Is It Possible To Travel Faster Than Light?

The speed of light is the fastest known thing in the universe, clocking in at 186,000 miles per second (300,000 kilometres per second). According to the laws of physics themselves, this is the upper speed limit for all objects in the universe. Anytime scientists try to determine if something could travel faster than light, the universe simply breaks down. As far as we know, the speed limit of the cosmos is a fixed law of nature. If humans ever hope to travel to distant solar systems, we will need to find ways to travel at or near the speed of light. Objects are simply too far away to travel at anything slower. However, is there a way that we could travel faster than light? As it turns out, there are theoretical ways in which we can travel faster than light. 


                   Illustration of a wormhole connecting two points in space 

Since the speed of light is fixed and there is physically no way to move faster, it seems impossible that we would ever be able to travel faster than light. However, there is potentially a way around this. Rather than moving faster than light, we could simply take a shortcut. Imagine for a moment you are trying to reach a destination, and in order to reach it, you must cross a mountain range. You could either drive around the mountain range or drive through a tunnel that goes directly through the mountains. Even if you were to travel at the exact same speed either direction, it would be faster to take the tunnel. Even if your speed were the speed of light, it would be shorter to take the tunnel. Is there a way we could take a kind of cosmic tunnel that connects two points in space? Theoretically, there are such things in the universe. Wormholes are theoretically tunnels that connect two points in space that could be many light years apart, yet travelling through one would be instantaneous. A wormhole can be thought of as a shortcut through space. You would not technically be travelling faster than the speed of light, you are simply taking a shortcut through space. As of yet, scientists have found no evidence that wormholes exist, let alone if travelling through one could be possible. 


Warped space
Visualization of how objects with mass warp the fabric of space

In many works of science fiction, such as in Star Wars or Star Trek, faster than light travel is made possible by the use of hyperdrives. These forms of technology are theoretical ways we could travel faster than light, and they are theoretically possible given the right technology and vast amounts of energy. A hyperdrive works in a way similar to a wormhole. Rather than travelling faster than light, it would simply create a shortcut between two points in space. Einstein showed in his theory of gravity that space itself can be warped, stretched, and compressed. A hyperdrive would work by compressing the space in front of you and stretching the space behind you. Rather than moving faster than the speed of light, a hyperdrive would literally bend the space around you, pulling objects towards you. Like with a wormhole, your actual velocity never exceeds the speed of light, you are simply creating a shortcut through space.