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The idea behind relativity is that the speed of light is constant in all reference frames. [0]. In order for this to work, we "warp" spacetime depending on the velocity of the observer.

More concretely, imagine Alice and Bob are moving away from each other at 50% the speed of light. They both observe event some event, X, occur and note the location in space-time. If Alice observes that X occurs in the location (t,x,y,z), then we can compute precisely where and when Bob observed the event occurring (t',x',y',z'). This conversion is known as the Lorentz Transformation [1], and can be derived mathematically from the assumption that the speed of light is constant regardless of reference frame.

Where this gets weird is the case where Alice and Bob observe 2 events: X and Y. In this case, it is possible that they will disagree about which event happened first. Once you accept this, it should become clear why causality requires some speed limit. You can do the math based on the Lorentz Transform and confirm that this limit is the speed of light. Intuitively, this is a direct consequence of the fact that we defined the Lorentz Transform to make the speed of light constant.

In case the need for a speed limit is not obvious, let as pretend that it does not exist. Suppose that, from Alice's perspective, X happened before Y. Further, suppose that Carol happened to be in a spaceship that passed by X at the instant it occurred, moving at a velocity that would take her by Y at the instant it occurred. [2] From the perspective of Bob, Carol would have traveled backwards, going from Y to X.

We can make this situation even worse by considering Carol's perspective. Recall that we defined Carol as starting at X and traveling to Y. In the same way, we can define Dave as starting at Y and traveling to X (recall that, if we were Bob, we would be convinced that Y happened first, so with a fast enough ship, Dave and make it in time). In this situation, both Carol and Dave exist at Y, so Carol can give Dave a copy of her diary of the trip. However, after Dave makes the trip to X, he will meet Carol again, so he can give her a copy of her diary of the trip she is about to take.

[0] This means that if I am on Earth, and you are in a space-ship moving at 99% the speed of light (from my perspective), and we both measure the speed of light, we will arrive at the same answer.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorentz_transformation

[2] This is possible only because there is no limit to how fast Carol's Spaceship can travel.




> From the perspective of Bob, Carol would have traveled backwards, going from Y to X.

So what? It's Bobs problem.

FTL electrons, in medium where speed of light is much less than c, are traveling exactly as you described.


Suppose Carol has a clock. At X it reads 0, and at Y it reads 100 (100 units in the future). From Bob's perspective, Carol's clock would also read 0 at X and 100 at Y despite the fact that she was at Y first.

In other words, as Carol travels 'forward' in Bob's time, her clock runs backwards. Or, from Carol's perspective, Bob's clock would be running backwards.

This isn't actually a problem in relativity, but is the definition of time travel.


No, it's not a time travel. Bob will see that Carol travels backward and Carol will see that Bob travel backward, like we see EM emission from FTL electron in reverse order. FTL electron is not moving back in time, nor Bob or Carol.


The notion of "backwards" in time is a bit fuzzy once you get into relativity, so the three person example I gave may not clearly show it.

However, in the four person example, Dave is able to hand Carol her diary of the trip that she is about to make. If that is not time travel, I do not know what is.


It's very unlikely. If Dave has Carol diary, then Carol made the trip already, so Carol will notice empty fuel tanks and big holes in the shield. She will may have problems with memory, but she is not stupid.


No she didn't. X is the point in spacetime where Carol begins her trip. From her perspective, Dave came from the future.

The only reason that this cannot happen is that X and Y are so far away in space, and close in time, that it is impossible to travel between them.


Sorry, I cannot follow you here. Maybe it's well known thought experiment, but I'm unable to find it.




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