The Instigator
Pro (for)
2 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

FTl travel is possible.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/11/2010 Category: Science
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,288 times Debate No: 11409
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)




FTL in this case - Getting to one destination in less time than light.

I will let my opponent begin the debate.


I would like to preface this debate by saying that I am by no means an expert in physics and do not pretend to be. However, to my knowledge this is a fairly straightforward topic within our current understanding of the universe.

My opponent has not proposed any reasons why faster than light travel is possible, so I am going to open up with a few simple comments and in the following rounds I will offer more specific rebuttals.

First off, no object has ever been demonstrated or observed to travel faster than the speed of light. This does not necessary mean that faster than light travel if definitely impossible, but it certainly points toward this conclusion. If faster than light objects have not be observed than there is no reason to assume that they exist. Unless a strong scientific theory favors the existence of faster than light travel, than the lack of faster than light objects should be enough information to conclude that faster than light travel is at least unlikely if not impossible.

Also, a few simply physical laws strongly point against the theory of faster than light travel. As a result of the way acceleration works at very high speeds, it would require an infinite amount of time to accelerate an object with mass greater than zero to the speed of light. It would also require infinite energy. These are long the requirements to reach the speed of light, exceeding the speed of light would require an amount of time and energy both exceeding infinity.

Another physical law is the phenomenon of length contraction. This dictates that an object contracts along its axis of motion as it accelerates. In order to exceed the speed of light, the length of an object would have to shrink to a negative value, which is obviously impossible.

The final problem I propose in this round is the issue of time dilation. I cannot post the equation for time dilation in this text box, but anyone can easily look it up. Part of the equation is sqrt[1-(velocity of object)^2/(speed of light^2)]. What this means is that if the velocity of the object was greater than the speed of light, than 1-x (x such that x is greater than one) would exist under the radical. This would result in a negative value under a square root, which would result in a non-real value. The time dilation do to acceleration of an object cannot be a non-real value.

So, in conclusion, no faster than light objects have been observed and our current understanding of the laws of physics suggests that such objects cannot exist.

The theory of relativity is explained here:
Debate Round No. 1


I would first like to thank my opponent for participating in the debate. I will rebuttle my opponents previous arguments and then propose my own.

1. My opponent is correct in saying that just because no object has been demonstrated or observed to travel faster than light, it doesn't mean that ftl travel is impossible. Pointing towards a conclusion of impossibility does not exclude possibility. Furthermore I would like to point out that the strong theory of special relativity favors the existence of tachyons which supossedly go faster than light. Regardless, I would like to point out that there is an extremely small chance of strong scientific theory being wrong which could mean ftl travel is possible.

2. I would agree with my opponent that if the simple physics laws were 100% true, then accelerting an object past the speech of light would be impossible through conventional thrusting means . However, althoguh the percent chance is incredibly small, the chance remains that the physcis laws are wrong thus allowing for the possibility of ftl travel.

3. I will again suggest that the simple physics laws have an incredibly small chance to be wrong which leaves the possibility of ftl travel.

4. the time dialation equation has an incredibly small chance of being wrong which leaves the possibility of ftl travel.

In conclusion, con forgets that these physics laws have a chance of being wrongs (although iredibly small) which could mean ftl travel is possible. I urge voters to remember that the topic of debate is that FTl travel is possible, not that it is likely. However, if we must accept that our physics laws are 100% true, then it must be remembered that special relativity favors tachyons.

My arguments-
1. One way to go faster than light is to slow light down. THis is known as the cherenkov effect. Cherenkov radiation results when a charged particle, most commonly an electron, travels through a dielectric (electrically polarizable) medium with a speed greater than that at which light would otherwise propagate in the same medium. Thus, theoretically, if you had a rocket which travelled at 0.99C which ran parallel to a tube filled with water and light was pulsed through this tube with water, light in the tube filled with water would travel at 0.75C because water absorbs the photon and remits the same photon with a small amount of lag time. Thus, the rocket would travel faster than light towards a particular destination.

2. Alcubierre physics
The Alcubierre model is a mathematical model which emulates a warp drive by bending space in the front and bakc of teh object. The alcubierre model mathematics shows that as the energy density is negative, one needs exotic matter to travel faster than the speed of light. However, the existence of exotic matter is not theoretically ruled out, the Casimir effect and the accelerating universe both lending support to the proposed existence of such matter. This is another possibility for the existence of ftl travel.

There are many other possibilites which I will bring up in the next round.


I'm kind of short on time so unfortunately I'm going to have to cut this round rather short. My response to each of my opponent's arguments follows roughly the same vein, however.

1. Though there is an extremely small chance of a scientific theory being wrong, there is an extremely strong chance of it being right. The fact that a theory MIGHT be wrong is not grounds to dispute it entirely. If my theory is that if I turn a doorknob, the door will open, then I do not go around opening doors with great trepidation out of fear that my theory may be wrong. Functionally speaking, if there is an overwhelming certainty in favor of something than we must assume it is true. In this case, there is overwhelming certainty that FTL travel is not possible.

2. Again, we cannot make any argument on the basis that the laws of physics may be wrong. There can be no scientific discourse of we do not accept preexisting theories as being true. You cannot say that any scientific argument, no matter how absurd, MIGHT be true because the existing laws MIGHT be wrong. Unless there is some reason to believe that the existing laws of physics are wrong than any assumptions otherwise are useless and irrelevant.

3. I will again suggest that the uncertainty in scientific theory does not make any counterproposal valid simply because there is a small chance that the original claim may be wrong.

4. The time dilation equation would have to be completely restructured in order to allow v to exceed c. There are no shortage of other equations which do not allow certain variables to exceed the speed of light. Our entire understanding of the universe is based around the fact that nothing can exceed c. To assert that all of modern physics is wrong is an extreme claim, and there is no extreme evidence to back it up. In fact, there is no evidence at all.


1. By "the speed of light" I had assumed by opponent referred to the constant 'c' which is the speed of light in a vacuum. Though it may seem to be a contradiction, if the speed of a photon is less than c than it is not traveling at the speed of light. The speed of light refers to the peak speed of a photon moving in a vacuum, not the speed of any given photon at any particular time. In any case, artificially slowing down light to exceed it's speed seems to be pointless. The rocket would not be accelerating to exceed the speed of light since there would still be other photons elsewhere traveling faster than the rocket.

2. This theory relies heavily on theoretical concepts that have not been proven. There is no known instance of exotic matter existing. Whether this could actually be used to "bend space" around an object and accelerate it is highly speculatory. In any case, the energy required to do this would be unattainable. To send a small spaceship across the Milky Way would require 10^67 grams of energy, an amount many orders of magnitude greater than the mass of the universe.
Debate Round No. 2


serp777 forfeited this round.


Well, my opponent unfortunately has had to forfeit this debate. It has been a good debate nonetheless.
Debate Round No. 3
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by serp777 7 years ago
Unfortunately I haven't any time to finish this debate so I declare con the victor. I would however like to challenge con to the same debate some other time in the future.
Posted by Grape 8 years ago
Since we are discussing whether you can go faster than something, it makes sense to choose the fastest example. If we were debating whether humans can run faster than horses, we would not choose a lame three-legged horse and race it against Usain Bolt to test the case.
Posted by serp777 8 years ago
Well it appears to me you are picking the particular photon you deem relevant for this case. In this case you are picking the photon in a vacuum. That is clearly a particular instance.
Posted by Grape 8 years ago
Light is a general term. "Light" is not "whatever particular photon I deem relevant for this case." If there is light out there going faster than you than you have not exceeded the speed of light.
Posted by tBoonePickens 8 years ago
"...a tachyon is a *hypothetical* particle with space-like four-momentum and *imaginary* proper time." It is a possible solution to certain SR equations which gives it the distinction of being mathematically possible but *NOT* really physically possible. Furthermore, it would not be able to interact (physically) with anything sub-luminal and "would lead to violations of causality in special relativity."
Posted by serp777 8 years ago
I specifically defined ftl in the first round as traveling to a destination faster than light so i wouldn't have to try and defend that it was possible to exceed the velocity of light. I brought up tachyons (which are supported by special relativity) to prove to my opponent that the mathematical models he was using to support his claims, actually supported ftl.
Posted by tBoonePickens 8 years ago
FTL travel means traveling faster than c. c is the speed of light in a vacuum. This is a physical constant. Tachyons are hypothetical particles. FTL is not possible for all intents and purposes unless one boils this down to a semantical debate about "impossible".
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Grape 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:24