If zooming beyond the local speed limit is punishable by law, then some scientists may have a gargantuan speeding ticket to pay.
In a controversial experiment reported in this weeks journal Nature, scientists at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey claim to have broken the ultimate speed limit -- the speed of light. Though hotly contested, some say this achievement could dramatically increase the speeds at which we can send and receive information.
Taught in physics classes the world over, Albert Einsteins theory of special relativity holds that no object or information can move faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, or 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second. But NECs Lijun Wang says he created an experiment in which a light beam raced through a gas-filled chamber so quickly, it exceeded the speed of light by a factor of 300. Whats more, the light pulse appears to have left the confines of the chamber before it even entered a seemingly impossible occurrence according to theories of causality, which predict that causes must always precede their effects.
"It sounds crazy, but this can actually occur," said Raymond Chiao, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley. Chiao, one of a group of researchers who have been working to break the speed-of-light limit, explained that although a common object such as a baseball could never be flung faster than the speed of light, pulses of energy with certain complex properties have been known to bend the rules.
[...]most scientists agree that even if such a beam can be proved speedier than light, it would probably not be able to carry any information. Such a feat could conceivably allow data to be sent back in time, thus violating laws of causality and sending quantum physics into disrepair.
More on http://www.space.com
Or BBC News Sci/Tech