and possibly discover new life.
Time travel might also be possible. If you traveled 5 light years going at the speed of light and then 5 light years back to the place you left, the world would be 1,000 years older, while you would have only aged 10 years. We could virtually travel into the future. Getting back is another story.
Step 5: Problems That Might Occur
Theorists have speculated that if we were to travel at the speed of light, our length would become 0, time would stop relative to someone outside, and, maybe the worst of all, our mass would become infinite.
Trying to avoid objects while traveling so fast would be nearly impossible, and stopping with a thrust in the opposite direction, like a space shuttle currently does, would take too much time and distance - prohibiting travel to relatively nearby places.
Another problem would be that of mass. The faster an object goes the bigger it gets and the more energy it needs to accelerate, causing you to need infinite energy.
If you are traveling the speed of light in a train and you turn on a laser pointer does anything happen? To you the beam appears to be normal, but to someone outside the train it would look like it hadn’t turned on: the light would take an eternity to go faster than the laser pointer itself was traveling.
Also the way an object is held together is through protons traveling at the speed of light. So, if you traveled at the speed of light, the particles making up you and your ship might separate killing you and wiping out trillions of dollars of equipment.
Theorists have also speculated that we would turn into energy because all energy travels at the speed of light.
Step 6: What It Would Look Like
Traveling at the speed of light, your field of view would increase and it would look like the universe was receding away from you. All the light reaching you would be “blue shifted” (turning other electromagnetic spectrum's to the wavelength of visible light) until you are left with the image above.
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